Sunday, December 20, 2009

Brian Cashman says it's Joba vs. Hughes

NYC- Last week on 1050ESPNradio, Brian Cashman said Joba and Phil Hughes would compete in spring training, for one starting rotation spot.

My question, why bother?
I'll make my case for Joba being in the bullpen and why Hughes should start.
And I'll give you my opinion on why I think the Bronx Bombers botched the whole developmental process of Joba and to a lesser degree Hughes. here goes...

Why Bother? Cashman already intimated the Joba Rules will apply to Hughes as well next season; the "Hughes Rules" if you will. Tom Verducci did a study on pitching the Yankees loosely based their "rules" on. But the Yankee interpretation does Mr. Verducci's study an injustice. Last year it meant 2 and 3 inning starts on the bad side, 5 innings on the good. It meant pitching knowing the inevitability of the bullpen loomed ahead. It meant the Yankees self inflicted need for another starter down the stretch and for the playoffs (crisis averted, but none-the-less). It meant inconsistent work routines in the form of 5,6,7,8 and 9 days rest between starts. I've never seen such a developmental process. For that you leave them in the minors. Remember the minors? I know Cashman is trying to re-establish a developmental philosophy for the Bombers. But it's a process and the Yankees were NEVER good at it. They buy other team's players. Boss George never met a rookie prospect he didn't want to trade or think of trading. The Yankee system never needed kids. It was what it was.

Joba has already demonstrated dominance in the 8th inning role. As a starter he lost velocity, focus, concentration, confidence and most importantly, the strike zone. His pitch economy was terrible. Oh yea, and he got hurt too. The Yankees fast tracked him to the majors after only 88 innings pitched in the minors. 88! Juan Marichal had over 600! I digress. Phil Hughes has, off top of my head, over 300 innings pitched in the minors. He was also fast tracked and I believe about 70 of those innings came after he too, got hurt and rehabbed his way back. Hughes looks more polished as a pitcher in my opinion, because he has more minor experience than Joba. Joba is loaded with talent. Yes. But he's so raw and you learn in the minors, not on-the-job training for the Bombers. I believe Joba and Hughes already demonstrated their strengths and one, Joba, belongs in the pen, and Hughes should be the starter. If they still want to impose the HUGHES RULES, that's fine. Unlike Cashman however, I think their roles are already clear.

Ron Guidry, when Goose Gossage hurt his arm in a clubhouse fight, volunteered to come out of the bullpen until Goose got back. He said, and I'm paraphrasing here, he could help the team more coming out of the pen 3 or 4 times a week rather than pitch once every 5 days. That was a temporary solution, a different time and different reason. But Ron Guidry said that.

Imagine having a Cy Young award winner as your 8th inning guy? The Yanks created that very scenario when they signed Goose. Sparky Lyle just came off a Cy Young year as the Yankee closer and he became their 8th inning guy with Goose on board the next year. But this is when I think the Yankees truly invented the 8th inning set-up role. Ron Davis was given that role specifically, to set up Goose. He was damn good at it too. And there you have it, the SET-UP man. After Goose, the Yanks I believe misguidedly converted Dave Righetti into a closer. They never had a stable closer after Righetti until they signed Wetteland many moons later.

Now let's remember Mariano Rivera came up as a starter and didn't make it as such. He became the Yankees' 8th inning guy by default, and because Joe Torre typically abuses bullpens, Mo put up great numbers setting up Wetteland in 1996. We know what happens next in the MO story.

I give the Yankees credit for establishing the Set-up guy in baseball. It goes back to Ron Davis. It's a proven formula, (although my opinions about relievers, set-up and firemen are another matter for another day) and the Yankees have, in hand, the variable in that formula to preserve continuity in the closer role. We know Mo is great and he's a freak. But we know he's well beyond the shelf life of a closer and he's on borrowed time now at 40 years of age. Put Joba in the bullpen, he's your successor to Mo, and you're set for at minimum, a good block of years.

The Yankees have tortured and misused these kids enough, and that includes the since departed Ian Kennedy. I liken the Yankees to a spoiled kid who opened up his/her Christmas presents too early, wound up breaking them all lest we forget Joba, Hughes and Kennedy were all DL'd. Then when it came time for X-mas and opening of the presents, the Yanks had nothing to play with except broken toys. All three should have been held in the minors till this year.

Let's face it, under The Boss in the last 35 years, the Yankees groomed all of four pitchers from their system that have done anything worth speaking about. One of them, Wang, is about to be deleted. Ron Guidry, Dave Righetti and Big HGH himself Andy Pettitte are the others. I defy you to name another. The Yankees have always paid the premium for other team's pitching. The Yankees don't know how to develop pitchers, evidenced by these convoluted rules. I know, Cashman is trying to change all that, right? I know. Of course he is. He's been GM for a decade plus. He proclaims wanting to bring the Yankee payroll down and be more fiscally responsible, and reinvigorating their farm system. He even managed to break up the little Tamper Team in Tampa the BOSS used to keep in his back pocket. His resoluteness to these principles impelled him to sign C.C. for $60 million more than the next highest and really only other offer, made by the Brewers. His dedication to development and fiscal responsibility also secured A.J. for another wheel barrel of cash. No? And the Tex signing too? New rules, new direction, new philosophy = same Yankee$.

In the long run, I think Joba and Hughes will turn out fine and be very good pitchers, in spite of the Yankees, that is. I'm sure Cashman will refine his developmental strategy. After all, only the Yankees can afford to sign free agents the way they do, pay to retain the talent they groom, and still be able to afford the grocery list of mistakes Cashman (and George) signed for big money. We know the names; Randy Johnson, Kevin Brown, Vasquez, Wright, the infamous Carl Pavano, the $40 million dollar minor leaguer I need to go on? Most teams can't even afford to make one of those mistakes, much less two. In the mean time though, I think "The Bankees" are ruining their kids. We'll see.

What say you Yankee fans?

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