One day the Yankees are going to honor CC Sabathia before a game the way they are honoring Mike Mussina on Sunday. Maybe it’ll be five or six or seven years in the future, if Sabathia makes it to the Hall of Fame.
Mussina got to ride off into the sunset off a 20-win season, the only one he had in his 18-year career. He’ll hear the cheers on Sunday and they will be well-deserved, but Mussina wasn’t a beloved Yankee. More like a be-liked Yankee.
Thoughts of Sabathia’s place in Yankees history came to mind Friday night when the 39-year-old lefthander could not answer the bell for the fourth inning against the A’s because of discomfort in his right knee.
Sabathia’s removal sure wasn’t because of ineffectiveness. In fact, his final inning was his best of the night. One-two-three against the top of the A’s order. Two strikeouts and a soft grounder. The only run he allowed was a second-inning home run by Jurickson Profar.
Sabathia, who will retire after the season, showed discomfort with the knee during the inning. He said he reinjured it while batting against the Dodgers in his last start and felt it again during a pitch in the third inning Friday.
After the Yankees’ 8-2 loss, he was asked how bad the pain was on a scale of 1 to 10.
“It’s a 10,” he said.
Sabathia already has been on the injured list three times this season. He started spring training and the season late as he recovered from offseason right knee surgery and an unexpected heart procedure. He was on the IL from May 23-June 2 and July 28-Aug. 18 with right knee inflammation.
He is, as manager Aaron Boone put it, “a warrior.” He will have the knee drained Saturday and get the same treatment he always gets and try to pitch again this season. But he doesn’t know if he’s going to be able to do it. “I hope so,” he said. “That’s the plan.”
It’s not the way Sabathia wants to go out. It’s not the way any Hall of Fame-caliber athlete wants to go out. But sometimes the body doesn’t cooperate.
Derek Jeter got to go out with a walk-off single in his final home game. David Cone got a big out against Mike Piazza in the 2000 World Series to end his Yankees career. David Wright got to play that One More Game at Citi Field after his body simply gave out.
Was this Sabathia’s last outing? If so, he finishes a 251-win career with a 5-8, 4.93 ERA season.
Rosters will expand Sunday, so the Yankees can avoid a fourth IL trip for Sabathia if they wish. But his role as the No. 5 starter was diminished anyway, and with Luis Severino working his way back from an absence that has lasted all season, Sabathia might not pitch much in September even if he’s able.
He certainly wasn’t going to be considered for a postseason start, not unless something wacky happened to the Yankees’ other starters. Maybe a one-out reliever like Cone?
Remember, it was less than a year ago that Sabathia started and lost the series-ending Game 4 of the ALDS against Boston. He allowed three runs in three innings.
It was 10 years ago that Sabathia was the ace of the Yankees’ last World Series-winning team. He went 3-1 in the postseason and was the MVP of the ALCS against the Angels.
It was his first year in the Bronx and helped cement his beloved Yankee status. Sabathia has won 134 regular-season games in pinstripes, but it’s World Series rings that get fans’ eyes to water.
Mussina won 123 regular-season games as a Yankee. The team did not win a World Series during his time in the Bronx, which Mussina himself noted during his Hall of Fame acceptance speech last month.
One day, Sabathia may stand on that same Cooperstown podium and then have his day at Yankee Stadium. If so, he’ll hear the cheers, and they will be very, very well-deserved.