Keys to 2013: Tampa Bay Rays

Award Winners, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Management, MiLB, Players, Playoffs, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, World Series

Starting Pitching Key: Matt Moore

Moore’s done his flashy playoff introduction to the world as David Price did. He had an inconsistent rookie year as Price did. Now, he’s ready to take the next step into Cy Young Award contender in his second season as Price did.

Moore has a smooth, clean, simple and repeatable motion similar to Cliff Lee. He’s refining his command and harnessing his changeup. The changeup is usually the last pitch a pitcher needs to master before fulfilling his potential. If Moore’s able to do that at age 24, the Rays will be legitimate World Series contenders.

Relief Pitching Key: Chris Archer

Fernando Rodney is not going to repeat his 48 save, 0.60 ERA. The question is whether he’ll revert to the on-again/off-again closer he was with the Tigers and Angels or will be able to get the job done the majority of the time. If he can’t and Kyle Farnsworth, the closer in 2011, can’t do it either, the Rays might turn to Archer.

Archer has been a starter in the minors, but has the power fastball to be a dominating reliever. The Rays have never been shy about using young pitchers in very important roles and Archer could play a major factor in 2013.

Offensive Key: Evan Longoria

As Longoria goes, so go the Rays. The other lineup bats Desmond Jennings, Kelly Johnson, Yunel Escobar, Matthew Joyce and eventually Wil Myers are undoubtedly important and the Rays are opportunistic and adaptable, but with Longoria they’re a title contender and without him, they’re not.

Defensive Key: Desmond Jennings

If Jennings has to play center field, he has to be at least adequate at the position. Sam Fuld is a fine defensive outfielder, but he can’t hit enough to justify being in the lineup as an everyday player. The Rays were in the market for a legitimate center fielder, but as the season moves along and Myers is recalled, they’re going to need to find a place to get Myers and Joyce in the lineup. Someone’s going to have to play the outfield and if Myers/Joyce are the DH, one is going to have to play left with Jennings in center.

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Amway Sponsors Sports Teams Other Than The Mets

Ballparks, Basketball, Football, Hall Of Fame, History, Management, Media, MiLB, NFL, Players, Politics, Prospects, Spring Training

You may recognize the logo below. It’s one of the most respected sports franchises in the world with an owner who is universally known for being a nice, generous man and committed sports owner.

The Red Wings are the team and Mike Ilitch is the owner. The Amway logo is on the team’s practice jerseys.

How about the gentleman below?

A case study in perseverance; deeply religious; involved in noble causes; a three-time Super Bowl participant, two-time NFL MVP and probable Hall of Famer, Kurt Warner works for Amway promoting their nutrition products.

One of the founders of Amway, Richard DeVos, is the well-liked and philanthropic owner of the Orlando Magic, a consistently successful NBA franchise.

The Mets have reached agreement for Amway to be a sponsor. Yet because it’s the Mets and the media took Amway’s business model as a “pyramid” scheme, the perception became a reality. It was repeatedly said, therefore it must be true. None other than Mike Francesa, in his customary flying off half-cocked without knowing what he’s talking about, doled out authoritative advice based on nothing and said the Mets should consider advertisers like Disney.

Walt Disney was affiliated with American interest groups in the 1940s that were considered anti-Semitic. How would that play out today and is that better or worse than Amway?

How about, for some context, we look at the beacon-like franchises in sports today and list some of their sponsors, searching for signs of wrongdoing, real or not.

The New England Patriots and New York Yankees have Bank of America as a sponsor. In many ways what Bank of America has done in the interest of their shareholders and amassing cash was worse than anything the Wilpon family is accused of doing with the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme.

Manchester United has Nike as a sponsor. Nike has long been accused of using child labor to make their products.

