Anyone who was a fringe athlete on a team—be it little league, high school, college or beer league softball—understands what Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda and Mark Sanchez are currently going through.
It’s almost something to snicker at for those of us who were the back-end guys on their teams who generally had to wonder whether they’d have a uniform or get a chance to play.
For the Yankees, Andy Pettitte’s return represents the glorious past where the other cool kids—Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera—were lobbying him to come back and replace someone from the projected rotation.
Nova has never been and presumably never will be respected for the guts he’s shown and work he’s done as a Yankee. They’re too immersed in numbers to appreciate him.
Hughes is wearing out their patience. Ignorant to the multitude of ways they’ve stagnated his development, he Yankees have him fighting for his rotation spot and his tone is growing increasingly curt in response to the endless questions about how he feels regarding Pettitte’s surprise return.
Jets quarterback Sanchez now has to look over his shoulder at Tim Tebow.
As the prototypically handsome quarterback who went to USC, Sanchez never had to worry about his spot. He started as a rookie in the NFL and, despite his struggles, has led the Jets to back-to-back appearances in the AFC Championship Game.
Now he’s got the golden boy behind him. A media darling with a salable life story and outsize personality that he hasn’t overtly cultivated as a means to an end, Tebow is not going to be happy sitting on the sideline wearing a baseball cap and holding a clipboard as many backups are. He’s going to fight for playing time making Sanchez a target to everyone.
Is it fair?
Of course it’s fair. It’s competition at the highest level of sports. Because of that, feelings come in last. One of the reasons teams like the Rays are successful is because of their ruthlessness in dispatching players when they’re no longer needed or if someone better/cheaper comes available.
The Yankees are ruthless in a self-destructive sort of way because they’ve hindered Hughes, Joba Chamberlain (who we won’t see for a long while anyway given his ankle injury—more on this later) and Nova. They’re putting an undue amount of pressure on Pineda to pay too close attention to his radar readings and there’s an unsaid perception (probably accurate) that they wouldn’t have traded for him at all had they known for certain that Pettitte was coming back.
But this is the way things are. It’s a bit of turnabout for those who never had to worry about their spots.
And the cool kids don’t care.
Click here for a full sample of Paul Lebowitz’s 2012 Baseball Guide (this link is of the Blue Jays) of team predictions/projections.
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