It’s the final year of CC Sabathia’s 19-year journey. The veteran left-hander announced before the season that all he had left to give was one more season. The 2007 Cy Young award just became the 17th pitcher all time to get 3,000 strikeouts which leads to the question, is Sabathia a Hall of Famer?
The other two lefties with at least 3,000 strikeouts – Randy Johnson and Steve Carlton – are both in the Hall of Fame. Compiling “Ks” is one measure of pitching success but Sabathia also checks other boxes in the Hall metric. Sabathia has a career record of 247-153. One of the biggest arguments behind Mike Mussina’s case – he goes into the Hall in July – was that he had 100 more wins than losses. Sabathia is right on that edge and if he pitches well this year, his career won-loss record could go 100 games over .500. And if that happens, he’ll surpass 250 career victories.
His career 3.69 ERA may give some pause on his case. However, Sabathia pitched most of his career in Cleveland and New York. Those aren’t pitcher-friendly parks, especially New York. Sabathia has a career 117 ERA+ including 7 seasons where he had over a 125 ERA+ value. He has a well above average park- adjusted career ERA. Sabathia has the hardware to back up his case as well. He is one of 14 members of the “Black Aces” A group of African- American pitchers who have won 20 games in a season. That is particularly meaningful to Sabathia as he talks about legacies of those pitchers often and has paid tribute to the Black Aces during games in the past wearing cleats with the artwork of the group.
He is a six-time All-Star, a former ALCS MVP and was a key contributor to the Yankees’ World Series team in 2009. He has earned the reputation as a big- game pitcher. Since 2017, Sabathia has made 27 starts after a Yankees loss and is 15-1 with a 2.71 ERA in 149.1 IP. He is the Yankees stopper. Fans and the team have confidence when he takes the mound.
While statistics like his 63.6 career WAR and 3.72 career FIP are impressive, it
doesn’t tell the story of Sabathia’s career. From the young kid who came in pumping gas, to the man who lost his way on and off the field. Entering rehab during a playoff series in order to better himself as a husband and father. After that, the former world champ completely reinvented the way he pitched. He developed a cut fastball and sinker to go along with a great slider. Even now, Sabathia produces some of the softest contact in baseball. He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame just for the way he reinvented himself and found a way to be just as productive.
because of it.
One thing that may not be valued enough is what Sabathia meant for the game of baseball as a black athlete. He is one of the most vocal players in the game and thought of as one of the best teammates. people have ever played with. That was never more apparent when he willingly ignored the opportunity to receive a bonus at the end of 2018 so he could defend his teammate by throwing at Rays catcher Jesus Sucre. It was a moment that defined Sabathia’s career and a moment that gained respect from the opposing team even.
The amount of young black baseball players who were inspired by Sabathia is immeasurable and baseball should thank him for it. The charity work he has done in his career for his hometown of Vallejo in northern California is another testament to his humanity.
CC Sabathia deserves to be in the Hall of Fame not just because he was a great pitcher but because he was a great person, an amazing teammate, and a personality that baseball needed and still needs to connect with younger generations of black baseball players. One day, CC Sabathia will give a speech in Cooperstown and I’ll just be glad I got to see him pitch.