The point isn’t to perform a rudimentary websearch to find examples of other teams whose business dealings could be put under scrutiny and presented as an example of wrongdoing. All companies can have their inner workings scrutinized specifically to find evidence of moral repugnance and used to cast them as “evil.” But facts shine a light on reality. The Mets are not doing anything wrong by going into business with Amway. The current positives with the franchise—Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey, David Wright, Travis d’Arnaud—are referenced with a caveat implying, “but it’s the Mets, so they’ll screw something up. Oh, and they’re in business with Amway. AMWAY!!!!

It’s a manufactured controversy by the ignorant and those with an agenda.

Perhaps after the smoke clears and the media finds a story that they think is even more salacious, this truth will be pointed out as an “oh, yeah,” mention in the lower corner of a newspaper or website, but it’s the splash that’s remembered and not the droplets in its aftermath. The Mets’ image of cluelessly evil like a buffoonish villain from Austin Powers sells, therefore it will continue as long as it remains useful to the narrative whether it’s accurate or not.

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Yankees Won’t “Pursue” Johnny Damon?

Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Management, Media, Players, Spring Training, Stats, World Series

It’s not precisely accurate to say the Yankees won’t “pursue” Johnny Damon. A better way to describe it is the Yankees won’t open the door to Damon’s scratching and give him a few scraps of food from Curtis Granderson‘s plate.

Damon has made it no secret that he’d like to return to the Yankees and the Yankees have made no secret that they’re not interested. By acting as if they’re considering it, the Yankees are being nice to a player who contributed significantly to their last World Series win in 2009, but short of telling him in no uncertain terms to go away, there’s not much else they can do to make their feelings any clearer.

Damon wants to play and seems to be under the impression that because there were implications that, while with the Rays, he was expanding his strike zone to try and get more hits to reach the magical number of 3,000, he’s been blackballed as a “selfish” player. There’s not much depth to this argument. Teams will sign a player who can help them. Period. Unless there’s something behind the scenes that we don’t know about, it’s not personal with Damon.

When teams judge him, they see someone who:

  • Is 39-years-old
  • Can’t play the outfield every day and can’t play it well defensively anymore
  • Can’t run as fast and steal bases as frequently as he once did
  • Had a .222/.281/.329 slash line in 224 plate appearances with the Indians in 2012
  • Doesn’t hit for enough power to be a DH

Even without the unattributed accusations of playing for himself while with the Rays, he probably wouldn’t find a team because what he can provide can be found cheaper and younger on the market or in the minors.

Hitting is a selfish act and as careers wind down and the opportunity for the immortality (and money) that accompanies Hall of Fame induction lends itself to being even more selfish. Many players think this way, only Damon isn’t capable of putting forth the pretense of team-oriented play as others are. If I had to guess, I’d say that Damon—perhaps half-jokingly—said something to the tune of wanting to get 3,000 hits and expressed his willingness to swing at balls out of his zone to do it; or perhaps someone, somewhere implied it and it ballooned into “fact.” There are a million potential reasons that Damon appeared less patient with the Rays and very few are related to chicanery. Perhaps he’s just an older player who’s not as good as he once was and had to compensate for age and a slow bat by guessing and swinging at pitches he wouldn’t have five years ago.

It really doesn’t matter.

If those allegations are true, teams wouldn’t let that stop them from signing him if they felt he had anything left. The Yankees and other teams aren’t interested in Damon because they don’t think he can help them. It’s as simple as that.

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The Mets and Amway

Ballparks, Free Agents, History, Management, Media, MiLB, Players, Politics, Prospects, Spring Training

Amway is not a pyramid scheme.  The idea is to recruit people to take part in the selling of Amway products so everyone makes money in a trickle-up effect. The products, as you can see on their website here, are normal, household things you use every day. They sell toilet paper, kitchen items, soap, beauty aids, perfume, containers—products that are part of our daily lives that we use without thinking. By that logic, we don’t care where we buy them from.

Amway isn’t a scam. It’s operating in a market niche and taking advantage of an opportunity. Unlike Bernie Madoff, there is an actual product exchanging hands and not phantom numbers pulled out of someone’s rear end with fake documentation to “prove” it’s real, dancing ahead of the authorities and regulators knowing that it will eventually come crashing down.

