TAMPA, Fla. — There’s the World Series title, an American League Cy Young Award and the considerable number of wins and strikeouts that might earn CC Sabathia a spot in Cooperstown someday.
But on the day the lefthander reaffirmed what he first said in November — that 2019 will be his final big-league season — Sabathia mentioned none of those things in discussing his hopes of a legacy.
“All I ever wanted for people to remember me as is as a good teammate,” he said Saturday.
That, if nothing else, is assured.
Sabathia spoke at a packed news conference in a room filled with club hierarchy — including managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner — coaches and most of his current teammates. That included quite a few position players, such as Aaron Judge, who don’t have to report to camp until Monday.
“It means a lot to me for you guys to be sitting here today,” said Sabathia, flanked by his wife, Amber, and three of the couple’s four children (the eldest, Carsten Charles III, had a high school basketball game back home in New Jersey).
Earlier in the day, Luis Severino, at his own news conference to discuss Friday’s contract extension, called Sabathia “the guy I look up to” in a clubhouse in which he is universally revered.
“He’s always been there for me,” Severino added. “Any time I need advice, I go to CC. He’s like family.”
Tributes from former teammates — and from those outside of baseball, including LeBron James and rapper Fat Joe — poured in.
“I had the pleasure of competing against CC and also with him, and have always considered him one of my favorite teammates,” Derek Jeter said in a statement. “CC embodies what it means to be a professional athlete and has been an incredible ambassador for baseball.”
Two other members of the Yankees’ famed Core Four, which won five titles — the last one coming in 2009, with help from Sabathia — weighed in.
Jorge Posada called him “one of my favorite teammates of all time.” Andy Pettitte, who taught Sabathia his cutter and remains close to him, said: “CC’s will to win and competitive spirit is as good as I’ve seen in anyone I’ve ever pitched with. A great friend and a great teammate — I’m looking forward to seeing him go into the Hall of Fame one day.”
The numbers will get Sabathia some strong consideration, at the very least.
He is 246-153 (.617) with a 3.70 ERA in his career, including 129-80 with a 3.74 ERA in 10 seasons with the Yankees. He ranks 17th on the career strikeout list with 2,986, 98 behind Hall of Famer John Smoltz, who is 16th. Sabathia ranks third among lefthanders, with Randy Johnson (4,875) and Steve Carlton (4,136) leading the way.
Some of Sabathia’s best work as a Yankee came in 2009, his first season in the Bronx after signing a seven-year, $161 million deal as the top free agent on the market that offseason. He went 19-8 with a 3.37 ERA in the regular season and 3-1 with a 1.98 ERA in five postseason starts and was named MVP of the ALCS victory over the Angels.
“He’s special,” general manager Brian Cashman said Saturday morning. “We invested a lot in bringing him here with a lot of competition because people recognized the competitor he is, the person he is . . . When you place those significant bets in free agency, a lot of them don’t work out because of the cost of doing business in free agency. I think CC has done everything and anything he possibly could in terms of leadership and performance to honor that bet.”
Sabathia said his decision was an easy one to reach. “It’s time,” he said, referencing a right knee that has bothered him for years.
He made the decision before his health scare in December, when a blocked artery required an angioplasty procedure.
“My kids are getting older,” he said. “It’s time to be with them.”
But there’s something to be accomplished first.
“Right now I’m just focused on trying to win a championship and have a parade at the end of the year,” he said. “That would be a great way to top this thing off.”
FARE THEE WELL, CC
A collection of CC Sabathia tributes provided by the Yankees:
STATEMENT FROM YANKEES MANAGING GENERAL PARTNER HAL STEINBRENNER:
“CC has been a great ambassador for our game, and we are proud that he has represented our organization for the past decade. His competitive spirit is matched only by his devotion to family and his relentless philanthropic pursuits. CC has always been a pillar in our clubhouse, and we look forward to him further cementing his impressive legacy this season and contributing to our championship goals.”
STATEMENT FROM FORMER YANKEES SHORTSTOP DEREK JETER:
“I had the pleasure of competing against CC and also with him, and have always considered him one of my favorite teammates. He rose to and exceeded the expectations and pressure, especially during his time with the Yankees, and was a key piece to the 2009 championship team. CC embodies what it means to be a professional athlete and has been an incredible ambassador for Baseball. He has an unwavering commitment to success on the field and an even greater desire to give back through his foundation work off the field.”
