CC Sabathia

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Carsten Charles Sabathia

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CC Sabathia was a left-handed starting pitcher for the Cleveland Indians, Milwaukee Brewers and New York Yankees. At 290 pounds, he was the heaviest player in Major League Baseball for most of his career. The Indians selected Sabathia with the 20th overall pick in the first round of the 1998 amateur draft. He won 17 games as a rookie in 2001, and was the Indians' Opening Day starter in 2004, 2006, and 2007. He recorded over 200 strikeouts in a season for the first time in his career on September 19, 2007, en route to winning the season's Cy Young Award. He reached both 250 wins and 3,000 career strikeouts, significant career milestones that mark him as a potential Hall of Famer.

High School & The Minor Leagues[edit]

By his freshman year at Vallejo High School, Sabathia was over six feet tall and throwing his fastball 90 miles per hour. He starred on the school's basketball team, and nearly won a state title. The University of Hawaii and UCLA recruited Sabathia for football - he eventually committed to Hawaii as a tight end. On the baseball diamond, the southpaw played first base, left field, and pitched. He had a 6-0 record and 0.87 ERA as a senior, allowing only 20 hits in 67 innings and striking out 107. He also hit .563 with 10 home runs in 80 AB. Baseball America named him the best high school prospect in Northern California and a second-team high school All-American, as a utility player.

Sabathia signed with the Indians in June of 1998, for $1.3 million after having been selected 20th overall in the 1st round of the 2008 amateur draft. Just 17 years old, the big lefty made five starts for the Burlington Indians. He struck out 35 hitters in 18 innings, and his ERA was 4.50. He overcame elbow soreness in 1999, and compiled a 5-3 record with three different organizational affiliates. In 68 1/3 innings, Sabathia struck out 76 opponents. The Indians increased the first round pick's workload in 2000, and he logged 146 1/3 innings between the Kinston Indians and Akron Aeros. He led Indians minor leaguers with 159 strikeouts. Sabathia was also a participant in the 2000 Futures Game (allowing one run and 3 baserunners in one inning but striking out the side in a 3-2 US win), and was named to the 2000 Olympic Team's 28-man roster. Baseball America rated him the best prospect in the Carolina League (right ahead of Jon Rauch), having the best fastball in the Eastern League, being the best pitching prospect in the Eastern League and the #2 overall EL prospect (after Alex Escobar).

When the year was finished, the young prospect was the organization's "Minor League Player of the Year".

Indians: 2001-2008[edit]

The Indians included Sabathia in their 2001 rotation, and he made his debut on April 8th against the Baltimore Orioles. He surrendered 3 runs on 3 hits and 2 walks in 5 2/3 innings. The rookie's best start was against the Pittsburgh Pirates on June 17th, when he tossed 7 scoreless innings, and allowed just 1 hit. His ERA fluctuated in 2001, dropping as low as 3.62 and soaring up to 5.36, but he won the vast majority of his decisions. Sabathia finished 17-4, posted a 4.39 ERA, led the American League in hits allowed per nine innings, and finished seventh in the league with 171 strikeouts. He gave up 2 runs over 6 innings and took the loss in his only playoff start in the Division Series. He was the only player other than Ichiro Suzuki to get a first place vote for the Rookie of the Year voting; the writer who chose him decided to make his own rules, claiming Suzuki was not a rookie due to his career in Nippon Professional Baseball.

Sabathia was a bright spot during Cleveland's lean years from 2002 to 2004. He represented the club in the 2003 All-Star Game, and again in 2004. His record over the three-year period was 37-30. He finished 10th in the league with 149 strikeouts in 2002, and 10th in ERA at 3.60 in 2003. He pitched complete game shutouts in 2003, and 2004. The Indians improved in 2005, and the hard-throwing lefty turned in his second highest season win total: 15. He ranked seventh in the AL with 161 strikeouts. All of this came after he made a trip to the disabled list at the end of spring training.

