As Scott has already reported, and Rick will be commenting on further later today, the Indians have officially shut the door on the C.C. Sabathia era in Cleveland, trading the Cy Young winner, 3 time All-Star, and Ace of the Staff to the Milwaukee Brewers for Matt LaPorta, 2 prospects, and a player to be named later.
As a Cleveland sports blogger, there were 2 articles I have dreaded the thought of writing. Today, I am forced to write one of the two, and that is my farewell piece to the last remaining bridge between 2 eras of Indians baseball. As a rookie in 2001, this heralded prospect was given a chance to earn a spot in the rotation in Spring Training of that year. Carsten Charles Sabathia did just that, and on April 8, 2001 against the Baltimore Orioles, the Big Fella began an epic career with the team, and by the end of the season, he would find himself with a 17-5 record, a respectable 4.39 ERA, 171 strikeouts, and a key member of a team that would reclaim their rightful spot as AL Central Champions.
Who could have possibly known that season would slam the door on the “Era Of Champions” at Jacob’s Field? It was an era of 5 straight division titles, 6 out of 7 division crowns overall, and 2 World Series appearances. Many of us thought CC would just be the next torch bearer on an era that seemed like it would never end.
Instead, Sabathia would have to be the gatekeeper for a team going through a brutal rebuilding period. The Indians went from seasons of successes, packed houses, huge national attention, and large personalities and superstars to a time of losing, empty stadiums, media wastelands, and faceless and nameless players. All the while, though, CC Sabathia kept his mouth shut, his head down, and gave the Indians everything he had as he honed and developed his stuff and built himself into the guy who would eventually take home baseball’s highest honor for pitchers, the Cy Young Award. By the time his career as an Indian was over, CC would see the team through the rebuilding phase and into a new team of potential, high hopes, and mixed successes. He would be there in 2004 when the Indians first began to show new signs of life. He would be there in 2005 when the Indians won 93 games and just narrowly missed out on finishing an epic comeback in the AL Central. He would be there in 2007 when the Indians would finally take their spot atop the AL Central once again by winning 96 games and falling just one game short of a return to the World Series.
Even this season, with the cloud of uncertainty hanging over his head and early struggles, CC would never complain or point fingers or place blame on circumstances. Instead, he did what he has always done, which is suck it up and go back to work. By the time he was finished, he would lower his ERA from 13.50 to 3.83, going over a month without losing to close out his time as an Indian.
And so it is, after 7 and a half glorious, fun seasons of watching CC Sabathia do what aces do best, take the ball every 5 days and go out there and give his team a great chance to win, Sabathia is now no longer a Cleveland Indian. It’s going to take a long time for many of us to come to terms with this fact. It sounds cheap and hollow, but it really is true that you never know what you had until it’s gone, and now I fear that will be the case with Sabathia.
You don’t just simply replace a guy who made 237 starts in 7.5 seasons (An average of 31.6 starts per year). You can’t find guys who average 168 strikeouts per year to just 66 walks. CC has meant everything to the Indians’ starting rotations for close to a decade now, and one can’t shake the feeling that things may never be quite the same.
We were definitely on board with the Indians’ decision to trade Sabathia. If CC didn’t want to renegotiate a new deal with Cleveland now, then the Indians had to look out for their own best interests and try to get whatever they could. We can debate if the Indians really got enough in return, and we can debate whether or not the Indians acted a little too soon and didn’t wait for the heavy hitters to get involved and drive up the bargaining price of Sabathia, but those are debates for another day. Today is about remembering an all-time great member of the Cleveland Indians. It’s a day for remembering one of the most active members of the Tribe in local and national charities. It’s a day for remember one of the Indians who was always one of the most visible players in the community. It’s about remembering the Indians career of arguably the first true “ace” the Indians have had since the days of Bob Feller and Bob Lemon.
Sabathia will walk away from the Indians with a career record of 106-71. He made 237 starts and had 19 complete games, 7 of which were shutouts. He had a career ERA of 3.83 and a WHIP of 1.265. He struck out 1265 batters and walked just 498. All of this, and he was in all likelihood just getting warmed up. At just 28 years of age, Sabathia was just entering the peak of his prime.
It truly is hard to believe we will never see Big Number 52 suit up and take the mound for the Indians ever again. I know many of us will cling on to the hope that Sabathia will sign with the Indians in the offseason, but if that’s really what he wanted, he would have accepted the Indians last ditch offer before they traded him to remain an Indian. Instead, he declined, and there’s no reason to think he’ll reconsider after the season is over. Instead, he has moved on, and will now help the Brewers try to catch the Cubs in the NL Central. And so, as we now say goodbye and take one last look back at our 10 Favorite CC Games of his career, we wish Sabathia nothing but the best and huge success in all his future endeavors….may they please be with someone outside the AL Central.
