TAMPA, Fla. — C.C. Sabathia didn’t have to say much Saturday as he formally announced that the 2019 baseball season would be his last. But in a sense, the announcement spoke for itself.
“It’s time,” Sabathia, a 38-year-old left-hander, said during a news conference at the New York Yankees’ spring training complex that formalized a decision he had previously spoken about. “My knee, the shape that it’s in.”
After 3,470 innings of his hefty, 6-foot 6-inch frame landing on his right knee with every pitch, and dealing with multiple operations, injections and braces, Sabathia understood he was running out of time on the mound.
And a recent cardiac scare, which led to an angioplasty in December to unclog an artery, reinforced his belief that 2019 should be the conclusion of what has been an illustrious and rewarding career, one that includes a 2009 championship in the Bronx.
In addition, he said, he has a family to consider after so many years in uniform and not always being around. Or, as he put it, “Just seeing what was important to me and how much my family is important to me, and wanting to be around them and just trying to care of myself the best way possible.’’
As he spoke, he was his joined by his wife, Amber, and three of his four children — Carter, Jaden and Cyia. (The oldest, C.C. III, 15, was back in New York to play in a high school basketball game.)
“My family is getting older,” he said. “My kids are getting older. It’s time for me to be with them.’’
While talking about how much he loved the offseason, hopping in the family minivan to drive his children to basketball practice or dance recitals, Sabathia said he wanted to do more of that and to help his wife more as well.
“She’s a single mother pretty much six months out of the year while I’m gone,” he said.
His son Carter nodded when he heard that, drawing laughs from those in attendance.
“I never see him during the season,” Cyia said. “When he’s home, it feels like we have a full family.”
“It’ll be better for him to come to my dance recitals and show all of his love and support,” Jaden added.
“We’ve been cheering for him for so many years, so I’m excited for him to cheer for us,” Amber said.
Sabathia said what he would miss most after retirement was his teammates — playing with them on the field and hanging out with them between games.
“I feel like these guys keep me young,” he said. He added later, “All I ever wanted for people to remember me as is as a good teammate.”
When Yankees general manager Brian Cashman wooed Sabathia to New York before the 2009 season with a seven-year, $161 million contract, Sabathia admitted being nervous about playing in pinstripes. In his long tenure in New York, he evolved, by necessity, from a hard thrower to someone who could mix up his pitches with a good deal of guile.
He kept re-signing with the Yankees as the seasons went on and is now on a one-year deal that will wrap up his career. He goes into this season with a 246-153 career win-loss record and a 3.70 ERA.
“I think he’s a Hall of Famer and I think he will get in,” said Yankees manager Aaron Boone, who played with Sabathia in Cleveland in 2005 and 2006.
Sabathia’s announcement was given a good deal of fanfare by the Yankees. Team officials were present, as were members of the Steinbrenner family, and many coaches and players were in attendance, too.
The Yankees made sure to note his 2007 American League Cy Young Award with the Indians, his six All-Star appearances, his 2,986 strikeouts. Noted, too, were all his charitable efforts.
The Yankees also noted the praise sent Sabathia’s way from former teammates like Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte, from Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, from rapper Fat Joe and even from the mayor of Sabathia’s hometown, Vallejo, California. Sabathia said he hoped to read them all later and not cry.
“Not only is he one of the best pitchers to ever play the game, but he’ll also go down as one of the great competitors to ever pick up a baseball,” said LeBron James, who shares a Cleveland sports history with Sabathia. “It’s been an honor to watch him play, and I’m excited to see what he’ll take on next. Congrats, my friend.”
While talking about his career, Sabathia also cited his parents. His mother is back in New Jersey, where Sabathia lives. His father died of cancer in 2003.
When Sabathia was with the Indians, from the time he was drafted in 1998 until his 2008 trade to the Milwaukee Brewers, he said his father used to tell him he would end up playing for the Yankees. Sabathia bristled at the idea, thinking he would stay with the Indians his entire career.
“He always said, ‘When you’re a free agent, the Yankees will come get you and you’ll win a World Series,’” Sabathia said. “For me to be able to live that dream for him is great. I just wish he was here to see it.”