Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Yankees need to act quickly on Wang mess

The baseball gods can be a cruel lot sometimes.

How else to explain the stunning predicament of one Chien-Ming Wang? You remember the Wanger, right? He was the best homegrown starting pitching product since some guy named Pettitte. He won 19 games in back-to-back seasons, even finished second in the AL Cy Young ballot one year.

But then came that fateful trip around the basepaths in Houston last June 15, and Wang's life hasn't been the same since. There was faint hope at the time that Wang could return in September to help save that broken Yankee team, wishful thinking by a franchise stunned to lose its ace under such odd circumstances. The public hope-against-hope philosophy hardly did either party any favors.

It was assumed that an entire offseason of rest and rehabilitation would allow the return of a completely healthy Wang in 2009, but sadly that too was wishful thinking. It was Eric Bogosian in Under Siege 2: Dark Territory who once said, "Assumption is the mother of all fuck-ups" and the Yankees had certainly assumed too much. An inconspicuous spring training was followed by three of the worst starts you'll ever see. Something was clearly wrong with the Wanger, physically or otherwise. He was quickly ticketed to the disabled list with ... weak hips? Um, sure, that works.

Wang disappeared into rehab work, but fate was soon once again conspiring against the one-time ace. Joba Chamberlain was drilled with a line drive in the May 21 season finale against the Orioles, forcing 8 1/3 innings on the suspect Bomber bullpen. With the Phillies and their fearsome offense coming to town, the Yankees made the decision to activate Wang and stick him in the bullpen as insurance. A clearly uncomfortable Wang threw three wholly unimpressive innings last Friday and hasn't been seen since.

Sending Wang to the bullpen was a knee-jerk reaction that has led to a extremely difficult situation for the Yankees. He is out of options and technically has no physical malady that would merit another stint on the DL. So, the best starter on the roster not named CC rots away in the bullpen. Wang is, incredibly, a man without a country. How could this happen?

The possible solutions are all tricky. Sabathia, Burnett and Pettitte aren't going anywhere. You can send Hughes back down or to the bullpen, but that would be suspect considering he may finally be hitting a groove in his frustrating young career.

As for Joba, another ugly chapter was written in his perplexing existence as a starter last night, and the bullpen desperately needs him to re-claim his eighth-inning role, especially with Bruney quite possibly done for the year. But the Yankees seem highly reticent to admit the obvious that Joba should be in the 'pen, stubbornly refusing to view Chamberlain as anything else than the next Roger Clemens. As a result, Wang will continue to rot, his confidence going from the basement ... to the house's foundation ... to somewhere in the core of the earth. They're doing wrong by the Wanger, no doubt about it.

Like the new Stadium, the Yankees are botching this situation. And the longer they wait, the worse it will get. This team cannot win a World Series without Wang helping to anchor the rotation. You have to wonder how long it will take them to figure that out.

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