April 24, 2007


Yankees make tough call on Hughes; Rocket next? (Tom Verducci, April 24, 2007, Sports Illustrated)

The most important man in the American League East has made himself known. It took just 18 games, 18 ridiculously messy New York Yankees games in which:

• Andy Pettitte, a guy with a checkered history when it comes to his left elbow, pitched twice out of the bullpen.

• Manager Joe Torre broke his spring vow to keep Mariano Rivera out of the eighth inning.

• And Chase Wright turned himself into an infamous trivia answer, if not an outright public hazard because of the carpet bombing of home run balls he engendered on Lansdowne Street.

It took 18 games for Yankees GM Brian Cashman, who tried to sell everyone on a rotation that included Carl (the Tin Man) Pavano and Kei Igawa (Japanese for "Jaret Wright"), to cry uncle.

Cashman is bringing up Phil Hughes, 20, the best pitching prospect in baseball, simply because it made no sense for the top pitcher in the organization to be getting outs for Scranton when nobody on the big league club could do so with even half his efficiency. Hughes, on Thursday, will become the team's ninth starting pitcher in the first 21 games of the season.

Cashman didn't want Hughes this early, perhaps not even at all this year -- not when the organization babied him last year while holding him to 146 total innings. Now he says Hughes may be around only for one start. Right. He is the best arm the Yankees have -- the one Torre wanted last August -- and they'd rather keep giving the ball to Igawa or counting on Pavano? Sure.

There's no way Hughes should be allowed to pitch 175 innings this year, but good luck getting him out of the rotation now. You try telling Torre that Hughes shouldn't pitch in September because his arm isn't ready for a sixth month and 30 more innings than he's ever thrown in a season.

For all the credit that Yankee fans try to give Mr. Cashman:

(1) Instead of starting Randy Johnson against the Sox this weekend he has Luis Vizcaino walking everyone in the park.

(2) Doug Mientkiewicz and Kevin Thompson are getting meaningful at-bats, instead of Garry Sheffield, while Humberto Sanchez's injured arm has him lost for the season.

(3) In trying to match the Sox' Japanese starter he saddled himself with a AAA pitcher he can't afford to farm out simply because it's too embarrassing.

(4) Rather than using the tried and true strategy of trading small-market teams guys like Melky Cabrera, who are attractive only because of NYC hype, he's held them long enough to expose their limitations to everyone.

(5) Even with Jorge Posada in his walk year and getting on in years, he's backing him up with Wil Nieves, who catches as if the pitcher were heaving porcupines at him.

(6) They still have a good shortstop playing third and a quite possibly passable centerfielder butchering short. With every year that passes it looks a worse decision.

(7) He kept Joe Torre for another year, even though everyone knows he's going to be fired unless they win the World Series, and now he's handing him the crown jewel of the thin farm system. Mike Hargrove gave us all an object lesson in what such managers do to young arms when he left King Felix out on the mound for no apparent reason in several April starts. Does anyone think Joe is going to pull Phil Hughes from a start and hand the ball to Kyle Farnsworth just because the young stud has thrown 85 pitches through 5?

(8) Worst of all, this set of moves reflects a deep schizophrenia that he's allowed to infect the entire organization. Keeping Torre, pulling Highes up before he's ready, etc. suggests a team that thinks it can, or even needs to, win this year. Trading Randy Johnson and Garry Sheffield for mediocre youngsters, stocking the coaching staff with succesors to the managerial seat, etc. suggests a team that realizes it needs to rebuild. Trying to walk the tightrope between the two, instead of commiting to one or the other, is usually a recipe for disaster.

Where firing Mr. Cashman several years ago would have been just another sign of George Steinbrenner's petulant nature, it would by now be pretty well justified. If he and Joe Torre wreck Phil Hughes firing may be too good for them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 24, 2007 3:13 PM

Really? Really?

(1) RJ is out injured. He's just coming back to Arizona this week. Good riddance.

(2) Sheffield's hitting .143 and slugging .206 and the other player in the trade Whelan will end up helping the Yanks this season

Thompson's the 5th outfielder, Melky will come around enough to turn into someone else Juan Rivera or Marcus Thames and return something to the Yanks, Minky is nearly done and Josh Phelps looks like an excellent starter in his place, Torre's in his walk year so he doesn't need to be fired, Jeter's an above avg ss these past 2 seasons and its unclear Arod could still hack it at ss given the muscle he carries these days. Hughes is more than ready, should have been up last season, and in any case Torre actually babies his starters -- it's rare they get over 100 pitches. etc etc.

Nieves and the Japanese kid are virtually the only thing you get right, they lost money on the one, and can easily replace the other w/ an arm or 2 from the system.

But it was a good temper tantrum anyway. I'd be whinging like that as well if my team had to count on the aging Wake/Schilling tandem, an untested bullpen, and had to field a lineup w/o any juice from c, 2b, cf, 3b etc etc.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at April 24, 2007 3:58 PM

It is mid-April and the season is a long one, it is a tad early to write them off. I did watch that TB-Yankee game last night and it was like little league pitchers were on the mound for both sides.

Posted by: pchuck at April 24, 2007 5:02 PM

Trying to walk the tightrope between the two, instead of commiting to one or the other, is usually a recipe for disaster.

That would be the Baltimore Orioles, who never seem to be good enough to contend or sorry enough to rebuild.

Posted by: AC at April 24, 2007 7:40 PM

AC: The Orioles deserve to lose simply because they have the most loathsome owner in all of baseball, Peter Angelos.

Posted by: pchuck at April 24, 2007 7:54 PM

I've always thought Cashman was a poor GM, he get less per dollar than any GM in baseball, saddled the Yanks with too many long-term contracts for players on the downside of their careers. It was sheer idiocy to underbid radically for Matsuzaka and overbid wildly for Igama. But the Sheffield & Johnson trades were smart moves. With their contracts exceeding fair value, it was a swindle to get the prospects they did.

Posted by: pj at April 24, 2007 8:38 PM

These would be the last place Yankees?

Posted by: oj at April 24, 2007 9:29 PM

Other than Sanchez, who was already hurt, they got none.

Posted by: oj at April 24, 2007 10:49 PM