After the 2008 season CC Sabathia signed a seven-year, $161 million contract with the New York Yankees. In the bowels of the old Yankee Stadium dining club area, he was introduced along with pitcher A.J. Burnett and infielder Mark Teixeira. Those three contracts were guaranteed in the range of a billion dollars.
It was the beginning of that increased so-called “Evil Empire” of the New York Yankees. And the contract that was worthy of them all, CC Sabathia. Saturday morning at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Sabathia made it official that 2019 would be his last season.
CC Sabathia retires as a Yankee and there were no surprises after numerous reports this off season that this would be his last after signing a one-year $8 million deal.
And through it all, from that first contract with the Yankees in 2009, he stood out as the best. Better than Burnett and Teixeira, because it was CC on the mound and the Yankees knew who to go with when they needed a stopper.
“When the Yankees signed CC in 2009, boy was I excited,” said former Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte in a statement. “I knew we were getting a workhorse and a man with a lot of passion to win, which was exactly what we did. I’m looking forward to seeing him go into the Hall of Fame one day.”
“Clubhouse leader” was also heard from various statements of former teammates and the current teammates that Sabathia will go to war with one more time.
Basically, CC Sabathia left a legacy in New York while wearing the Yankees pinstripes. And say what you want about all of those high profiled free agents that spent Steinbrenner family money, they were good, but not as outstanding as the pitcher and workhorse that CC Sabathia was when he took the mound.
The left-hander was a top five finisher in the American League CY Young Award vote in his first three seasons with the Yankees. He was a major force in that first year of his contract in leading the Yankees to their 27th and most recent World Series championship in 2009.
Hall of Fame? When you consider that he’s 14 strikeouts shy of the coveted milestone of 3,000 K’s and 17th member of that exclusive club, that is good enough for induction. He will achieve that milestone in his first few starts, despite the fact that knee issues and other obstacles have limited the veteran pitcher in recent seasons.
But this was an AL CY Young Award winner, who copped the award as a member of the 2007 Cleveland Indians and he’s also won 19 games in four different seasons.
There is a time when it is no longer there for any athlete but these last few years, even with the bad knees, it was CC Sabathia showing no signs of that aging pitcher. The fastball velocity was still there and so was the consistency.
However the innings weren’t as much to blame for a lack of stamina from their one-time ace. Of course the Yankees could always get five or six innings from CC and then go to a dominant bullpen. This year, with Sabathia as a back of the rotation starter, it’s likely the same plan will be in place.
And during this last season, one that will include tributes, though not as ceremonial as the ones for the finales of Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter, it will be all about winning when CC Sabathia gets on the mound for the New York Yankees.
He asked that fans remember him as a good teammate. Yankee fans will never doubt the team-first attitude or how CC was a leader in the clubhouse. They booed at times, then again this is New York, and CC knew that was expected from the beginning when he signed that contract to play in the Bronx.
Then CC said this: “I look forward to 2019 being a championship season for us and I’m going to give everything I have and leave it on the field.”
And if there are no recurrences with the knees or a loss of stamina from a minor offseason procedure to the heart, it will once again be the vintage CC Sabathia on the mound in 2019.
The Yankees expect to overtake the Red Sox and those innings and pitch counts with CC Sabathia will be important at the back of their rotation. Regardless it will be a final season of celebrating a career that had Hall of Fame credentials written all over it.
He outlasted the other two free agents that came on board with him in 2009. Only fitting that a his legacy will get a well deserved conclusion in Yankees pinstripes.