NEW YORK — New York Yankees lefty CC Sabathia pitched until his body wouldn’t let him.
Until the 58,829th — and likely final — pitch of his illustrious career.
A career that should end with a plaque in Cooperstown.
“It’s tough,” Yankees center fielder Aaron Hicks said. “He’s a great person, great player, and obviously he’s going to be a Hall of Famer. He means a lot to this team, this organization, and to see him go out like that, it’s not something you want.”
At his peak, Sabathia put the Milwaukee Brewers on his back in 2008 and carried them into the playoffs, risking a massive payday by pitching on short rest. The Yankees ultimately backed up the money truck in the offseason — to the tune of seven years, $161 million — and he rewarded them by dealing in October en route to his only title.
“The New York Yankees would not have their 27th World Championship without him,” former teammate Alex Rodriguez said on Fox as he was on the verge of tears. “And I love him like a brother. I thank him for our world championship. In 2009 when he came here, he changed the paradigm shift of our entire team, the clubhouse and the franchise. The Yankees became the No. 1 team in baseball because of CC Sabathia.”
There were several highs and lows from there. All-Star appearances, knee surgeries and cortisone shots. A trip to rehab to get his alcohol problem under control. And Sabathia also reinvented himself on the mound, learning how to finesse his way through outings as his velocity abandoned him.
Sabathia was a leader on and off the field. He chirped his opponents, and Yankees fans absolutely loved him for it. So did his teammates. But 56,537 regular-season pitches and 2,292 postseason pitches later, his body reached its breaking point.
He appeared to favor his shoulder after making a 1-1 pitch to Astros center fielder George Springer with two outs in the eighth. Yankees manager Aaron Boone and trainer Steve Donahue immediately came out to visit him. Sabathia tried to throw a warmup pitch but that was it.
He exited to a standing ovation as he walked off the field. But he was downtrodden. It wasn’t supposed to end like this.
Still, CC Sabathia is a warrior. A deserving Hall of Famer, too. And no one will ever be able to take that away from him.