CC Sabathia’s decision to enter rehab came as a shock to everyone, even his manager and GM. A man’s private life is private (to a certain extent, in this day), but still, for alcoholism to affect Sabathia to an extent that he feels the need to seek inpatient treatment with no one having prior knowledge of the problem is a surprise. And when surprises happen, journalists go looking for signs.
According to Wallace Matthews of ESPN, one such sign was last Friday, the day after Sabathia’s last start of the season and the Yankees’ clinching of a playoff berth. Sabathia was apparently not in a good state:
After the Yankees’ game with the Baltimore Orioles was rained out on Friday afternoon, Sabathia was seen by reporters walking unsteadily as he left the Yankees’ clubhouse. The normally affable pitcher also failed to respond to the greetings of reporters who have known him for a long time.
A short time later, an onlooker noticed Sabathia offering a paper cup containing a brown liquid to a teammate who was finishing up a workout, urging the teammate to “take a sip.” The teammate refused, saying he still had some running to do. Sabathia was then ushered out of the building and into a waiting cab by a third teammate.
Two days later, Sabathia was in manager Joe Girardi’s office, informing him of his decision to enter treatment. The scene described by Matthews seems like a classic example of a seemingly small incident that would go unreported except as context for a bigger story, which is what happened here. Without a pattern of behavior like this (and no one has reported any), Sabathia’s behavior on Friday, especially in the wake of the previous night’s celebration, probably wasn’t enough to cause concern on its own.
All accounts seem to agree that Sabathia made the decision of his own accord, which is encouraging for his prospects at recovery. Still, this sad scene, now brought to light, is probably exactly what Sabathia was trying to avoid by entering rehab before his problem became more public.