• Kepner On Hughes Weblog

    Posted by on February 25th, 2008 · Comments (8)

    Tyler Kepner takes a look at Phil Hughes Weblog for the Times:

    As a homegrown Yankee with talent, Hughes was bound to be popular. But his blog has forged an uncommon connection. A young medium has further endeared a young player to the fans.

    “I think his blog is a success because it makes Hughes more than a number or a grouping of statistics, it makes him not only human, but approachable,” Alex Belth, who has run the blog Bronx Banter since 2002, wrote in an e-mail message. “It makes him seem not so very different from his readers, no small deal in an era when fans feel the distance between themselves and the players more than ever.”

    General Manager Brian Cashman said he had concerns about players maintaining Web sites that could embarrass the team. Cashman added that he would rather not have players breaking news; Curt Schilling of the Red Sox has done that on his blog, 38pitches.com.

    “Fans get enough baseball information from you guys; that’s your job,” Hughes said, referring to the news media. “I don’t try to do any of that. I want them to feel they have a connection with me. That’s kind of the main idea.

    “To me, baseball players always seemed so larger than life. I guess one of the points I’m trying to make is that it’s not really that way. You can idolize players, but you realize they’re just guys. That’s kind of what I want to get across. I’m not any better than anybody else. I just happen to have this ability that not many other people have.”

    I’m not any better than anybody else. I just happen to have this ability that not many other people have.

    I think we’ve found our new Yogi.

    About six weeks ago, I voiced my displeasure over Hughes having a blog – at this stage of his career. Seeing this report, I decided to reconsider my position – with the hope that perhaps I might be able to find a way to change my mind.

    To that end, I went back to the last entry that I offered regarding the vibe that I get from Hughes – the one that will not allow me to jump on the “Phil Franchise” bandwagon just yet. To find it, I did a search (of this blog) using “Keanu” – and, in doing that, I found something else that (I think) helps me understand what it is about Hughes that makes me feel uneasy.

    Two weeks ago, I explained the “Keanu Hughes” factor (for me). But, in doing the aforementioned search, I found that I also once hung the “Keanu” label on someone else: Our ol’ pal, and deep-thinker, Bernie Williams. As I wrote back in January of 2006:

    …I decided to throw out some nominations now for nicknames to use this season, with the hope that some of them stick….

    Bernie “Keanu” Williams

    If Telemundo ever does a TV-version of Bill & Ted, Bernie’s gotta get the part as Ted Logan.

    The minute I saw Bernie’s name, I thought about what Brian Cashman said (on Bernie) last month:

    On Bernie Williams’ final years in pinstripes, Cashman’s assessment was the former center fielder, “Got into music, and I thought it took a lot away from his play.”

    Bingo. That’s the beef for me with Hughes’ blog – that it’s a potential distraction – for someone who has yet to prove himself at the big league level.

    Right about now, I expect those Yankees fans who worship Phil Hughes to start hollering “Didn’t you see what Hughes did, at such a young age, in the majors last year? Did you forget about that game in Texas?”

    Hey, I did see what Hughes accomplished last season. And, via the Complete Baseball Encyclopedia, I can come up with some right-handed pitchers, since 1973, who have done the same thing – or darn close to it – at age 21 (which was Hughes’ age last season). Here’s the list:

    YEAR    RSAA      GS       IP      RSAA
    T1   Alan Wirth               1978        4       14     81.1        4
    T1   Brandon Lyon             2001        4       11     63          4
    T3   Brandon McCarthy         2005        3       10     67          3
    T3   Gil Meche                1999        3       15     85.2        3
    T5   Alex Fernandez           1990        2       13     87.2        2
    T5   Phil Hughes              2007        2       13     72.2        2
    T7   Tommy Boggs              1976        1       13     90.1        1
    T7   Dan Petry                1979        1       15     98          1
    T9   Dan Larson               1976        0       13     92.1        0
    T9   Joel Davis               1985        0       11     71.1        0
    T9   Ramon Martinez           1989        0       15     98.2        0
    T9   Andy Benes               1989        0       10     66.2        0
    13   Tom Carroll              1974       -1       13     78         -1
    14   Rich Harden              2003       -2       13     74.2       -2
    15   Steve Baker              1978       -3       10     63.1       -3
    16   Brett Myers              2002       -4       12     72         -4
    17   Kyle Davies              2005       -5       14     87.2       -5

    See Andy Benes up there? Well, that brings back a flashback from a year ago, huh?

    Of all those guys on this list, Brandon McCarthy and Brett Myers still have a chance to have some All-Star seasons. And, as I wrote a year ago, “…if Hughes’ career does end up the same as the back of Andy Benes’ bubblegum card, that would be a win for him – in my opinion. It’s not as if Andy Benes had a career like Ben McDonald..” But, for the most part, almost all of these youngsters had their career derail somewhere for some reason.

    And, the same can happen to Phil Hughes. I’m not saying that it will happen – I’m just saying that it could happen. Further, until, for fact, it doesn’t happen, it’s my personal preference that Hughes waits for his “ability that not many other people have” to mature into reality before he starts going out of his way to attract attention to himself (above the attention that already comes his way as a result of his prospect status).

    For the record, my reaction to this would be the same if it was Joba Chamberlain or Ian Kennedy (instead of Hughes) doing a blog.

    In the end, as much as I try to come over to the side of glee, with respect to Hughes having a blog, I still can’t do it (now).