TOP 10 C.C. SABATHIA GAMES
10. April 8, 2001 vs Baltimore, No Decision – CC makes his debut, and goes 5.2 innings, giving up 3 hits, 3 runs, and striking out 3. CC didn’t get the win this day, but the Indians did pull out a victory and it was an impressive, if unspectacular, start to his career. It was the first glimpse many of us would have of the Big Fella and his mesmerizing fastball.
9. September 14, 2007 vs Kansas City, No Decision – CC goes 7 innings and gives up 4 ER runs on 7 hits, but strikes out 13 batters as he fights his way through the game and gives the Indians a chance to win and hang on to their 5.5 game lead in the division.
8. September 3, 2007 vs Minnesota, Win – Perhaps the start that cemented his Cy Young award, CC out duels Johan Santana once again by going 8 strong innings, striking out 6, walking one, and giving up 0 runs on 6 hits. In 5 starts against Minnesota in 2007, Sabathia would go 4-1 with a 1.51 ERA.
7. May 21, 2005 vs Cincinnati, Win – CC would battle through 6 mediocre innings in this game, giving up 3 runs, 2 of which were earned, on 7 hits while striking out 6. He would still manage to get the win despite a fairly average start by his standards. What made this game so memorable, though, was what happened in the 4th inning in this game. With the game tied at 3 all and one guy on base with 2 outs, CC stepped to the plate to face Elizardo Ramirez of the Reds, and proceeded to hit a 2 run home run, the first of his career. It would give the Indians a 5-3 lead, and that margin would hold up for the remainder of the game.
6. September 18, 2005 vs Kansas City, Win – The numbers in this game were superb – 8 innings, 5 hits, 0 runs, 8 K, 0 BB – but it’s what this game meant that stands out so much. On July 25th of that season, the Indians found themselves 15 games behind the Chicago White Sox. In the months that followed, the Tribe went on one of their most memorable runs in team history, and after Sabathia shut down the Royals on this day, the Indians were a mere 3.5 games behind the Sox. I will always distinctly remember that after that performance, I finally began to allow myself to believe it was possible for the Indians to actually catch the White Sox. They never did, but it was that feeling of confidence and belief that CC gave us Indians fans that made him so memorable to us.
5. July 13, 2001 vs Cincinnati, Win – This was CC’s first game in which he logged double digit strike outs. He went 6.2 innings giving up 1 run on 4 hits while striking out 11. This was perhaps the game that really served as CC’s true coming out game when he first established that he was going to be a serious force for years to come.
4. May 14, 2008 vs Oakland, Win – This game I will forever remember as the game that perhaps best sums up everything CC stands for as a pitcher. After 4 miserable starts to begin the season, CC had bounced back with a couple good starts before suffering a couple sub-par starts. It looked like CC was perhaps in danger of sliding back into his funk. The team was struggling and nothing was going well. CC needed to step up and deliver a big win not just for himself, but for the whole team. Sabathia responded in a big way by logging the 2nd-to-lat shutout as a member of the Tribe. He went 9 innings giving up 0 runs on 5 hits while notching 11 strike outs in leading the Indians to a 2-0 win. That game says everything for the type of person and pitcher that CC is.
3. August 15, 2003 vs Tampa Bay, Win – CC’s first career shutout. The Indians were in the midst of their rebuilding phase and it was an all around gloomy time for Indians fans. But the one thing we could always appreciate was the excitement of watching CC go out and give us a show, and on this day, that’s exactly what he did, going 9 innings and giving up 0 runs on 4 hits with 9 strikeouts.
2. July 7, 2006 vs Baltimore, Win – Probably CC Sabathia’s greatest game ever as an Indian. He went 9 virtually untouchable innings, giving up 0 runs on 3 hits with 7 strikeouts and 0 walks. It was pitching efficiency at its finest. Only 3 guys reached base all game long, and CC threw 118 pitches, 89 of which were strikes. The Orioles had no chance whatsoever on this day, and CC gave us all a start for the ages.
1. September 28, 2007 vs Kansas City, Win – This is another games that will always be more memorable for what it meant and stood for than for the actual pitching performance itself. As far as the start goes, it was just average – 7 innings, 8 hits, 3 runs, 4 strikeouts, 1 walk. The win, however, was unforgettable. It was CC’s first start after the Tribe had clinched the division title, and it was CC’s 19th win of the Cy Young winning season for Sabathia and was also his 100th career win. It will be hard to ever think of a more memorable win for Sabathia in terms of his Indians career. After suffering through all the rebuilding and frustration and heartbreak, this one represented CC getting everything he deserved.