Chien-Ming Wang was the chosen one. The New York Yankees signed the amateur free agent in 2000 and he immediately proved his value for the Yankees Single-A minor league affiliate. He was so dominant in Single-A that they retired the man’s jersey. I didn’t even know minor league teams did that.
Wang made his major league debut on April 30th 2005 where he’d pitch 7 innings and only 2 earned runs off 6 hits and 2 BBs. We call that a Quality Start in the Biz. Wang was instantly beloved by fans because 1.) he was good and 2.) he was the first Yankees starter to come up through the system in years. He was joining a rotation consisting of Randy Johnson, Kevin Brown, Carl Pavano and Mike Mussina. All free agents from other squads. And outside of Mussina, all of them came to the Yankees as lesser versions of their previous selves.
Chien-Ming Wang finished his rookie campaign with an 8-5 record and a 4.02 ERA in 17 starts. But he was only toying with the league. Playing possum. Only to return in 2006 and devour opposing hitters.
Now, Wang was never a power arm that struck batters out left and right but he had a hard sinker in the upper 90’s that led to ground balls and just weak contact off the bat. Wang led the AL with 19 wins in 2006.
His best game came on July 28th against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at home in the Bronx. Wang pitched 9 shut out innings giving up 2 hits and 2 BBs with just 1 K but again, he’s doesn’t need strikeouts to get hitters awkwardly walking back to the dugout after grounding out to third base.
Wang finished 2006 with a 3.63 ERA. In 218 innings he only gave up 12 homers and only walked 52 batters. Chien-Ming ended up in 2nd place for the AL Cy Young trophy behind Johan Santana. He also finished 26th in the AL MVP voting as well. A young king.
He’d come back in 2007 with a similar season but the real reason I’m writing about Chien-Ming Wang is because Major League Baseball is moments away from making the DH position universal in both the AL and the NL which if done a decade earlier, it would’ve saved Wang’s career.
In 2008, Wang tore ligaments in his foot and missed the rest of the season. He came back in 2009 and went 0-3 with a 34.50 ERA because he changed all of his mechanics to overcompensate for his inability to plant his destroyed foot.
MLB’s insistence on letting pitchers hit in the National League because of tradition or some shit, robbed the Yankees of their Ace and set the organization back years. Do you understand how much better this team would’ve been if they signed CC Sabathia in 2009 to be pitcher No. 2 in the rotation behind Chien-Ming Wang? Sure, they won the World Series that year but how many more would they have been able to win with that 1-2 combo entering every playoff series?
Long Live the great Chien-Ming Wang. The best there never was.