There were lofty expectations for the Indians and Sabathia in 2006. The Tribe failed to make the postseason, but Sabathia finished the season with a 3.22 ERA, 172 strikeouts, a 1.17 WHIP, and 6 complete games. His record for the season was 12-11. There were questions about his weight when he made a trip to the DL for the second straight year, this time after straining an oblique muscle in his first start of the season.

The California native made his third All-Star team in 2007. He posted a 12-3 record in the first half of the season, and defeated the Kansas City Royals on September 28th to earn his 100th career win. Sabathia finished the season with new career bests in wins (19), ERA (3.21), innings (241), strikeouts (209), WHIP (1.14), and he surrendered just 37 walks. After guiding the Indians to their first AL Central crown since 2001, Sabathia struggled in the postseason. He allowed 15 earned runs and 13 walks in just 15 1/3 innings, and he picked up two losses in the ALCS. In November of 2007, Sabathia was awarded the American League Cy Young Award. He also won the Warren Spahn Award in 2007, given to the best left-handed pitcher in baseball each season by the Oklahoma Sports Museum.

With a home run during interleague play in 2008, Sabathia became the first AL pitcher to hit 2 career home runs since the advent of the DH in 1973. Sabathia was 6-8 but with a 3.83 ERA (109 ERA+) and over a strikeout per inning for the Indians. At the time, he led the AL in strikeouts and K/9 IP. Sabathia's time in Cleveland ended when he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers for Matt LaPorta, Zach Jackson, Rob Bryson and a player to be named later on July 7th. In October, the player to be named was announced as future All-Star Michael Brantley.

Shortly after the trade, Sabathia took out a full-page ad in the Cleveland Plain Dealer thanking Indians fans for their support over the years. The ad cost him $12,870.

Brewers: 2008[edit]

Sabathia made his first start for the Brewers on July 8, 2008, getting credit for a 7-3 win. In his next game for Milwaukee, he threw a complete game win and hit a home run. That made him the first pitcher since Earl Wilson in 1970 to hit homers for teams in both major leagues. He became the first pitcher in over 30 years to post complete game wins in two consecutive games, recording gems in the Brewers' games that immediately preceded and followed the 2008 All-Star Game. Wilbur Wood had been the last pitcher to accomplish the feat under similar circumstances for the 1975 Chicago White Sox.

Soon after being traded to Milwaukee, Sabathia decided to remove the two periods in his nickname C.C. He began his time with Milwaukee 9-0 with a 1.43 ERA; the 9th win was a one-hitter against the Pirates in which he fanned 11. The lone hit was a grounder to the mound by Andy LaRoche which Sabathia bobbled; some of his teammates said that it should have been ruled an error.

Sabathia went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA for the 2008 Brewers and was a key reason they made it to the playoffs; on the final day of the season, he went the distance on three days' rest (his third straight start on such short rest) to beat the Chicago Cubs, 3-1. Despite being a late-season addition, Sabathia led the 2008 NL in complete games (7) and tied Ben Sheets for the most shutouts (3). He became the first pitcher in history to lead both leagues in shutouts in the same season, as he had notched 2 in the AL, tying him for the league lead. Overall, he struck out 251 batters in the 2008 regular season and won 17 games.

Yankees: 2009-2019[edit]

In December 2008, Sabathia and the New York Yankees agreed on a seven-year deal for $161 million, a new record for a pitcher. He was selected the Yankees' 2009 Opening Day starter in Baltimore on April 6th but had a rough go of it, giving up 6 runs on 8 hits in 4 1/3 innings while not striking out a batter; he was charged with the Yanks' 10-5 loss. He soon settled into the role of ace of the Yankees' rotation, picking up a league-leading 19 wins while pitching 230 innings with a 3.37 ERA. He finished 4th in the Cy Young Award vote. He won his first three starts of the 2009 postseason, beating the Minnesota Twins in the opener of the ALDS, then disposing of the Los Angeles Angels twice in the ALCS. He started two games in the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies; he was outdueled by former Indian teammate Cliff Lee in Game 1, then left with a 4-3 lead in the 8th inning of Game 4 only to see the Phillies tie the game against Joba Chamberlain, before the Yankees put the game away with a 9th-inning rally. The Bronx Bombers went on to win the series, 4 games to 2, to claim their first title since 2000.

