The nineteenth pick was Tony Torcato. The twenty-first pick was Jason Tyner. The twentieth pick was CC Sabathia. We weren't lucky; we were providentially blessed.
In two short years you arrived, precocious and adorable, in the truest sense of the word: befitting of being adored. You wasted no time in making it clear that you were going to be good; very, very, very good. You trotted that massive frame out to the mound 33 times that first year, grinning from ear to ear, striking out 171 batters in 180 innings, striking out 11 batters in a game thrice, throwing that fastball even as Einar Diaz (Einar Diaz!) shook it off, setting off a hat fashion trend that's still reverberating, winning 17 games, breaking your broad indefatigable back for us, building a bridge from the heroes of the present to an uncertain future with a single certainty in it: CC Sabathia.
You were perfect on account of your imperfections. A uniform that could house 3 Asdrubal Cabreras balanced by a heart that could house an entire sputtering, collapsing city. Magical physical abilities, stuff that dared batters to even try, heat, heat, heat balanced by emotions so big that they didn't fit in that gigantic uniform or in that gigantic heart; emotions that spilled all over the pitching mound and the box score, emotions that marked us all as believers. You were not a clinician in pinstripes or a surgeon from Atlanta; you were a real, living, outsized human being that rolled with us. With Cleveland.
You didn't stay that way though. You grew up and a whole generation of us grew up with you. By 2003 I was in love with two things: a senior from Brooklyn and you. You weren't a bright spot on a bad team, you were a beacon shining from the future. You were promising us from across time, swearing to us that the future was not frightening; it was exciting and incredible and you were waiting there for us. You were waiting for us and you had friends. Friends who could hit and pitch and beat the Yankees.
And then you went and hid. You tested our faith, you made us ask if you were real, had been real. If you weren't just some figment that we'd conjured up, a #2 imagined to be an ace. Some of us doubted more than three times and the cock kept crowing but, luckily, we weren't in charge. Shapiro knew what he had, he was steely eyed and confident; he was looking at a draft pick that he would never have made and thinking "This looks like a Plan."
The reward was greater than anybody could've predicted in 1998 or 2001, or even 2005. You had two Cy Young seasons in a row, winning the hardware once. You were a horse, a monster, pitching 433 innings with a 3.21 ERA. You struck out 381 batters. You delivered. You personified a team and defined being an Indians fan for a generation of us. You screamed at us: "I am this at 25 years old! 25!"
You were and are a tumult of youth and ability, a teenager slamming on the gas pedal, a dare, a challenge, guns blazing, hip-hop, rock and roll, a momentum shifter, momentum itself, the founding father of the coolest nation in the world, smiles, first kisses, a Raiders fan, heat heat heat, the old man of the staff, the best young pitcher in baseball, a golden left arm, Fausto before Fausto, a family man, splatter painting, hitting a 9-iron 220 yards, danger, Pablo Picasso, the Declaration of Independence. You were not and are not corporate, bland, or Northeastern. Thank you for all that you've been and have not been; thank you for everything.
I broke up with the girl from Brooklyn a long time ago; I'll always love her in some way. It's the same with you, like it or not. We don't want to see you go but we, like you, grasp the realities of the situation. Take Cleveland with you; put some of the dirt from the mound at the Jake in your back pocket. Hell, that mound is yours anyways. Go and continue to pitch just like you always do, go and infect a whole new city with the delightful virus that is your personality. Go be you. Go strikeout 9 guys like it's nothing, go pitch 9 innings like it's nothing, go yell at the sky in some new stadium. We'll be staring, rapt as always. The only difference is our eyes will be moist now, we won't be able to congratulate you without getting a lump in our throats. We'll have always known you when.You came to us a prince and you're leaving a king. Go get your ransom, CC. You've earned it.
Oh, and CC? Don't ever come down and in to Grady Sizemore.