    Thinking about it as I write this, I know what it will take to get me there. It’s one of two scenarios:

    1. Phil becomes a huge star and he continues to blog away, just as he is now, despite his star status. Or,

    2. Phil struggles, and finds himself back in the minors – even if it’s a Doc Halladay type situation and just a step back for a bit – and he continues to blog away, just as he is now, despite things not going as planned.

    Now, that (either scenario) would impress me. It would show me that Hughes really wants to blog because he wants to show that he’s “not any better than anybody else.” But, I’ll have to wait and see on this, won’t I?

    Comments on Kepner On Hughes Weblog

    1. Drinking40ozs
      February 25th, 2008 | 11:45 pm

      I really don’t understand how writing or maintaining a blog would distract Hughes from concentrating on the Yankees season. It probably takes him 15 minutes to write, when he’s bored or has downtime in his hotel room…not any different from a player having/updating a myspace/facebook page, which probably 75% of players under the age of 30 do.

      Steve – You would probably know this better than anybody…does your writing on this blog affect your day job at all? My guess would be no. And its not like he is compelled to update constantly in order to increase traffic and ad revenue.

    2. February 26th, 2008 | 12:09 am

      Drinking40ozs – Writing this blog does not impact my “day job” – at all. Not in the least bit.

      But, it does garner me some attention, for sure. However, it’s no where near the attention the Hughes is getting and will get with his blog – on top of the mountains of attention that he’s already getting.

      For someone who has yet to prove much at the major league level, isn’t it better to fly under the radar, until you’re proven?

      Granted, it’s impossible for Hughes to fly completely under the radar – because of the draft hype. But, still, why add to it (meaning the attention)? Why ask for the spotlight to be turned brighter? Why not wait until you’re established? That’s the rub for me.

      Perhaps distraction was the wrong word? Perhaps I should have said that, having the blog, just adds the attention on him – and it’s self-inflicted – when he should be more concerned about proving himself first.

      What’s his main objective now? Is it proving that he’s “not any better than anybody else” or “becoming a star in the majors”? I hope it’s the latter and not the former. But, all the hype about his blog makes me wonder.

    3. Rich
      February 26th, 2008 | 1:18 am

      The blog is a negative? Seriously?

      He’s not exactly prolific with his posts.

    4. baileywalk
      February 26th, 2008 | 1:19 am

      First, it’s a blog. Then alcohol. Then staying out all night in strip clubs. And soon, heroin. Please think of the children here and remember that blogs = heroin addiction and ruination.

      But seriously…

      I really, truly think you’re blowing Phil’s blog out of proportion. Have you stopped by? I have — I even wrote in the comments section a few times — and what you find is a young guy, like any other guy, talking about his life. Just like a million others like him would do — the difference being that he’s a baseball player. There’s some really cool stuff on there — him, Ian Kennedy and Shelley Duncan going to a NASCAR race, our first look at Mike Mussina’s faux-locker-“window,” a Q&A with Ian where he explained what kind of changeup he throws. It’s all pretty low-key and innocent. The connection he talks about is real because he never holds himself above the fans — it just feels like a normal guy chatting about daily events. And I personally think that’s a cool thing. (For the record, a lot of the people who write into the site seem very young and it is an utter, hilarious love-fest in the comments section.)

      I don’t really see how this will distract him. Like 40ozs said, it probably takes him less than thirty minutes to write an entry. No more than it would take him to write his parents an E-mail. So what’s the big deal?

      He grew up in the Internet age, where everyone has a blog or MySpace or profile SOMEWHERE, and he’s drawn to it. Considering the trouble so many young athletes get into nowadays, I hardly think this is worth worrying about.

    5. gphunt
      February 26th, 2008 | 7:34 am

      I think flying under the radar is pretty much impossible for Hughes at this point due to media and fans.

      Bernie had to practice a lot to become as successful as he is with his music. That took away from the time he had to practice baseball. That’s where Cashman was miffed. Bernie didn’t want to spend more time practicing and making adjustments due to his declining skills, but thought the Yankees owed it to him to renew his contract.

      I can understand your fear of distractions for Hughes and if I read Hughes’ blog one day and saw that he had a several page post with in depth analysis on his last start then I’d be a bit worried as well. I haven’t seen that yet though.

      I’m more worried about Hughes dealing with the pressure of his first full major league season and dealing with the media/distractions that New York can provide.

    6. bfriley76
      February 26th, 2008 | 8:31 am

      Considering his age and the city he’ll be spending half the season in, I think staying at home and writing on a blog is probably a great idea. Seriously…this is a 21 year old kid that’s going to be living in New York City in the Spring and Summer. Do you know how much trouble you can get into at that age? I’m not a millionaire athlete and I got into plenty of trouble in the city when I was that age. Not “end up in jail trouble,” but typical fresh out of college, living on my own, not a care in the world trouble. If the worst thing he does is stay at home and type on the computer, we should all be very happy.

    7. singledd
      February 26th, 2008 | 9:10 am

      Actually, the other day after practice, Phil needed a little relax time, so I suggested a cool strip club and told him I was buying the first 2 rounds.

      He though about it for a moment, and then said “Nah… I think I’ll stay in and update my blog”.


    8. Raf
      February 26th, 2008 | 10:26 am

      Bernie had to practice a lot to become as successful as he is with his music. That took away from the time he had to practice baseball. That’s where Cashman was miffed.
      Personally, I think all that was overblown. By the time it was said and done, Williams had bad knees and shoulders. He was a part time platoon switch hitter. The Yanks had better options @ 1b.

      Even if he had given up his music full-time (AFAIK, he had always been playing in the clubhouse), it wouldn’t have mattered.

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