Just about everything that could go wrong has for the Yankees, down 3-1 in the ALCS after Thursday night’s 8-3 loss to the Astros in the Bronx. (Except, weirdly, they’re still outhitting Houston in the series—which is itself a sign that they’re leaving men on base and the Astros aren’t.) So it was only fitting that this seeming collapse of a series claimed the end of CC Sabathia’s career as well.
Sabathia, who’s battled injuries all year in what he had announced would be his final season, is on the roster as a reliever, and not a high-leverage one. With the Yankees trying to preserve their bullpen for a comeback that would now require three straight wins without an off-day, Sabathia came on the eighth to try to keep the game within three. It didn’t work, thanks to fielding errors on consecutive plays, and on the fourth batter he faced, Sabathia threw a pitch and felt his shoulder give out.
Attended to by trainers and staff, Sabathia tried to stay in the game but could not, leaving to respectful, thankful applause—not the sort of applause he had no doubt hoped for at the beginning of October, but we don’t get to choose how good things end, otherwise they’d never end at all.
After the game, manager Aaron Boone described Sabathia’s injury as “not good,” and said it’s almost certain that they’ll replace him on the ALCS roster, likely for another bullpen arm. That would be an official end, because he would then not be eligible to be on the World Series roster, even if it turns out his injury is minor and even if (perhaps more miraculously) the Yankees come back to win this series.
On MLB Network’s postgame show, Joe Girardi, who was Sabathia’s manager from 2009–2017, struggled to keep it together.
“CC, you’re a Hall of Fame pitcher that was as tough as any man I was ever around. What you went through on a daily basis to just be able to get on the mound...
“You were a great husband. You were a great father. You probably were the greatest teammate I have ever been around because of your ability to pull all 25 and sometimes all 50 people together in a clubhouse.
“You were the guy that I always wanted on the mound ... [chokes up] ... when we needed a win. And it was a privilege for me to manage you for nine years. I love you, man.”
History won’t remember this outing, because it’s kind. Sabathia will forever be the young Indians fireballer winning a Cy Young, or the greatest midseason rental of all time, putting the Brewers on his back, or a championship-winner in New York who masterfully transitioned to craft when stuff was no longer there, or a plaque in Cooperstown. How Sabathia ultimately walked off the mound doesn’t matter because of what he did on it.