STATEMENT FROM FORMER YANKEES CATCHER JORGE POSADA:
“I really loved everything about CC. He’s one of my favorite teammates of all time. He always wanted the ball and never was afraid of any moment. He was perfect in big games and even more perfect in being there for his teammates.”
STATEMENT FROM FORMER YANKEES PITCHER ANDY PETTITTE:
“When the Yankees signed CC in 2009, boy was I excited! I knew we were getting a workhorse and a man with a lot of passion to win, which is exactly what we did. CC’s will to win and competitive spirit is as good as I’ve seen in anyone I’ve ever pitched with. It’s going to be sad to see him leave the game, but what a mark he left on it. A great friend and a great teammate — I’m looking forward to seeing him go into the Hall of Fame one day.”
STATEMENT FROM FORMER YANKEES MANAGER JOE GIRARDI:
“I am thankful to have managed a man who was — and who I know still is — a fierce competitor. He was the one you wanted on the mound in the big games and who always put his team first over individual goals. He was a true gamer who always united a clubhouse and made the lives of everyone around him better.”
STATEMENT FROM FORMER YANKEES PITCHER A.J. BURNETT:
“From the day we signed together becoming Yankees, to winning it all in '09, all the way through my last days as a Yankee, I can’t say enough about CC. It was awesome throwing alongside you and winning a championship with you! You are a great teammate and a great man! Love ya big man! Congrats on a hell of a career!”
STATEMENT FROM LOS ANGELES LAKERS FORWARD LEBRON JAMES:
“I want to congratulate CC on an incredible Major League career. Not only is he one of the best pitchers to ever play the game, but he’ll also go down as one of the great competitors to ever pick up a baseball. His genuine love of the game and his undeniable passion have brought so much joy to fans for 19 seasons. It’s been an honor to watch him play and I’m excited to see what he’ll take on next. Congrats my friend.”
STATEMENT FROM GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS HEAD COACH STEVE KERR:
“As a baseball fan, I’ve been an admirer of CC for a long time and have marveled at the work he has done both on and off the field. The commitment and consistency that he has exemplified to his craft and to his community, including the Bay Area, over 18-plus years has been truly remarkable. Any pitcher that wins close to 250 games and a Cy Young Award is certainly ticketed for the Hall of Fame. He’s had an incredible career.”
STATEMENT FROM RAP/HIP-HOP ARTIST FAT JOE:
“CC has been one of the faces of Yankees baseball for a decade, and is a New York legend. I’m proud to call him a friend, and I’m proud of the impact he’s had both on and off the field.”
STATEMENT FROM VALLEJO, CALIF., MAYOR BOB SAMPAYAN (SABATHIA’S HOMETOWN):
"CC has been loved by Vallejo for many years and has been highly respected by the residents of Vallejo as a role model for our young people to follow. He has given back to the youth of Vallejo in all his many donations and sponsorships. Since 2001, when he signed on with the Cleveland Indians, to today as a valued pitcher for the New York Yankees, CC is our hometown hero. We thank him for recognizing his community and wish CC, his wife Amber and his children well in his retirement."
STATEMENT FROM BASEBALL HALL OF FAMER AND MLB NETWORK ANALYST JIM THOME:
”I watched CC at a young age, I watched him progress, I’ve been a teammate of his, I’ve faced him, and on both sides I loved the way he was a great competitor. CC was very smart with how he attacked guys with his power and how he slowed the game down with his slider and the cutter that he used out over the plate to get you out. That’s why he is going to be, I hope, a Hall of Famer. He’s had a tremendous career and he is a wonderful person. All of those things combined, that’s what we root for in the game at the end of the day. Andrea and I adore CC’s mother, Margie. She was such a warm, gentle soul around the ballpark, and CC is a great reflection of her. As players, sometimes we go from team to team, but it’s those types of relationships that you don’t ever forget. CC was a great teammate. He is a class act. He has had a wonderful, long career and the thing I would say for him is to enjoy the moment this year. When you go out West or you go to a city you love, if this is going to be your last year, embrace it and enjoy it to the fullest.”
STATEMENT FROM FORMER NEW YORK GIANTS RUNNING BACK TIKI BARBER:
“CC is leaving a lasting legacy on both the game of baseball and the city of New York. CC helped bring this city a championship, and has dedicated countless hours to giving back through his PitCChIn Foundation. I’m grateful to have witnessed his Hall of Fame career, and I will forever cherish my friendship with CC and the entire Sabathia family.”