With Amway, because the individual selling the products is technically engaged in a business of his or her own, the money they make is contingent on how much they sell. In turn, the people they bring in also have to sell, and so on and so on. Rather than a pyramid scheme or a Ponzi scheme, it’s more to the tune of, “Hey, you’re buying soap anyway, so why don’t you buy it from me?” Those who are more successful at it are able to sell to a wider expanse of people through various networks of social media, websites, family, friends and people they meet on the street. If one is capable of walking up to strangers and talking them into joining with the lure of “we’ll all make money” through the exponential strength of acquaintances and family agreeing to buy these goods, the more money they’ll make with Amway.

It’s not a cult where you can’t leave; it’s not straddling the line of propriety. It’s more of an exchange and cajoling. If a person begins an Amway business, the concept is that he or she is going to buy the things from Amway that they would normally purchase at the supermarket or drug store and they’re going to encourage others to buy them as well.

The Mets have allowed Amway to put a storefront at Citi Field. It’s not illegal. It’s not even unethical. It’s a business deal that is being used as a cudgel to beat on the Mets because it’s a trendy thing to do and it draws a lot of attention when it happens. If you’d like to ridicule the Mets for trading R.A. Dickey; for teasing their fans with the possibility of getting a mid-level free agent like Michael Bourn and then, again, finishing second in the chase (to the Indians no less); for the litany of embarrassments that have happened to them over the years through their fault and through circumstance, go right ahead. But for entering into a deal with Amway? Is this any worse than MLB’s deals with beer companies or McDonald’s? For the extortion-like fees people have to pay to park their cars at the ballpark? For the endless marketing of overpriced, disposable junk directed at children and forcing parents to spend money they might not have? For making an afternoon at the ballpark an outing that will cost $400?

No.

Those saying it “looks bad” don’t know anything about the way Amway runs its business. They’re hearing whispers from the media and eye-rolling of the “here we go again” variety because it’s the Mets. For that reason, it’s a story and a new foundation for laughter. Amway is a legitimate business and there’s nothing wrong with the Mets entering into a deal with them.

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Trout’s WAR Now Stands For “Weight After Rookie”

Award Winners, Fantasy/Roto, Games, History, MVP, Players, Spring Training, Stats

Mike Trout has gained between 10 and 15 pounds over the winter and is now said to be 241 pounds. According to Trout and the Angels, it’s not fat weight, so he didn’t traverse the banquet circuit and load up on bad catering hall stuffed shells and the stale dessert menu to put on all those extra pounds. Trout says it was intentional and his bodyfat count is 9%.

The numbers and statements from Trout are fine and it’s not a problem until it becomes a problem. By “problem” I mean Trout slowing down in the field and on the bases and losing a large portion of what it was that made him so valuable and, in certain Wins Above Replacement (WAR) circles, deserving of the MVP. 240 is a lot of weight to carry, cover the same ground defensively and steal the bases he did in 2012. With or without the obvious intent to gain this weight, it was probably going to happen anyway based on him being so young and big even if he never picked up a barbell. If he sought to pump up his beach muscles, it’s a mistake based on youthful ignorance and more than a small bit of vanity.

Because a player exhibits a maturity beyond his years on the field and with the press doesn’t make him mature. It’s easy to forget that Trout is 21-years-old and still in evidence is the same oblivious precociousness that ignored the conventional wisdom that someone so young couldn’t force his way into the MVP conversation and have a substantial contingent of supporters promoting his candidacy over a longtime superstar Miguel Cabrera who won the Triple Crown. Trout’s a kid. And that means he might do something ill-thought-out every once in a while. If he came to spring training thinking that because he was so successful last season at 220-225 pounds that with 15 extra pounds of muscle he’d hit even more homers, it’s a mistake. At his age and size, it was unavoidable that he naturally put on some weight. Whether it affects what it was that made him special—speed and defense—will dictate its wisdom.

