Boston Red Sox

Oct 17, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia (52) reacts as he is walked off the field by trainer Steve Donohue after suffering an apparent injury against the Houston Astros during the eighth inning of game four of the 2019 ALCS playoff baseball series at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

By Matt McCarthy,

CC Sabathia was always destined to walk off the mound at the end of his career giving it everything he had.

And he walks away as one of baseball’s last great workhorses.

Thursday night was a sad but almost fitting way to see Sabathia’s career end. He pitched until he truly couldn’t pitch anymore. He pitched until his arm fell off (or separated).

Nobody took the ball more than Sabathia. In a day and age where starting pitchers throw less than ever before, the big lefty bucked the trend.

Sabathia threw nearly 3,600 innings in his career, an average of 217 per season. The big man just took the mound every five days without fail, and sometimes he pitched even more than that.

His greatest accomplishment came in 2008 when he single-handedly willed the Milwaukee Brewers to the playoffs. Sabathia, on the verge of free agency, took the ball on short rest for his final three starts of the regular season and dominated.

Sabathia threw 335 pitches over 21 2/3 innings and gave up two earned runs on six hits. His start on the final day of the season, a complete game, one-hit masterpiece, remains one of the great pitching performances of the new century.

You could probably count the pitchers left in baseball that could’ve pulled off a feat like that on one hand. Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer are perhaps the only names that come to mind, and both will join Sabathia one day in Cooperstown.

If not for Sabathia, the Yankees would be going on a nearly 20-year World Series drought. He was the primary reason New York won the World Series in 2009, again taking the ball on short rest in both the ALCS and the World Series. In four starts, Sabathia tossed 29 2/3 innings and gave up seven runs on a combined eight hits.

Had either the Angels or Phillies won one more game to extend those series to seven, Sabathia would’ve taken the ball again, and he probably would’ve won. Nobody was going to hit him.

As the human element is slowly removed from baseball, pitchers like Sabathia cease to exist. The great ace is a dying breed, replaced by nameless and faceless figures emerging from bullpens every inning or even every batter.

That’s not good for baseball.

CC Sabathia was a throwback. A relic. A workhorse until the end.

They just don’t make pitchers like him anymore.

You can hear Matt McCarthy on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s own Hardcore Baseball podcast and on various 98.5 The Sports Hub programs. Follow him on Twitter @MattMcCarthy985.