New York Yankees left-hander C.C. Sabathia announced that he will retire after the 2019 season on Saturday afternoon, expressing a desire to spend more time with his family and bringing an aura of finality to a wonderful career.
Sabathia seemed like he may be on his way out of the league after the 2016 season. He had just concluded a four-year stretch with an ERA of 4.55, and his fastball velocity was declining steadily.
But after adding a cutter to his arsenal and throwing more sliders, Sabathia has experienced somewhat of a renaissance in the last two seasons as a vital member of the Yankees rotation.
Entering his age-39 season, Sabathia has amassed a 23-12 record in the last two seasons, with a sub-3.70 ERA in each of the last two years.
The Yankees added James Paxton to pair with Sabathia and fellow veteran J.A. Happ, but New York will once again place a heavy emphasis on Sabathia in filling out the rotation in his final season.
With Sabathia at the twilight of his career, it is time to look back at three of the most forgotten elements of his storied career.
3. Active wins leader
Now, Sabathia is not the MLB’s active leader in wins just yet. With 246 wins, he trails Bartolo Colon by just one victory to get to the top of that list. But with Colon likely to retire this season and Sabathia making at least 25 starts, he should become the active leader at some point this season while also eclipsing 250 wins.
This would also mean that Sabathia will climb into the top 50 all-time in wins, and he stands a good chance of passing up Hall of Famers like Bob Gibson and Jack Morris.
With 129 wins coming in Yankee pinstripes, Sabathia will also finish his career in the top 10 in franchise history in wins and will likely finish fourth in strikeouts. Oh, and Sabathia will surpass the 3,000 strikeouts plateau this season.
Not bad legacies to leave behind.
2. The dominant stretch in Milwaukee
By 2008, Sabathia had established himself as one of the most talented young pitchers in baseball. After all, he had won the AL Cy Young Award at just 26 years old the year prior.
Milwaukee was in contention, looking to make the postseason for the first time since the 1982 World Series. Meanwhile, Sabathia had been very mediocre in the first half, going 6-8 with a 3.83 ERA in Cleveland.
A change of scenery would suddenly spur one of the greatest stretches of pitching in big-league history.
In 17 starts for the Brewers, Sabathia went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA and astonishing 255 ERA+, but those numbers hardly tell the story of dominance.
Sabathia threw seven complete games, including three shutouts and a short-rest performance on the last day of the season to help earn a Wild Card berth for Milwaukee. In fact, Sabathia made a staggering three starts in the final week of play, all on three days rest.
It may go down as one of the greatest trades ever, with Sabathia providing indelible moments in his lone stint for the Brewers before signing with the Yankees that winter.
1. The swagger…and the pitfalls
Sabathia was not only one of the most effective pitchers of this generation, but also one of the most distinct.
His sheer frame at 6-foot-6 and nearly 300 pounds put him in a category all his own. He was every bit as imposing as a Roger Clemens or Randy Johnson.
But the size was only one element of Sabathia’s aesthetic. He was one of the first pitchers to rock the crooked cap look, and similar to Manny Ramirez often wore his uniform in extremely baggy fashion.
Sabathia was, and still is, one of the most fiery characters in the sport. He even sacrificed reaching an innings incentive last season by sticking up for a teammate.
In a September contest against the Tampa Bay Rays, Sabathia threw at catcher Jesus Sucre in retaliation for a high fastball to Yankees catcher Austin Romine. Sabathia was ejected, and subsequently gestured at the Rays dugout. He would later earn the bonus anyway, as a show of respect.
But the big lefty also had personal troubles. He checked himself into an alcohol rehabilitation center in the fall of 2016, and even wrote about it in the Players Tribune.
Despite his hardships, C.C. Sabathia’s charisma and extremely genuine character have made him one of the most lovable figures in baseball, something that should be cherished and appreciated as he enters the final season of his career.