For Yankees fans, anger quickly turned to overwhelming sadness when CC Sabathia delivered the 1-1 pitch to George Springer. Sabathia was met at the mound by trainer Steve Donohue and it became apparent the career of CC Sabathia was over. But the actual injury of his shoulder occurred 3 pitches prior when he got Diaz to pop out. So like the true warrior he had been his entire career, Sabathia fought through the pain in hopes of coming through for his teammates. And to take it to another level, Sabathia gave an attempt at the most emotional warm up pitch in the history of the sport, with 50,000 people chanting his name. The following scene of Sabathia walking off the mound for the final time in tears was nothing short of heartbreaking.
But as I sit back and reflect on the scene of CC leaving the mound for the final time, I think it is one of the best ways to go out. Of course the ideal way for CC to go out would be with a World Series ring and on a float during a parade in NYC, which is what he expressed his desired book end to be, but there is beauty in the darkness of going out the way he did. With Sabathia literally pitching until his arm gave out, there was a clear ending to his hall of fame career. When Sabathia is at home on his couch come Spring, there will be no questioning if he left some in the tank, there will be no second guessing his retirement. As heat breaking the final scene of Sabathia leaving the Yankees mound was, it was the most Sabathia-thing to happen.
But with the official end to Sabathia’s career, let’s rewind the tape to the beginning and relive the hall of fame career.
Flame Thrower in Cleveland
The year is 2001 and 20-year-old Carsten Charles Sabathia makes his Major League debut dawning the Cleveland Indians home threads. In his first career start, Sabathia pitched 5 2/3 innings, striking out 3, giving up 3 runs on his way to a no decision. But as we know, wins would soon come quick and often for the big left hander. He wrapped up his rookie campaign with a 17-5 record, finishing 2nd to Ichiro Suzuki in the Rookie of the Year. He also made his first postseason start in his rookie year, getting the first of many taste of October baseball.
After 6 very impressive seasons to start off his career, Sabathia seemed to kick it into another gear in 2007. He won the AL Cy Young Award with a 19-7 record, 3.21 ERA, and a league leading 241 IP. He led the Indians to a division title and and an ALDS series win over the Yankees. But his time in Cleveland would soon come to an end.
Put the Brewers on His Back
In 2008, after the Indians fell out of contention, they decided to move their ace at the trade deadline to a contender. That lucky contender was the Milwaukee Brewers. Although his time with Milwaukee was just a few months, his impact was felt.
Sabathia went 11-2 down the stretch for Milwaukee, but what was more impressive was his willingness to pitch on 3 days rest for 4 consecutive starts. He wanted to ensure the Brewers made the playoffs, so he put the team on his back. On the final day of the regular season Sabathia took the mound against the Cubs and refused to let his team down. He threw a complete game, 4 hitter, clinching a playoff birth.
Sabathia took the ball again in the ALDS on three days rest for the 4th consecutive time. It turned to be too much of a heavy load as Sabathia struggled and took a loss in what would be his last start in a Brewers jersey.
Legacy Reaches New Heights in New York
On December 18th, 2008 Sabathia and the New York Yankees came to an agreement on a 7 year $161 million contract. The dividends paid off right away for the Yankees. In his first season with New York Sabathia finished with a 19-8 record, a 3.37 ERA in 230 IP. But the motto in New York is win championships and Sabathia went there to do just that. In the 2009 Postseason, Sabathia redeemed himself for past postseason struggles where he was lights out in every series. He shutdown the Twins in his only start in the ALDS and continued his dominance in later rounds. He took home the MVP of the ALCS thanks to his 2-0 record, 1.13 ERA in 16 innings against the Los Angeles Angels.
Despite failing to pick up a win in the World Series against the Phillies, Sabathia was effective posting a 3.29 ERA in 13 2/3 innings pitched. The Yankees went on to win the series in 6 games, allowing Sabathia to snag his first title and the Yankees elusive 27th title.
Dominant CC Continues 2010-2012
In 2010 Sabathia became a 20 game winner for the first time in his career and was selected to his 4th All-Star Game. His 21-7 record and 3.18 ERA ranked best in the American League but finished 3rd in the AL Cy Young voting behind Felix Hernandez and David Price.
