First Jorge Posada, then Alex Rodriguez, and most recently, Phil Hughes. These injuries have the potential to derail the Yankees' hopes of capturing a record 27th world title.
With an offense that has been stagnant for most of April, these injuries can and will affect this team for the next few months.
Phil Hughes’ and Ian Kennedy’s struggles have affected this team tremendously. Each has failed to win this season, and now Hughes is on the shelf until mid-July and Kennedy might end up in Scranton.
With so many hopes entering this season, many are pushing the panic button. Did the Yankees miss out on obtaining the ace who now plays across the river? With all these concerns and questions being posed by the media, it is only adding to an already tense clubhouse and the front office.
Andy Pettitte and, surprisingly Mike Mussina, have been doing their part to keep the ship upright on this campaign. Pettitte has been nothing short of dominant, with the exception of the Detroit outing, and Mussina has pitched, well, Jamie Moyer-like, incorporating change-ups and sliders into his otherwise very hittable arsenal of pitches.
There is, however, one pitcher in the Yankees rotation that is doing all he can to save this magical year in Yankees history. Chien-Ming Wang (6-0, 3.00) has been Cy Young-like thus far.
Wang had an excellent outing Friday against Seattle, allowing just one run in six innings, and he beat C.C. Sabathia, last year’s Cy Young award winner, in Cleveland, 1-0, on April 27.
Frankly, Wang has all the makings of having a season similar to Ron Guidry’s ‘78 campaign, when he went 25-3 and tossed 273.2 innings (187H, 53ER, 72BB, 248K). He captured the Cy Young award and led the Yankees to the World Series.
Wang did not win his sixth game of last season until June 12 vs. Arizona. As the season trudges along, every fifth day we forget all about Hughes’ and Kennedy’s troubles and watch a potential milestone season unravel for Wang.
We hold our breath with every pitch thrown hoping that the problematic fingernail does not flare up and impede on his march to October. Last night you could hear the gasps from the raucous crowd when in the fifth inning, Wang summoned Jose Molina to the mound after a pitch and was seen flicking his right thumb.
Manager Joe Girardi and Head Trainer Gene Monahan immediately jogged to the mound, hoping their worst fears were not realized. At that point you could immediately feel the sense of urgency in the organization. This was their gem, their only bridge between now and championship No. 27.
Wang is seen as somewhat of an enigma. He's a baseball oddity in that he doesn’t possess overpowering stuff, yet manages to win a high percentage of his games. In 2007, Wang only had 104 strikeouts ranking him towards the bottom 50 for fewest in a season.
Many have critiqued him, saying that he was “lucky” and that the team he played for supported him with firepower. Yet, 32 games into the season, Wang owns one-sixth of those victories and in only one of those Wang victories did the Yankees offense defeat their opponent by more than four runs.
In 1978, Guidry did not record his sixth victory until May 23, the Yankees' 38th game of the season. Albert Chen wrote an article for Sports Illustrated in April stating how Wang has achieved a cult following in his native Taiwan and yet can walk the streets of New York practically unnoticed. His 38 wins over the last two year span are the most of any pitcher in the same time period.
Now that he has added a change-up and slider to his arsenal, last post-season’s debacle should become distant memory for most of you. If he continues to throw his biting sinker, behold folks, you just may be seeing Ron Guidry’s ’78 campaign replicated — 30 years later.