Remember the good times?
Chien-Ming came up from our very own farm system – a rookie phenom from Taiwan and a Yankee to the core. So what if he couldn’t speak English and never left his hotel room? The kid could pitch. He had that amazing sinker.
In his quiet way he went about his business, achieved back-to-back 19-win seasons, became the ace of the staff. It was such a pleasure to watch him induce ground ball after ground ball.
There was just one not-so-tiny problem: he was terrible in the 2007 postseason. He had two starts in the ALDS against the Indians and lost both of them, giving up a total of 12 runs over five-plus innings for an ERA of 19.06 (gag). Was that the beginning of Wang’s “lost period” when we’d catch him staring off into space while sitting in the dugout?
Was his postseason funk the result of mechanical problems? Did anybody bother to look under his hood?
He rebounded beautifully in 2008, becoming the first pitcher to win six games that year. But then came the fateful interleague game against the Astros. Since the Yanks were playing in Houston, Wang was running the bases when this happened.
Big trouble. The foot injury ended his season and seemed to have carried over into ’09. He was never “right.” Was it his hip or his head? All I know is his stint on the DL led to Hughes’ stint in the bullpen. While we certainly could have used another 19-game winner in the rotation along with CC, it was a revelation to see Huuuuughes emerge as the bridge to Mo.
Wang struggled when he returned. Then more trouble: season-ending shoulder surgery. According to some reports, he could be back on the mound this spring. But will he have the velocity he used to? Will he be able to throw the sinker and come up with other effective pitches? Will he be any good? Or will the Yankees get him healthy, showcase him, hope there’s interest from other teams and wave goodbye?
I don’t know, but what a boost for him and for the Yankees if he could rediscover his magic and be a reliable starter again. I’d take a healthy Wang over Lackey any day.