Yankees: For CC, the fire is burning and the knee keeps balking

CC Sabathia (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
CC Sabathia (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images) /

The Yankees, at the end of this season, must come to terms with or cut loose from an aging, but still effective pitcher who has been with the team for nine seasons. But come to find out, the decision may not rest with the team at all, because he might just take the ball and run home with it himself.

The Yankees, when they realized it had been nine years since they had won their 26th World Championships, pulled out all the stops in 2009. With the open pockets of George Steinbrenner, the team landed both Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia, signing both as free agents.

Both players earned their pay for the Yankees that season, delivering the 27th World Championship to the franchise and Steinbrenner, who would soon pass away.

But it was Sabathia who finished the season at 19-8, enough to qualify for fourth place in the Cy Young voting. Following that, he was the mainstay of the team’s pitching staff, tossing 200 or more innings for five consecutive seasons.

With age and the constant pounding of a 325 lb body on knees that stood the test of time, until they could no more, a reckoning is taking place within Sabathia that foresees the end may be near.

In an interview with the New York Daily News, Sabathia was very candid in expressing his feelings at this stage of his career. He revealed what we already could sense; he’s not in it for the money.

"“I’m not doing this for money or anything like that,” Sabathia said. “I’m doing this for fun to try to win a championship, and if I can’t have fun and help this team win then there’s no need for me to be out there.”"

As far as the future goes, Sabathia has his feet on the ground, as he explained to the News:

"“I don’t really think about it,” Sabathia replied when asked if he wonders if 2017 could be it for him. “I don’t really worry about it. If it’s the end, it’s the end. It is what it is. I’ll just keep going as long as I’m healthy and try to play.”"

With almost a certainty, Sabathia knows he will be facing knee replacement surgery when his playing days are over. Cortisone does the job for now, but that gets very old after a while, and it becomes natural to ask, why am I punishing myself like this?

Shall I Stay Or Should I Go

But of the 650 major league ballplayers, only a few are lucky enough to make a choice as to when they leave the game behind them. The heartbreaking episode endured, for instance, by former Yankees, Nick Swisher, who kicked and clawed his way into retirement, is more the norm among players who refuse to admit, it’s over.

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A few, like Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, and Chipper Jones, ride off into the sunset on their own accord, though, and Sabathia looks like he’s preparing himself to do the same.

He’ll have a major start again the Boston Red Sox. He’ll be adrenalized as usual. And he’ll keep his fingers crossed his knees hold up one more time. And one more time after that, always with the thought this could be the last pitch of my major league career.

But CC is a big man in more ways that one. We all know the story of his battle with alcoholism and how he conquered that. Unfortunately, though, he can’t talk to his knees.

It Feels More Like Fall Than Spring

There are more reasons to think Sabathia will not pitch for the Yankees, or any other team, next season than he will. He’s already second in most wins for an active pitcher, trailing only the inimitable Bartolo Colon. And the dream of reaching 300 wins, once a possibility is now extinguished, as it probably is for any starting pitching due to the way bullpens are now being used.

And the dream of reaching 300 wins, once a possibility is now extinguished, as it probably is for any starting pitching due to the way bullpens are now being used.

As he has done all season, chances are better than even Sabathia will go out there tonight, pitching the kind of game that gives the Yankees a chance of winning. He’s done it all year, and for each of his seventeen big league seasons.

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I don’t want to predict the future, but I sense that something is going on that means these are the final times we will see CC, not only in a Yankees uniform but any uniform at all. He said it himself. ““I’m doing this for fun to try to win a championship.”

Love ya for that. Now, how about, we all have some fun.