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The Yankees’ Outfield Suddenly Looks As Bad As The Mets’

Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MVP, PEDs, Players, Playoffs, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, World Series

Of course that’s in context. If you look at the projected outfields of the Yankees and Mets based on their players on paper, the Yankees are still superior. As diminished as Ichiro Suzuki is, he’s more proven that the cast of characters (led by Mike Baxter) the Mets have vying for right field. But whoever the Yankees put in left to replace the now-injured Curtis Granderson isn’t going to be better than Lucas Duda. Brett Gardner is a good player, but he’s not a prototypical “Yankees center fielder” along the lines of Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, or even Bobby Murcer, Bernie Williams all the way down the line to Granderson.

In his first spring training plate appearance, Granderson was hit by a pitch and had his forearm broken. He’ll be out until May and now the Yankees are seeing how a bad bench and limited ready-for-prime-time minor leaguers can harm their rapidly declining chances to win a title. With a team this old, it’s inexplicable that they scrimped and saved to let Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez leave. Granderson’s one of the younger players on this ancient roster and got hurt while playing the game. The other, older players like Derek Jeter, Travis Hafner and Kevin Youkilis could wind up on the disabled list by waking up after sleeping in a strange position. What is going to harm this team to a greater degree—and one that hasn’t been mentioned as often as it should—is the inability to use PEDs and amphetamines to get through the season. There’s not a cure for what ails them other than letting nature take its course.

The Mets are rebuilding and had no intention nor realistic need to spend any money on players that weren’t going to help them in the distant future or were going to cost them the eleventh pick in the draft as Michael Bourn would’ve. The Yankees, on the other hand, have expectations of a championship in spite of their newfound austerity and conscious decision to stick with what they had and keep the severely declining Ichiro. With the money-related departures of Chavez and Ibanez, they’re left with limited veterans Juan Rivera and Matt Diaz as the probable left field replacement for Granderson with the possibilities of Melky Mesa and Zoilo Almonte.

Soon fans will start reverting to their “stars replace stars for even one game” template and demand the Yankees pursue and get Giancarlo Stanton. Whether the fans and media will have the nerve to suggest they pursue Mike Trout is the question. Neither will happen. Other possibilities of the more reasonable variety are Vernon Wells, Alfonso Soriano or Drew Stubbs. None are probable. Considering the expectations and lack of offense at catcher and right field with the aged and injury prone players they have in the lineup, they now have to function with an outfield that, plainly and simply, ain’t gonna cut it.

If this is an omen for the Yankees, it’s a bad one. It took one day—one day—for their weak bench to assert itself as the unpredictability of baseball from moment-to-moment reared its head. They went with the cheap bench and they’ve got the cheap bench. If a worst case scenario was predicted for the 2013 Yankees, this injury to Granderson and a comparison to the Mets is a great place to start.

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The Invisible Rose

All Star Game, Award Winners, CBA, Draft, Football, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Management, Media, MVP, NFL, PEDs, Players, Politics, Stats

As ridiculous as it sounds for Pete Rose’s name to have been expunged from mere mention on Topps Baseball Cards as baseball’s career hits leader, what were they supposed to do and why is it even a story?

All the context provided makes perfect sense. PED users such as Alex Rodriguez, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro haven’t been banished as Rose has. Accused, suspected and prosecuted for perjury, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds are still listed on all records. No one has ever sought to remove O.J. Simpson from any of the NFL record books. Did Rose, as a player, do worse things that these people?

For all his activities and selfishness, Rose always played the game on the up-and-up. Charlie Hustle was a hustler and a self-promoter. His headfirst slides were done to garner attention to himself even when they were totally unnecessary. The running to first base on a walk was a trademark to stand out from the crowd. He accumulated praise for maximizing limited abilities as if he couldn’t play at all and clawed his way to the top of the record books, but it’s ignored that amid all the salable perception of “Rose made it with a lack of ability,” it’s not true. He was a great player and would have been a great player even if he’d behaved as lackadaisically as Robinson Cano does.