Sabathia led the American League with 21 wins in 2010, finishing with a 21-7 record, a 3.18 ERA and 197 strikeouts. He finished third in voting for the Cy Young Award. On July 26, 2011, Sabathia struck out 18 and allowed one hit in a win against the Seattle Mariners. Only one other pitcher had ever fanned 18 or more while tossing a one-hitter or no-hitter - Kerry Wood in 1998. CC went on to win the American League's Pitcher of the Month award for July, as he went 4-1 with an 0.92 ERA and 50 strikeouts during the month. He was named to the All-Star team, but had to bow out under the "Sunday starter" rule. For the season, he went 19-8 with a 3.00 ERA. He started Game 1 of the ALDS against the Detroit Tigers' Justin Verlander, but the game was suspended by rain in the middle of the 2nd inning. He came back to start Game 3 but was not involved in the decision, then came on in relief of Ivan Nova in the 2nd inning of Game 5, as the Yankees vainly tried to save their season. At the end of the year, he had an option to decline the remaining years on his contract and become a free agent - and his success in pinstripes would have made him a highly coveted one - but he agreed to a deal with the Yankees on the last day to do so, October 31st. The deal reportedly added $30 million to his existing contract.

Sabathia went 15-6, 3.38 for the Yankees in 2012. The 15 wins meant that he had won 10 or more games in each of his first 12 seasons in the majors. From 1932-2012, only two other hurlers had done so: Don Sutton (17 years) and Tom Seaver (15). He pitched an even 200 innings and struck out 197 batters that season, being once again a mainstay of the pitching staff, alongside newcomer Hiroki Kuroda. He was a winner in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Baltimore Orioles on October 7th, giving up 2 runs in 8 2/3 innings in a 7-2 win. However, the Birds won two of the next three games, and he once again took the mound in Game 5 with the season on the line. He turned out another gem, giving up 1 run on 4 hits in pitching a complete game 3-1 win. But the Yankees were already down 3 games to none to the Tigers when he made his final start of the year in Game 4 of the ALCS, and he wasn't able to turn things around; the Tigers beat him up for 6 runs on 11 hits in 3 2/3 innings on their way to an 8-1 win and a sweep of the series.

The Yankees were decimated by injuries at the start of the 2013 season, but Sabathia was one of the few healthy and reliable performers. On July 3rd, he recorded the 200th win of his career when he defeated the Minesota Twins, 3-2, to improve his record to 9-6. Given he was only 32, there was a lot of talk about whether Sabathia would be baseball's next 300-game winner, as the three active pitchers ahead of him on the all-time win list (Andy Pettitte, Roy Halladay and Tim Hudson) were all seriously getting on in years, while CC was still in his prime. Of course, when Randy Johnson had been the last to reach the milestone in 2009, commentators had - as always - stated that no one had a chance to join him in the foreseeable future. Sabathia's season ended a week early when the Yankees announced on September 23rd he would no longer pitch that season because of a hamstring injury. He had struggled in the second half of the season, putting up a 6.08 ERA after the All-Star Game. He ended the year at 14-13, 4.78 in 32 starts and 211 innings. Those were the fewest wins for him since 2006 and the highest ERA of his career; his 175 strikeouts were also the fewest for him since 2006.

Motivated by the criticism about his second-half performance the previous season, as well as by concern that his excessive playing weight could have consequences on his long-term health, Sabathia showed up for spring training 25 pounds lighter in 2014. He was still weighing an impressive 275 lb. but it was quite an improvement after tipping the scales around 300 lb. the past few seasons. However, in spite of the weight loss, he went down with a knee injury on May 10th and had to be placed on the disabled list. He was 3-4, 5.28 in 8 starts at the time and was hoping to return to the Yankees in early July but experienced a setback after a rehabilitation outing on July 2nd, making his return that season uncertain. The injury was diagnosed as a degenerative cartilage problem in his right knee, and the Yankees announced on July 18th that CC would undergo season-ending arthroscopic surgery.

