Sunday, June 15, 2008

How long can you hold your breath?

How frustrating has this Yankees season been? Well, only in 2008 can you win a game by 13 runs and still lose.

Of course, the loss was Chien-Ming Wang, the team's No. 1 starter and rotation lynch pin. Right now, the Yankees are calling it a right foot sprain with an MRI exam set for tomorrow. I'm no pessimist, but it didn't look good when it happened, and when asked by Pete Abraham if he thought the injury was serious, Wang ominously replied, "“Maybe. I’ll know tomorrow.”


On a personal level, seeing Wang pull up lame brought back bitter memories of former Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde, who ruptured his Achilles' tendon in Week 1 of the 1999 season and was lost for the year. The injury doomed a Jets team that had been picked by many experts to go to the Super Bowl. I worried Sunday that Wang had suffered the same fate as Testaverde, though the Yankees ruled that injury out after the game.

While a baseball team losing its ace may not be as devastating in its totality as a football team losing its star quarterback, it goes without saying that the Yankees' season would be in serious jeopardy if Wang were to miss a significant amount of time. Brian Cashman would likely be forced to explore a trade for an upper-tier starter, Cleveland's C.C. Sabathia being an enticing target. In the meantime, Mike Mussina would be asked to go from feel-good story to 39-year-old ace.

The sad irony is that the Yankees had finally hit their stride 70 games into the season, now winners of four straight to reach a season-best four games over .500 (37-33). With the notable exception of Robinson Cano, the lineup has returned to the patient group that has worn out pitchers for the past seven years. New York's third-inning pitch selection against Houston ace Roy Oswalt was a textbook example of this offense's philosophy done right.

But all that good cheer must move to the backseat now, as the Yankees and their fans hold their breath waiting for word on their ace. On Wednesday, I wrote in this space that ace or not, the Yankees needed Wang:

It's impossible to understate how important Wang is to this team. Pitching at the top of a rotation buried in question marks, the Yankees need him to win 18-21 games while tossing 210-plus innings in the process.
Five days later, the starting rotation is looking at a potential doomsday scenario. If you're a Yankees fan, I would suggest you keep your fingers firmly crossed until Tuesday. I know I will.

Around The Horn: Give credit where credit's due ... the bullpen is getting the job done, and that includes (gasp!) Kyle Farnsworth. During New York's four-game winning streak, the 'pen has allowed just one run over 11 innings. ... Is it just me, or does Alex Rodriguez seem like he's ready to go on one of those epic A-Rod tears? He absolutely destroyed Wesley Wright's first pitch to him in the sixth inning, connecting on his 12th homer of the season and second in two days. ... I'm sorry, Minute Maid Park is one of the most unimpressive new stadiums I've seen. It's too small, and left field is just a mess on every level. I guess you can't expect too much from a place that used to be called Enron Field. ... Johnny Damon had four more hits on Sunday to raise his average to .328. Como se dice, All-Star? Damon is joined by Alex Rodriguez (.326) and Hideki Matsui (.325) in making up 3/5 of the American League's batting leaders. ... The Yankees are off on Monday, their first open date since May 29.


Mark said...
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Mark said...

Wang's injury reminded me of Patrick Ewing breaking his wrist in Milwaukee which turned out to be the begining of the end of a hall of fame career.
Wangs injury won't be the end of his career, but it could spell doom for the Yankees, just as the Knicks were doomed that season. What hurts even more is that they were starting to look like the Yankees everyone expected to see out of Spring Training. Now they're really going to have to step up. Getting past these huge problems is what makes great teams great.
Look at the Sox. They've been destroyed by injuries, but they keep winning. The Yankees offense needs to keep rolling and carry this team on its shoulders and hope the bullpen is strong enough to win the close games.
That injury really makes you wonder if this season is hexed. Mussina summed up his thoughts best when he said that losing Po and ARod is huge, but nothing like losing your Ace.
We'll see if the old man is as wise as he is a revelation in the rotation.