If you squint, Chien-Ming Wang’s story looks unremarkable. As a pitching prospect, Wang worked his way through the New York Yankees’ minor league system from 2000-2005, playing low Single-A ball in 2000 and 2002, Double-A in 2003 and 2004, and Triple-A in 2004 and 2005. In 2001, he did not play because he was recovering from shoulder surgery.
Wang made his big league debut with the Yankees on April 30, 2005, pitched a lot of games in 2006 and 2007, and missed parts of the 2008 and 2009 seasons with injuries. Throughout his career, Wang has had his share of injuries, but like many pitchers who suffer setbacks, he has worked hard to get back to the big leagues. Today is his opportunity.
Of course, Wang’s story is not unremarkable.
With his filthy sinker, Wang was runner-up for the Cy Young Award in 2006. He won 19 games twice, in 2006 and 2007, and is a rock star in his baseball-crazed home country of Taiwan. Really, he’s more than a rock star. Wang has been said to influence the Taiwan Stock Exchange and has been called the pride and glory of Taiwan.
His 2008 season started off strong, including a perfect 5-0 record in April, but was cut short when he sprained a ligament and tore a tendon in his ankle while running the bases in an interleague game in June. In 2009, Wang tore his shoulder capsule in July, which led to surgery later that month and uncertainty about whether he would ever make it back to the major leagues.
It has been a very long journey, from Tainan City, Taiwan, to New York City to extended rehabilitation in Viera, Fla., to Washington, D.C. Two years have passed since Wang’s 2009 shoulder surgery, and it’s not clear whether the Nationals’ investment in his recovery will pay off.
Of course, Nationals fans already have a baseball memory that features Wang. On June 18, 2006 at RFK stadium, he had tossed 8 1/3 innings of six-hit, one-run ball for the Yankees before throwing the pitch that Ryan Zimmerman hit for his first career walk-off home run, which also scored Marlon Anderson from first. Final score on Father’s Day: Nationals 3, Yankees 2.
Wang’s loss on Father’s Day is a Nationals classic, but starting today, Nationals fans will cheer for Wang to be the winning pitcher. His star power and another day with oppressive heat and humidity are bound to make today’s game memorable, regardless, but here’s hoping that Wang’s pitching will be the highlight on the day when he finally returns to the major leagues.
Jenn Jenson blogs about the Nationals at Nationals Fangirl and has joined MASNsports.com’s initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.