OK, OK, we get it. The Yankees can really rake against pitchers who have no business being in the major leagues. I just hope that the team does not get a big head about all these high-scoring games and then loses focus on what it takes to beat good pitching – which is what they will see from opponents if New York does make it to the post-season this year. And, with this win today, the Yanks are now just two back in the loss column of the Wildcard standings (with 52 games to go). Therefore, Team Torre has an excellent shot at making the post-season this year.
To me, there were two stories in this game today: Alex Rodriguez and Phil Hughes. I’ll start with the former and end with the latter.
A-Rod gets #500 today. Awesome for him. And, good for the team. Getting this personal milestone out of the way now puts the focus, for the media and the fans, back on the Yankees game as a whole and not on one player. We can stop watching every Rodriguez At Bat like it’s the bottom of the 9th in Game Seven of a World Series with the Yankees down by a run. A-Rod can get back to just playing baseball – and not have the entire world on him like flies on a road apple, watching his every move. That’s going to be good for Alex – and good for the Yankees team.
In any event, I think the way that Rodriguez, the Yankees team, and the Stadium personnel handled the reaction to #500 was both appropriate and tasteful. Two big thumbs way up to all involved on that one.
It was not the greatest day out there for Phil Hughes today, was it? Maybe it was the heat? Maybe it was the pressure of his first game back? Maybe it was just the fact that a 21-year old kid is going to have some bad days on the mound? Heck, maybe it was just the fact that any pitcher is going to have a bad day on the mound at least once in a while?
But, what if it’s not any of that? What if, after all this waiting, and saying things like “Don’t sweat Igawa, when Hughes is back and takes his spot, the Yankees won’t have to worry about that slot in the rotation,” it turns out that Hughes is not the answer this season? Because of this, I don’t think you can give Hughes a lot of rope this year at the big league level.
As John Flaherty noted on the YES coverage today, Hughes was fooling people today early by throwing fastballs in counts where they didn’t expect it. But, once the Royals adjusted, that 89-91 MPH fastball was very hittable. And, that’s all we’ve seen from Hughes at the big league level in terms of his heater: 89-91 MPH. (And, don’t tell me that YES has a slow gun. The YES coverage was clocking Royals pitcher, and journeyman, John Bale at 90-91 on his fastball today too. You going to claim that Bale was really throwing 93-95 MPH out there today?)
Hey, this is no rip job on Hughes. To be in the major leagues, and to deserve to be there based on minor league results, at age twenty-one, like Hughes is an amazing accomplishment. And, if he stays sound, I fully expect Hughes to have a nice career as a major league pitcher – probably make a few All-Star games, win 15+ games in at least four different seasons, and have at least 150 career wins when he’s done.
However, I’ve yet to see anything from Hughes that says he’s going to have one-hundred (or more) career wins than losses when he’s done playing this game. I can see Hughes, in time, having a very nice big league career – again, if he stays healthy. I just don’t see him having an elite type career.
Maybe I’m wrong here? Maybe Hughes will show me something different in his starts to come this year? But, again, if he doesn’t show more soon, the Yankees should think about giving his slot to someone else this season. The team does need to have a chance to win every game over the next two months. (And, then, maybe, next year will be the season for Hughes to provide a deeper body of work to use as an indication of how his career value shake out.)