Sabathia was back with the Yankees at the start of the 2015 season, but with poor results at first. He went 0-5, 5.45 over his first six starts before finally winning a game, his first in over a year, when he defeated the Tampa Bay Rays, 11-4, on May 11th. On August 23rd, he had to leave a start against the Indians in the 3rd inning with pain in his right knee. He struggled badly in that start, walking a season-high four batters and giving up a three-run homer to Carlos Santana before leaving early. The Yankees placed him on the disabled list, hinting that his season may well be over. He was 4-9, 5.27 in 24 starts. He managed to come back on September 9th, and it was a blessing for the Yankees, as they had just placed Nathan Eovaldi on the disabled list and badly needed another starter. When the season ended, and before the Wild Card Game, he checked himself in an alcohol treatment facility and announced he would not pitch in the postseason. He had given hints that there was a problem when he was caught on video in a shouting match with a heckling fan outside a Toronto, ON nightclub the preceding August. He finished the year at 6-10, 4.73, his second consecutive sub-par year.

His health was still shaky as he began 2016, and he was coming off a stint on the disabled list caused by a groin injury on May 20th when he defeated the Oakland Athletics, 8-3. That win was his 100th in a Yankees uniform, making him only the 8th pitcher of the modern era to record 100 or more wins with two different teams. His strong pitching following his return from injury was a relief for the injury-plagued Yankees. On June 10th, he defeated the Detroit Tigers, 4-0, to lower his ERA to 2.28 on the year, and to 0.71 over his last six starts, the best such stretch of his career. He ended up going 9-12, 3.91 in 30 starts and 179 2/3 innings. The Yankees were not sure what to expect from him heading into 2017 and after 7 starts, he was 2-2 with a 5.77 ERA. He turned things around starting with a 7-1 win over the Kansas City Royals on May 16th. That was the first of five consecutive winning starts during which his ERA was 1.11. It came at an opportune time for New York, as Opening Day starter Masahiro Tanaka was struggling badly during that stretch, and they needed someone to pick up the slack in order to maintain their hold on first place. Just as he was starting to look like an ace again, he left a start against the Los Angeles Angels on June 13th after four innings because of a strained hamstring, landing him on the disabled list for at least four weeks. He returned July 4th but failed to make it out of the 3rd inning in a 4-1 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays. After a couple more wins after the All-Star break improved his record to 9-3, he began to struggle, giving up 4 runs in three consecutive starts. In the third of these, against Toronto on August 8th, he was removed after three innings because of pain in his right knee. He had given up a pair of two-run homers to Josh Donaldson and was charged with a 4-2 loss to fall to 9-5, 4.05. He was placed on the disabled two days later. He returned on August 19th with an excellent start against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, retiring 13 of the first 14 batters he faced on his way to a 4-3 win. He finished the year at 14-5, 3.69, his best season since 2012. He was excellent in the postseason as well, with a couple of starts resulting in no-decisions against the Indians in the Division Series and a real gem in Game 3 of the ALCS against the Houston Astros, when he reeled off 6 scoreless innings to lead New York to an 8-1 win on October 16]th. He also made the start in Game 7, and gave up just one run in 3 1/3 innings, but he wasn't sharp, so Joe Girardi took him out in the 4th. That one run was enough to tag him with the loss as the Yankees were unable to score and lost the game, 4-0.

On December 16th, he signed a one-year contract extension to remain a Yankee for at least another season. He had a solid if unspectacular year, making 29 starts for the Yankees and going 9-7 with and ERA of 3.65. In his final start of the season, on September 27th against the Rays, he was ejected in the top of the 6th inning for throwing a pitch at Jesus Sucre. It was in apparent retaliation for a pitch by Andrew Kittredge which had come close to the head of C Austin Romine in the top of the inning, after both benches had been warned. The pitch was literally costly, as he ended the year with 153 innings, just shy of the 155-inning mark which would have netted him a performance bonus of $500,000. He had no regrets, saying afterwards that he had done what was needed to stand up for his teammates. He was handed a five-game suspension, to be served at the start of the following season. In the offseason, the Yankees announced that they would pay him his bonus anyway. He started Game 4 of the ALDS against the Boston Red Sox on October 9th but gave up 3 runs in as many innings and was charged with the 4-3 loss that eliminated the Yankees from the postseason.

