Our next Pinch Hitter grew up in Yorktown Heights, N.Y. – “Just a quick drive to Yankee Stadium,” he wrote — but he has since moved to Arizona. Paul Lucie is a 36-year-old who was at the Stadium for Jim Abbott’s no-hitter and for Game 5 of the 2001 World Series, and he wrote that one of his first baseball memories was seeing Earl Weaver ejected during the first game of a doubleheader, only to be tossed again before the second game even started.
For his post Paul settled on a hypothetical: What would have happened if Chien-Ming Wang had never been injured?
Sorry folks, don’t know why I am writing John Lennon lyrics. I was never a big fan of him anyway. I would take the Kinks over the Beatles and Stones any day. I wanted to be witty and use the Scooter’s (Phil Rizzuto for you youngsters) call from Meatloaf’s Paradise by the Dashboard Lights, but it didn’t mesh with the play that derailed Chien-Ming Wang’s promising career.
After back-to-back 19-win seasons in 2006-07, Wang became the de facto ace on a Yankees pitching staff that included Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte. He was a rising star. Only Ron Guidry reached 50 victories in fewer starts as a Yankee (82) than Wang (85). From 2006 through 2008, Wang had the third-highest winning percentage of all starting pitchers over that three-year period (46–15, .754).
But on June 15, 2008, with Wang sporting an 8-2 record, everything changed. In an interleague game against the Houston Astros, he pulled up lame while rounding third base on Jeter’s single.
In medical terms, Wang tore the Lisfranc ligament and peroneus longus muscle in his right foot. In baseball terms, he was out for the season.
Wang’s career has never been the same. Lisfranc injuries are tricky, particularly for pitchers. We all tend to forget that one’s legs and feet are pivotal to becoming a successful pitcher on any level. Wang’s injury wasn’t the typical “swollen ankle.”
I knew something was drastically wrong when I saw Wang get lit up like a Christmas tree against Baltimore and Cleveland in the beginning of the 2009 season. Luckily, for the Yankees and their fans, they managed to win the 2009 World Series with a three-man rotation.
Now granted, we can hypothesize “what if’s” until we are Yankee blue in the face. Sorry for corny play on words. But let’s think about it for a moment.
Do we still get CC, A.J. or even Kuroda? I think we probably do, and we let a guy like Andy retire. Joba is probably never tinkered with and becomes the bullpen stud he was originally intended to be (trampolines excluded).
I bet a healthy Wang and CC beat the Rangers in the 2010 ALCS. For the 2011 and 2012 loses to the Tigers, we would have needed to resurrect The Babe, Joltin Joe, The Iron Horse, Roger Maris and Yogi Berra. Wait, not Yogi, he ain’t dead yet.
Imagine the 2013 starting rotation being CC, Wang (still would have only been 32 with a power sinker), Kuroda, Hughes and Nova/Phelps. I would have slotted A.J. in the fifth spot, but we all know that trade was inevitable. I’m sure he is enjoying his Primanti Brothers.
Let’s go Yankees!
Associated Press photo