Off On the Wang Foot

June 16, 2008

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Street Reporter

Off On the Wang Foot

OK, that title was irresistible, but in fact I'm going to say that Chien-Ming Wang's foot injury should force the Yanks hand in a trade, especially when combined with other injuries this season. Funny how little things can combine to lead to something even larger, accumulating momentum gradually until it becomes irresistible, as it has with the murmurs about a trade for C.C. Sabathia, which is really more the point of this blog.

The other connection to my blog this year is the DH argument--on the one hand, had both leagues used a DH, Wang's injury (which occurred while running the bases) would not have occurred. On the other, had Wang been running the bases all season, instead of just during interleague play, he might have had the balance and smaller muscle tone to prevent this sort of injury. But, as they say so often these days, it is what it is, and it's just as easy to speculate that he might have hurt himself earlier, had he been running the bases full-time.

Losing Wang for an extended amount of time--which, by all accounts, this injury will do, at least six weeks, if not the rest of the season--leaves the Yanks one starter short at the top of their rotation. They've got Pettitte, a rejuvenated Mussina (who just won his 10th game for his record 17th consecutive season, giving the lie to my earlier contention that he's not HOF-worthy), a not-quite-ready-for-prime-time Joba Chamberlain (still being stretched out as a starter) and Darrell Rasner, filling in for an injured (and struggling) Ian Kennedy. 

None of these guys are legit #1 starters; Pettitte, who is past his prime, couldn't handle the burden when he was with the Astros, and he's the best guy to take the job now. Moose is also too old, and Rasner/Kennedy or Chamberlain is too young, though Joba's got #1 potential someday.

Right around the same time that the Yanks were watching Wang hobble home, rumors were circulating that The Indians would be shopping around C.C. Sabathia, their portly ace who's turned around his awful start to this season. And, even before Wang got hurt, speculation pointed (as always) to the Yankees, ever the favorite for a big in-season trade. No small part of this picture was the Indians' own injury blitz this season, which only Friday claimed Victor Martinez. As the ChiSox surge into summer at the top of the division, and the Tigers look to be sharpening their claws, it's possible Cleveland is ready to toss in the towel, at least as far as Sabathia is concerned.

Because the Yankees didn't pull the trigger on Santana, Bedard, or any of the other possible offseason starters they could have picked up, they have some minor-league talent to offer. The Cubs and Red Sox are also reportedly interested, but the Yanks are both more desperate and more willing. They've also got the salary cushion to try to resign C.C. after this season, when his contract runs out.

Seeing Sabathia in pinstripes could be interesting, but I don't really like his long-term prospects, mostly because of his heavy usage and, well, general heaviness. The lefty has always shown the same gusto at the dinner plate as he does when facing batters at home plate, and portly pitchers rarely have longevity in the modern age. The struggles that C.C. had at the start of this season, as he worked into game shape, are likely a harbinger of seasons to come.

Add to this how many innings he's thrown in his career, and you have a recipe for trouble. He's pitched at or over 200 innings in each of the past seven years, crowned by the 241 he threw in last year's Cy Young season. That's a lot by modern standards, especially on a young arm, especially on such an unathletic frame. Guys like Halladay, Buehrle, and Santana have sustained higher averages than this, but they're in far better shape.

A guy like Bartolo Colon would be a better comparison, and he's never been the same since he logged eight straight 200+ innings season, capped by his 2005 Cy Young season. Following a similar trajectory, the Yanks should expect one or two seasons from CC at most, after which age and injury would likely bring him down.

They say that vertical stripes have a slimming effect, and one could only hope hat has a literal effect on Sabathia. If not, the Yankees would do well to swap for him, if the price isn't too high, and then either sign him low or let him go. Consider him a rental option, but not a purchase.

Given Cashman and the Yanks' tendencies towards taking big gambles and overpaying for talent (see Hideki Irabu, among many others) and dealing with the fallout when the guy fails, it's far more likely that they'll opt for the long-term option. And if they do, when Sabathia breaks down after another year or two, I'll just say right now: I told you so.  

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  1. I'm pasting here a private message from my old friend, Drano, a recent addition to the community here. As always, he pulls no punches and offers his characteristic acerbic wit, every bit as sharp online as he is in person:

    "The Whinebrenners" 

    "The DH rule should be abolished, rather than see its effect doubled.  This issue wouldn't even be a headline if it weren't a pitcher for the Yankers who hurt himself while attempting to run ninety feet.  What's next, a designated catcher to filed any balls hit back to the pitcher to lessen the chance they might get hurt while fielding?

    Question: If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, how much will a Steinbrenner bitch and moan about it before attempting to have his team sign the lumberjack to an overpriced free agent contract?"

    Street ReporterStreet Reporter on Wednesday, 18 June 2008, 14:22 PDT # |

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