There was a question following the 2018 season whether the Yankees would want to retain CC's services any further, given his advancing age but on November 6th, they announced that he had agreed to another one-year contract worth $8 million to allow him to return in 2019 at age 38. He explained that he planned to retire after the season. In December 2018, he also underwent angioplasty surgery to relieve chest pain that was caused by blockage in an artery leading to his heart. He was expected to make a full recovery before spring training and indeed was cleared to resume baseball activities in January. Preparing his post-baseball career, he signed on for a part-time job as an analyst for ESPN with a planned 15 appearances on broadcasts during the season on days when he was not pitching. It was announced shortly thereafter that he was likely to start the season on the disabled list due to his recovery from the offseason surgeries (he had also undergone surgery on his right knee, in addition to the angioplasty) and the need to build up his stamina. He was part of a crowded Yankees injured list as the season started, but had an outstanding debut on April 13th giving up just 1 hit 5 innings against the Chicago White Sox. He left with the game still scoreless as New York went on to win, 4-0. On April 30th, Sabathia became only the third left-handed pitcher (and 17th overall) to strike out 3,000 batters, fanning former battery mate John Ryan Murphy of the Arizona Diamondbacks. He recorded the 250th win of his career on June 19th, 12-1 over the Tampa Bay Rays. Although he was not selected for the 2019 All-Star Game that was played in Cleveland, Commissioner Rob Manfred issued him and his family a special invitation to attend to be honored for his remarkable career. This came as many observers were talking about him as a future Hall of Famer, given the significant career milestones he had just reached. He threw the ceremonial first pitch before the game, then made a surprise mound visit to teammate Aroldis Chapman during the 9th inning as Chapman recorded the save by striking out the side. On August 30th, he had to leave a start after just 3 innings with discomfort in his knee and was immediately placed on the injured list. It was only his third start since an earlier stint on the IL, and there was a sense that this might have been his final appearance in a major league game. However, he still had some fight in him, as he came back on September 12th to start the second game of a doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers. He was left off the Yankees' roster for the Division Series against the Minnesota Twins but was added for the ALCS. He made two more appearances, but in the final one, in Game 4, he suffered a subluxation of his left shoulder and had to leave the game. He was placed on the injured list and replaced on the Yankees' roster by Ben Heller, making him ineligible for any further duty that postseason, ending his career after 19 seasons.

He holds the all-time American League record for most strikeouts by a left-handed pitcher, with 3,093. That is still almost 2,000 fewer than major league leader Randy Johnson. He also began to work as a broadcaster for the MLB Network.

Post-Playing Career[edit]

In April 2022, he was named as a special assistant to Commissioner Rob Manfred, working in areas concerning the future of the sport: player relations, diversity, equity and inclusion, social responsibility, youth participation and broadcasting.

Sources: JockBio: C.C. Sabathia, 1999-2001 Baseball Almanacs

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 2001 Topps All-Star Rookie Team
  • 6-time AL All-Star (2003, 2004, 2007 & 2010-2012)
  • 2009 ALCS MVP
  • AL Cy Young Award Winner (2007)
  • 2-time AL Wins Leader (2009 & 2010)
  • AL Innings Pitched Leader (2007)
  • 2-time League Complete Games Leader (2006/AL & 2008/NL)
  • 3-time League Shutouts Leader (2006/AL, 2008/AL & 2008/NL)
  • 15 Wins Seasons: 8 (2001, 2005 & 2007-2012)
  • 20 Wins Seasons: 1 (2010)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 8 (2002 & 2007-2013)
  • 200 Strikeouts Seasons: 3 (2007, 2008 & 2011)
  • Won a World Series with the New York Yankees in 2009.

