CC Sabathia was rolling through his final start of the season Sept. 27, having given up just one hit in five innings. With six more outs, he would trigger a clause in his contract that would pay him $500,000 for pitching 155 innings over the course of the season.
He never got there, thanks to baseball’s silly unofficial rules about beanball escalation. After Sabathia hit Tampa Bay’s Jake Bauers with a pitch in the bottom of the fifth inning, Rays reliever Andrew Kittredge sent a pitch toward the head of Yankees hitter Austin Romine in the top of the sixth, a move that angered Sabathia so much that he had to be restrained by Manager Aaron Boone in the dugout. Sabathia then came out in the bottom of the sixth and hit Jesus Sucre in the leg with his first pitch, immediately earning an ejection from home plate umpire Vic Carapazza. As he left the field, Sabathia pointed at the Rays' dugout and yelled, “That’s for you, b----."
“I don’t really make decisions based on money, I guess,” Sabathia, who made $10 million in base salary in 2018, said after the game. “I just felt like it was the right thing to do.”
His teammates had his back.
“It doesn’t matter what happens out there; you don’t throw at no one’s head,” the Yankees' Giancarlo Stanton said. “He did what he felt was needed to do. Either way, I’m with [Sabathia]. Always.”
The Yankees' front office also appreciated the way Sabathia stood up for his teammates. According to the Associated Press, team officials gave him the $500,000 anyway as a “performance bonus,” even if he came up two innings short of the contractually obligated mark.
“We thought it was a very nice gesture by the Yankees,” Sabathia’s agent, Kyle Thousand, told the AP. “CC was very appreciative and is really excited to come back next year and, hopefully, win a championship.”
The payment was not announced and only was uncovered when the Yankees submitted their final luxury tax payroll.
“It was something that we did very private and weren’t looking to publicize, and I’ll just leave it at that,” General Manager Brian Cashman said.
Sabathia, 38, will be back in 2019 for what he says is his final MLB season, though he’ll begin the year by serving a five-game suspension that MLB handed down for his actions in September.
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