When I first posted my instant analysis on Chien-Ming Wang’s injury on Sunday afternoon, I pointed my finger at the inanities of Interleague Play. The marketing gimmick, I argued before getting refuted by the commenters here, unnecessarily puts American League pitchers at risk. While these athletes are in fine shape, they aren’t used to the act of running the bases. It’s not one of the five tools for nothing.
While it’s hard to argue that Wang’s injury was directly a result of Interleague Play and his running the bases, it was only the second time in his professional career that Chien-Ming Wang found himself on base. That is not a comforting thought for anyone relying on the health of the Yankees ace. As luck would have it, the Yanks caught a very bad break, and Wang finds himself out until, by all indications, at least September.
While Yankee fans are being surprisingly stoic about this spin of the wheel of fortune, the Big Mouth of the Yankees, Hank Steinbrenner himself, had a few ridiculous choice words for the rules of the Senior Circuit. Said Hank:
“My only message is simple: The National League needs to join the 21st century. They need to grow up and join the 21st century. I’ve got my pitchers running the bases, and one of them gets hurt. He’s going to be out. I don’t like that, and it’s about time they address it. That was a rule from the 1800s…
“This is always a concern of American League teams when their pitchers have to run the bases and they’re not used to doing it. It’s not just us. It’s everybody. It probably should be a concern for National League owners, general managers and managers when their pitchers run the bases. Pitchers have enough to do without having to do that.”
Setting aside the fact that the DH is from 1973, and pitchers used to bat in both leagues for decades prior to that, Hank, through the bluster, does raise something of a point. When Major League teams invest so heavily in pitching and pay through the nose for guys at the top of the game, all General Managers must cringe in agony every time one of their hurlers takes a big hack or winds up on base. Whether or not that’s good for the game is another matter.
For Hank, this is just more of the same. He likes to sound off, and it doesn’t impact anything other than the number of papers sold in New York, the ratings of the FAN and the general perception of Steinbrenner in the eyes of everyone else.
From a practical matter, the Yankees are going to have to proceed carefully. As foot guru Dr. Philip Kwong told BP’s Will Carroll today, the Yankees have to make sure Wang’s injury is 100 percent healed before he does anything else because the risk of chronic injury is very high. Carroll speculates that the Yanks’ record will dictate how they rehab their young ace, and I would be surprised to see Wang pitch again this season. He’s just that important next year.
The injury was horrendously bad luck, and we can harbor resentment toward the NL. Maybe it’s time to revisit that age-old DH debate or maybe not. But one thing is for sure: Hank Steinbrenner makes for great copy.