It’s a matter floating morals. Compartmentalized into legality, illegality and semantics, Rose is off the MLB officially licensed products while players who have done far worse to the game itself are still there. MLB was complicit in the use of performance enhancers and has put up a front of trying to eradicate the sport of this type of drug use, but that front is somewhat laissez faire, knowing that for as many suspensions, tests and investigations they perform, players will still go to the Biogenesis Clinics around the world and seek a method to dance through the raindrops and beat the tests. By all reasonable accounts, Ryan Braun got away with likely PED use to win the MVP in 2011 and avoided a suspension on a technicality. Then his name was discovered in the records of Biogenesis.

The rules for inclusion are what they are and because of Rose’s lifetime banishment, he’s not permitted to be mentioned. Of course it’s silly and selective, but Rose isn’t being singled out any more than the PED users are receiving a pass. It’s just the way it is.

The only reason this is a story is because it’s made into a story and Rose has pleaded that he wants his name reinstated—probably because it can make him more money. Perhaps Topps is trying to drum up interest in the cards in the event that collectors will see the omission of Rose as a future novelty if he’s ever reinstated, posthumously or not. Who’s going to Topps for recordkeeping anyway? And who’s going to MLB for propriety and logic?

No one.

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Keys to 2013: Baltimore Orioles

Fantasy/Roto, Games, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, Players, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats

Starting Pitching Key: Chris Tillman

A lack of command kept Tillman bouncing back and forth between the majors and minors. Acquired in the trade that just keeps on giving that sent Erik Bedard to the Mariners, Tillman will turn 25 in April and after his performance following his July recall, may have taken the next step from prospect to legitimate big league starter. He’s not a strikeout pitcher, but with a fastball that reaches the mid-90s, a changeup, a slow curve, a slider and a cutter, Tillman has the variety of pitches to win 15 games and be a top-of-the-rotation arm.

He suffered from elbow inflammation that cost him two weeks in September. The Orioles weak spot in 2012 was their starting rotation and they’re not sneaking up on anyone this year. With Tillman and Dylan Bundy on the way, they could mitigate that issue while not having made any big acquisitions in the off-season.

Relief Pitching Key: Brian Matusz

The Orioles are giving Matusz a chance to regain his spot in the starting rotation, but I question whether their hearts are really in it. He’s shown flashes of being a useful starter, but after he was moved to the bullpen last season, he was a different pitcher. Perhaps it has to sink in that he’s better-served going through a lineup once and can cobble together a more successful career out of the bullpen. Starters—even bad ones—make much more money than good relievers, so for a 26-year-old, that’s not an easy thing to reconcile, but that’s not the Orioles’ problem and if they need Matusz more in the bullpen and he can help them be a better team, that’s where he needs to be.

Offensive Key: Manny Machado

Machado won’t turn 21 until July, but the potential and comparisons to Alex Rodriguez make him an offensive linchpin for the 2013 Orioles. He only walked 9 times in 202 plate appearances last season, but he doesn’t strike out. Once Machado matures and fills out, he’ll be a solid 210 pounds and hit the ball out of the park more frequently. The Orioles can pencil in what they’ll get from their power bats Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Chris Davis, Matt Wieters and J.J. Hardy—but Machado’s rapid development will significantly improve their runs scored.

Defensive Key: J.J. Hardy

Hardy won a long overdue Gold Glove for his work at shortstop last season and while he provides pop at the plate, his main contribution is with his glove. Because Hardy’s there, Machado will play third base and the Orioles will have what will possibly be the rangiest left side of the infield in baseball. It’s a comfort for the pitchers to know that they have someone covering the most ground on the infield at shortstop, allowing them to pitch to contact without worrying about routine grounders getting through.

