The Yankees have lacked a certain fire since CC Sabathia left town as an enforcer, but at least the retired left-hander is doing his best to make sure no one forgets his contributions.
Wednesday represented the five-year anniversary of arguably Sabathia's finest moment of agitation while playing out the string against the Tampa Bay Rays in 2018.
In that contest, Sabathia felt his catcher, Austin Romine, had been unfairly targeted by Rays pitching when he was nearly drilled in the head in a meaningless game. What? The Rays? The lil' old Rays instigating? No way! I was assured, by Kevin Cash, that the Yankees have always been the aggressors in this rivalry. Kooky.
Sabathia, who no longer threw 98 but was certainly a card-carrying member of the Yankees' stable of guys that season, decided to enact his revenge in a game the Yanks led 11-0 by drilling the Rays' backstop, Jesus Sucre. It was quite clearly done with purpose, as Sabathia made sure to reiterate on his way off the field; he was immediately ejected.
At the time, the Rays' sports network had the audacity to send this acid-singed tweet as if their pitcher hadn't just gone headhunting. We vastly prefer the tweet Sabathia sent on Wednesday to celebrate the iconic game, back when the Yankees used to play for nothing the final week of the season not because they were eliminated, but because they were setting up (and getting motivated) for October.
Yankees firebrand CC Sabathia celebrates getting revenge against Rays
Also, congrats on the bankruptcy, Bally Sports Florida. God, that's an insipid tweet.
Of course, the other key element of this story is the aftermath, when everyone realized that Sabathia had sacrificed a $500,000 innings bonus by defending his teammate's honor. If he'd made it to the seventh inning -- and he was cruising -- he would've hit the number. Instead, he self-immolated to put the Rays in their place.
It was honorable, and the Yankees responded in kind by paying out Sabathia's bonus anyway, though Hal Steinbrenner has since sliced the team's budget by just enough every season afterward to account for the $500K loss (kidding but, like, that maybe happened).
Sabathia's day in Cooperstown will come soon enough, but you can waive the five-year waiting period for the Good Yankees Teammate Hall of Fame for this powerful last stand alone. If Sabathia wanted to return to the dugout or clubhouse someday, it wouldn't come a moment too soon.