The biggest mistake a baseball team can make in July is failing to anticipate what might happen in September. The Yankees are going great guns right now, even after Tuesday night's loss to the Rays, but they can't allow themselves to think that they've got everything figured out for a long, productive future.
Chien-Ming Wang is a fine example of why you can't get too far ahead of yourself. He'd won 46 games in a little more than two seasons when one wrong step ended his 2008 season. The foot injury hampered his preperations for this season, he got lit up time and again and now needs shoulder surgery that will end this season and, possibly, his Yankee career. He can't be offered less than $4 million for the 2010 season, and he's not a safe bet to be ready for its start nor for a rousing recovery of his stuff.
The diagnosis of surgery shouldn't have changed the Yankee outlook too much -- expecting something from Wang was tantamount to expecting something from a lump of coal -- but other injury news should light a fire under Brian Cashman.
Alfredo Aceves, relief everyman and potential fill-in for Joba Chamberlain come his innings limit, admitted Tuesday that his shoulder is both fatigued and giving him pain. For now, it's just a case of resting it but it was a well-timed reminder of a potential problem looming in the Yankees rotation.
If they are serious about a cap on Chamberlain's innings, someone needs to step in and take those starts. It can't be Sergio Mitre, he's already in the rotation, and it can't be Phil Hughes, who is needed in his current role and lacking the proper build-up for the rigors of starting. Now, it looks like entrusting the role to Aceves is too risky, which means the Yankees have to either look outside the organization or count on Kei Igawa.
(Pause for laughter)
Seriously, the Yankees need to round out their starting pitching for the rest of the regular season and with designs on the postseason. Chamberlain doesn't have enough innings left to get through both, and Mitre isn't a guy to entrust with the chances of a team with this payroll and these expectations. That doesn't mean overpaying for Roy Halladay. There's no need for filet mignon when a nice sirloin (Jarrod Washburn of the Mariners, let's say) will get the job done, but they need to put some kind of steak on the plate.
Otherwise, they'll find themselves hungry later on. By that point all the restaurants will be closed, and they'll be left buying Cheetos at the gas station, which will lead to them looking like idiots with orange dust on their face while someone else celebrates a World Series title.