2011 was another dominant year for Sabathia as he finished up with a 19-8 record, 3.00 ERA and 230Ks (3rd most in a single season for a Yankees pitcher). He was the ace of yet another division title winner as the Yankees went 97-65. He struggled in the postseason as the Yankees were quickly taken care of by the Detroit Tigers.
2012 would be the last true year of dominance for the 6’7″ left hander. Finishing the 2012 season with a 15-6 record and 3.38 ERA, there was no clear clues that their would be a significant drop-off in stuff and results. He was even dominant in the 2012 ALDS where he picked up wins in both Game 1 (8 2/3 IP)and Game 5 where he went the distance for his first postseason complete game. But the down days were right around the corner.
2013-2015: The Years of Struggling
2013 was a shocking year because it was the first time we seen Sabathia anything other than that dominant ace. He struggled all season long to the tune of a 4.78 ERA a far ways away from his usual low 3 ERA. But unfortunately this was just the beginning of years of struggles for Sabathia. The following season was even more rough on Sabathia as his right knee gave him all sorts of trouble and cut his season short to just 8 starts and a 5.28 ERA. The pitching and knee struggles continued into 2015 but soon found a remedy in a knee brace that worked for him. Post knee brace, Sabathia posted a 2.18 ERA in his final 5 starts of the season, helloing the Yankees clinch a Wild Card birth. However Sabathia missed the 2015 Wild Card Game as he came to grips with his off the field demons. He checked himself into an alcohol rehabilitation center so he could get his addiction under control and hopefully return back to his old self.
2016-2019: New Found Success to Close Out His Career
The 2016 season was a season of bettering himself. He managed to stay healthy, making 30 starts(something he hadn’t done since 2013) and pitched much better than previous seasons. He got his ERA back down into the high 3’s and credited the success to his knee brace.
Arguably the most impressive season of Sabathia’s career came in 2017. He fully transitioned from a power pitcher who used to throw 97MPH with a wipeout slider to now a pitcher who relied on pinpoint control and movement with his new cut-fastball. His knee injuries came back a few times throughout the season, but Sabathia was persistent and found his way back on the mound. He finished 14-5 with a 3.69 ERA including a 5-0 record in his last 8 starts to push the Yankees into the postseason once again.
In the 2017 Postseason Manager Joe Girardi’s trust in his long time ace resurfaced as he went with Sabathia as his ALDS Game 2 and Game 5 starter against his former team the Cleveland Indians. The Yankees would win the Game 5 start by Sabathia, allowing them to advance to the ALCS for the first time since 2012. Sabathia’s good work throughout the season garnered him the reward of starting 3 games in the ALCS. Game 3 Sabathia was great going 6 shutout innings picking up the Win. The success would run put in Game 7 on the road however as he took the Loss in Houston. However Sabathia’s 2017 as a whole was something special.
Sabathia resigned with the Yankees for $10 million as he and the Yankees were confident he found new life. Sabathia was good in 2018 tallying 9 wins with a 3.65 ERA but his true value to the club came in his final start of the season. It had long been known that Sabathia is a team first guy and often proclaimed the best teammate. Well Sabathia stood by those claims when he retailed against the Tampa Rays for throwing behind long time teammate Catcher Austin Romine. The very next inning Sabathia intentionally hit Rays Cather Jesus Sucre, letting it be known he would not sit back and watch his teammates to be hit without consequences. What magnified this gesture by Sabathia was he had a $500K bonus in his contract if he pitched another inning. Yankees owner Hal Stienbrener gave fit to Sabathia anyway.
2019: The Final Chapter of his LegaCCy
Prior to the season, Sabathia announced the 2019 season would be his last, capping off a Hall of Fame worthy 19 year career. Once again he dealt with injuries throughout the season but along the way he picked up some major individual accomplishments. On April 30th Sabathia picked up his 3000th strikeout when he struck out former battery mate John Ryan Murphy of the Diamondbacks. On June 19th he won his 250th game in a 12-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.
And that brings us to the ALCS Game 4 last nigh where he walked off the field for the final time. Theres a good chance we see him in cooperstown in 5 years, and likely monument park even sooner.