AL Cy Young Award
2006 2007 2008
Johan Santana C.C. Sabathia Cliff Lee

Further Reading[edit]

  • David Adler: "CC Sabathia named special assistant to Commissioner",, April 6, 2022. [1]
  • Lindsay Berra: "CC raring to go with revamped diet, conditioning: Veteran lefty making most of offseason program in new ways",, January 25, 2018. [2]
  • Pete Caldera: "Yankees' Sabathia looks ahead to 2017 and beyond", USA Today Sports, January 13, 2017. [3]
  • Chri Cwik: "CC Sabathia has found success as an MLB broadcaster, thanks to his genuine love for the modern game", Yahoo! Sports, June 8, 2023. [4]
  • Anthony DiComo: "Pinstripes suit CC! NY has 'unfinished business': Source: Sabathia agrees on one-year deal to return to Yankees",, December 16, 2017. [5]
  • Mark Feinsand: "CC honored by All-Star week invite in final year: Veteran lefty to serve as 'fake All-Star,' to be honored for contributions",, July 9, 2019. [6]
  • Bryan Hoch: "Sabathia locked in despite youth movement: Veteran gears up for his 17th season as Yankees 'fly under the radar'",, February 14, 2017. [7]
  • Bryan Hoch: "CC finds comfort with family, home and away",, August 23, 2018. [8]
  • Bryan Hoch: "CC a 'brand new person' after heart scare: Recovered from 90 percent blocked artery, Yankees lefty cleared for workouts", mlb,.com, January 10, 2019. [9]
  • Bryan Hoch: "CC on retiring after 2019: 'It's been a great ride': Alongside family and teammates, veteran left-hander formally announces upcoming season will be his last",, February 16, 2019. [10]
  • Bryan Hoch: "Sabathia to begin work as analyst for ESPN: CC scheduled for 15 on-air appearances on days he's not pitching",, March 5, 2019. [11]
  • Bryan Hoch: "Farewell, CC: Southpaw's career comes to close",, October 18, 2019. [12]
  • Bryan Hoch: "Sabathia shows off slimmer post-career look",, May 12, 2020. [13]
  • Dawn Klemish: "Where it all began: MLB to honor CC at ASG",, July 5, 2019. [14]
  • Gabe Lacques; "All-Star Game gives CC Sabathia, Indians fans a chance to look back: 'Thank you. And I love you.'", USA Today, July 10, 2019. [15]
  • Ralph Long: "Sabathia ready to embrace leadership role: Veteran southpaw praises Boone, with whom he played two seasons in Cleveland",, February 15, 2018. [16]
  • Mike Lupica: "CC making a convincing case for Cooperstown",, June 29, 2018. [17]
  • Bob Nightengale: "CC Sabathia confronts a problem rooted deep in his past", USA Today Sports, October 5, 2015. [18]
  • Bob Nightengale: "CC Sabathia stamps ticket into Hall of Fame with 3,000-strikeout milestone", USA Today, May 1, 2019. [19]
  • Bob Nightengale: "'He's a legend': Left off ALDS roster, Yankees fighting to make sure CC Sabathia gets another shot", USA Today, October 3, 2019. [20]
  • Bob Nightengale: "Yankees' CC Sabathia goes out in perfect style, leaving his all on the field", USA Today, October 18, 2019. [21]
  • Dale Rivera: "CC Sabathia says goodbye to Yankees and baseball with special note", North Jersey Record, October 21, 2019. [22]
  • Manny Randhawa: "An education: Sabathia joins protest with family",, June 6, 2020. [23]
  • CC Sabathia: "My Toughest Out", The Players' Tribune, March 7, 2016. [24]
  • Andrew Simon: "A complete guide to Sabathia's 3,000 Ks",, April 30, 2019. [25]
  • Ben Weinrib: "CC proud to be part of exclusive 'Black Aces'",, February 8, 2018. [26]

Related Sites[edit]