Those 94-mph fastballs and the nasty sliders Chien-Ming Wang used to strike out Kevin Youkilis and Jason Bay in the second inning last night should tell you that he is not washed up as a starting pitcher.
The idea that Wang forgot out to pitch and needs to be traded, released or demoted is ludicrous. He’s 29, not 39.
But the Yankeed need to figure out something and that’s on pitching coach Dave Eiland.
For whatever reason, Wang and Eiland do not seem to have a good rapport. Eiland’s standard response when asked about Wang is to say that the pitcher looks great in the bullpen but doesn’t take it out to the game. “I can’t stand behind him,” Eiland said last night, making the obvious implication that Wang lacks mental toughness.
No, Eiland can’t stand behind him on the field. But he can coach him. Ron Guidry was not respected as a pitching coach within the organization. He was seen as little more than Joe Torre’s pal, a man far away from the cutting edge of game preparation and other modern techniques. But for whatever reason, Guidry connected with Wang. The right-hander had his two best seasons with Guidry patting him on the back from time to time and offering a few tips in his thick Cajun accent.
Guidry consented to be a guest instructor in spring training even after the Yankees fired him as a coach. Why not fly the Gator in and have him sit down with Wang and watch a few bullpen sessions? How could that possibly hurt? I mentioned this idea on the blog last night and it would seem to make sense.
Professional egos being what they are, don’t expect it.
Obviously, Wang bears the burden of this mess. He’s a professional athlete and its responsibility to perform. But coaches are in place for times like these.
Eiland has plenty to do. The pitching staff is second in the AL in walks and first in home runs allowed. Only two teams — hapless Baltimore and Cleveland — are allowing a higher OPS.
A.J. Burnett has been a disappointment. Andy Pettitte is walking more batters per nine innings (3.9) than he has since 1999. Edwar Ramirez has vanished to the minors. Jose Veras is an unreliable mop-up man and Joba Chamberlain has gone more than six innings twice in 11 starts.
Even Mariano Rivera has had his issues. Apparently Eiland can’t stand behind those guys, either.
If pitching is the foundation of a championship, the Yankees have cracks in the cement that go beyond Chien-Ming Wang. But fixing him would be a good place to start. Let Guidry take his shot.
Shameless plug: I’ll be on ESPN’s SportsCenter shortly after noon to preview tonight’s game.