Chien-Ming Wang has pitched horrifically this season. Brutally, terribly, awfully. Let’s get that right out of the way.
But he was 46-15 with a 3.74 ERA before he hurt his foot last June and has never given the Yankees one ounce of trouble. He shows up, does his job and has been a model teammate.
So why do the Yankees sometimes treat him like an unwanted dinner guest?
It started in January 2008 when the Yankees took Wang to arbitration over a paltry $600,000. After throwing $46 million out the window on hapless Kei Igawa, the Yankees went to the mat over $600,000 for Wang then put out a press release boasting about it when they won.
Maybe they needed the $600,000 to design the new Stadium properly. No, that wasn’t it.
Never mind that Wang had gone 19-7 with a 3.70 ERA for $489,500.
Then Wang inured his foot last June, tearing a ligament and tendon so badly that he would be lost for the season. But the Yankees inexplicably refused to admit it, claiming into August that it was possible for Wang to return. Wang was left explaining his “slow recovery” to the ravenous Taiwanese media.
Now comes this season. Wang was 0-3 with a 34.50 ERA after three starts and was justifiably placed on the disabled list. After throwing 13 scoreless innings for Triple-A Scranton, Wang was summoned back to New York. After throwing a bullpen, he was sent back to Triple-A.
But as he drove to Rhode Island last Thursday to pitch a game against Pawtucket, Wang was called back. Joba Chamberlain was hit by a line drive and the Yankees were worried they would be short in the bullpen in the next day.
Wang pitched three innings on Friday and has sat around since.
That knee-jerk transaction has left Wang in limbo. He is not injured, so he can’t go on the disabled list. He has no options remaining, so he can’t go pitch in the minors. So he sits and wait.
Wang needs to pitch but he can’t work too long in the bullpen just in case he is needed in the game. So he waits and gets more rusty by the day. There was a perfect opportunity to pitch four or five innings last night when Chamberlain lasted only four innings. But Alfredo Aceves got the call.
Would this happen to Andy Pettitte? Or A.J. Burnett? Certainly not to CC Sabathia.
Please do not misunderstand, Wang has pitched poorly this season. He created this mess. But the Yankees haven’t been particularly helpful. They treated Carl Pavano better and he was a bandit.
Somebody needs to figure out a way to make this right. It’s a long season and they’re going to need Wang. He was the No. 2 starter when the season started and he could return to that status again. Given how poorly Burnett has pitched, Wang could be critical to the future of this team.
Meanwhile he sits, a 19-game winner with nothing to do.
Wang was at his locker yesterday afternoon, saying how strange he found it to be in the bullpen. Even pitching in the minors, he said, would be preferable.
“I asked the manager (on Monday) and he said to wait,” Wang said. “I just want to pitch. I know I can pitch like I did before.”
Then he paused.
“I didn’t forget how.”