When CC Sabathia collapsed in pain, all 252 lbs of a man, at the bottom of the fourth step in the dugout, my heart sank, knowing this indeed was the end…
CC Sabathia, in truth, was washed up years ago. The flamethrower with the 95 mph fastball and disappearing slider, who regularly turned in 250 innings or more in a season, vanished before our eyes last night at Yankee Stadium.
And some of us wondered if the risk of returning for one more season was worth the chance of more damage to those frail knees. Back in April, I felt compelled to write a story arguing the Yankees should keep Sabathia on the shelf until July. But the final chapter had already left the station.
The stamp of pain that twisted his face on that final pitch was more than teammates, fans, and Joe Girardi, announcing the game, could bear. True to form and not wanting to face what he knew was coming, Sabathia turned away from Aaron Boone and Steve Donohue, the Yankees trainer, when they rushed to the mound.
Fighting the inevitable, Sabathia tried vainly to walk those few steps to stand on the mound once more, and to toe the rubber as if to say, “I can do this”.
Only to find he could barely make it to the dugout propped on the shoulders of Donohue as teammates, fans, and members of the Houston Astros spontaneously rose to their feet, knowing this was indeed goodbye to the future Hall of Famer.
Damn It, In Baseball It Is Okay To Cry
Ironically, it was the shoulder and not the knee that brought Sabathia down for a final time. All those cortisone filled needles, surgeries, and countless rehabs to repair those balky knees supporting a giant frame became distant memories of a not so gentle slide into retirement.
There was no shock, only sadness it would end this way. We knew it was over for Sabathia even before Aaron Boone named him to the ALCS roster. For reasons he will keep to himself, Boone knew it was over as well for CC. But he also knew it was the right thing to do. Just because.
I learned long ago as a fan of baseball, Tom Hanks or not, that it is okay to cry in baseball. And just as his former manager did in trying to choke back the tears, a few came to my eyes at the same time a smile brought forth silently the words, “Thanks CC.”
In a compelling piece by Marc Carig in today’s The Athletic, he describes a scene in which Brian Cashman is rushing from his skybox down to the Yankee’s clubhouse, searching for Sabathia, only to find he is gone and has left for home.
Assuming the Yankees will place Sabathia on the injured list (he can be replaced only by another pitcher), CC’s attendance at Yankee Stadium tonight will be optional on his part.
It would be fitting, if not anti-climatic if the Yankee called Sabathia today expressing their desire for him to attend tonight’s game. And also, to ask CC to bring along Carsten Charles Sabathia III to throw out the first pitch, for his dad, side by side, before tonight’s game at the Stadium.
There is room in baseball for sentimentality, just as there is room for collisions at the plate and 450 ft. home runs.
In the meantime, all that’s left to say is thank you, CC Sabathia, thank you.