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Loss of CC Sabathia is a gain for Yankees

NEW YORK -- If you have watched CC Sabathia as a Yankee, you have seen him lead them to a World Series title in 2009. If you have listened to him as a Yankee, you have heard a player who is fully invested in winning.

If Sabathia were to never throw another pitch for the New York Yankees, he would be rightfully remembered as a champion. This is what Sabathia has meant to the franchise.

The severity of Sabathia's latest problem with his knee is unclear, but it seems pretty certain that knee will not be able to handle the rigors for Sabathia to be a top pitcher again. His return for this season is also in serious doubt.

All this said, for the Yankees in 2015, as unkind as it may be to say, it is addition by subtraction.

Sabathia, at $23 million, wasn't helping that much this season. Even in his last three starts, when -- in his words -- he said, "Screw it," and decided not to protect the knee and just deal with the pain, his results were better as his fastball rose to 94 mph, but he was not the Sabathia of old.

Over those three starts, Sabathia pitched to a 3.38 ERA, going six innings in two of them and 6 2/3 in the other. It was a little better, but it couldn't mask his overall numbers of 4-9 with a 5.27 ERA.

Listening to Sabathia after the Yankees' loss Sunday, he sounded like we all do at different points in our life. The mind and the heart still want to do what the body can't.

“It is super frustrating because it is still in there,” Sabathia said. “The last couple of starts, you guys have seen. It is just frustrating I can’t do it every time.”

The Yankees can make up for Sabathia's loss pretty easily. It often is a mistake to count out an athlete with the talent and determination of Sabathia, but you have to think that even an unproven but talented rookie like Bryan Mitchell -- even after taking a liner that broke his nose -- could come back soon and pitch close to the level of a 35-year-old Sabathia.

Mitchell threw a bullpen on Sunday, a little less than a week after the scary scene in which he took a liner off his face. He will throw a simulated game in Tampa early this week and could probably slide in the rotation soon after.

This could preserve the Yankees' plan to protect their starters -- most notably Masahiro Tanaka -- with a six-man rotation. The Yankees already have Michael Pineda returning from the DL on Wednesday to soften the loss of Sabathia.

The Yankees, from the front office to the clubbies, appreciate Sabathia. They see how hard he has worked to come back. The pain he has pitched through to try to succeed. But there have been no full solutions to his loss of ace form, last seen in 2012.

Even if this injury turns out to be the worst case for Sabathia, there is no financial relief for the Yankees. Sabathia is owed $25 million next year. His $25 million for 2017 is negated only if Sabathia has a shoulder issue.

It is Sabathia's knee that has given out on him. On a day the Yankees honored his good friend Andy Pettitte, you could tell it is killing Sabathia on the inside he can't consistently find success.

He seems to have a pretty good excuse for why he can't perform at his former level. That still won't make him feel any better -- and it doesn't shade the naked truth that the Yankees are probably better off without the 2015 Sabathia than they are with him.

It is frustrating for him. Sad for the team's fans. But reality isn't always pretty.