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Keys to 2013: New York Yankees

Award Winners, Ballparks, Cy Young Award, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MVP, Playoffs, Spring Training, Stats, World Series

Let’s take a look at each team and their various keys to achieve their goals for 2013. For some clubs, like the Yankees, it’s to win no matter what. For others, like the Mets, it’s a means to an end by developing and clearing the last bloated salaries from the previous baseball operations regime. Unlike prior years, the 2013 Yankees are functioning with a strict budget, tamped down bravado among the media and fanbase, and the acknowledgement of the possibility of a disappointing year. The demands, however, remain the same: Win. Period.

Starting Pitching Key: CC Sabathia

Following the 2012 season, Sabathia required surgery on his elbow to remove a bone spur. He pitched in pain for much of the year without admitting it and still had what would’ve been a Cy Young Award caliber season had he not missed 4-5 starts with a strained groin and the elbow issue.

The age and shortness in the Yankees’ rotation makes Sabathia’s health and performance all the more important. He has to give them 220+ innings and his usual 18+ wins as the horse carting the pitching staff on his back or they’re in major trouble.

Relief Pitching Key: Mariano Rivera

The talk that Rivera will be an automatic stems from the deity-like status he’s acquired. Is it likely that he’ll be his old self again? Even if he isn’t he’ll probably still be very good and better than most other closers, but he’s also 43-years-old and returning from a serious knee injury. The Yankees don’t have a ready-made replacement for him if he goes down again as they did with Rafael Soriano.

Offensive Key: Mark Teixeira

Teixeira’s reported “decline” and desperation to hit home runs at home have turned into factoids. Everyone says it, therefore it’s accepted as truth. His batting average has dropped to .256 and below between 2010 and 2012 after never hitting lower than .281 since his rookie year, but a large portion of that is bad luck and the defensive shifts that are deployed against him. His BAbip has dropped to an average of about .250 in those years. He still walks and he’s not striking out more than he did in his best years.

The problem for Teixeira will be other teams focusing on stopping him. No one can stop Robinson Cano—that’s known—they try to contain him. Teixeira, on the other hand, is streaky and vulnerable. With the losses of other power bats in the Yankees’ lineup and the players returning from injury, there won’t be any reason to give Teixeira pitches to hit. If he grows impatient and expands his strike zone trying to produce, he’ll have a bad year.

Defensive Key: Derek Jeter

Jeter’s range has been getting exponentially worse for years and now he’s coming back from a broken ankle and surgery which will further diminish his speed. Their pitching staff gets a lot of ground balls and many of them go back toward the middle of the diamond. Without the powerful offense and margin for error the Yankees have had in the past, they’ll need to compensate in other areas and if Jeter can’t get to a significant number of grounders that a faster and rangier shortstop would, it will cost them games—games they can’t afford to lose.

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The Yankees Saved Hughes For His Next Team

Award Winners, CBA, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, Players, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats

If the innings limits and protective strategies had worked at least once, I’d say there’s a basis for having them, but this applies to Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, Joba Chamberlain, Stephen Strasburg and any other pitcher who’s been held back in the interests of clubs “protecting” their investment: THEY DON’T WORK!!!!

The Yankees placed these rules on all their young pitchers they drafted highly and valued to keep them healthy. Neither Hughes nor Chamberlain stayed healthy and they haven’t been particularly effective either. So what was the point? The false, weak argument will say, “Well, we had no idea about that then; we were following doctors’ advice; we studied the numbers and history; we’d do it again.”

Isn’t the point of drafting and developing pitchers to have them pitch and pitch well for the team that drafted them? Hughes is going to be 27 in June and has a solid won/lost record for his career of 52-36. The record is a byproduct of having pitched for the Yankees for his entire career in an era when they won over 90 games on an annual basis and were loaded with offense and a deep bullpen that doesn’t blow leads. His peripheral numbers are mediocre and the same logic that qualified Ivan Nova’s 16-4 record in 2011 as not entirely accurate also applies to Hughes with the main difference being that the Yankees didn’t use the same strategies on Nova and didn’t think much of Nova, yet he’s been just as good as a pitcher they did tie up, Hughes.

That’s bad for the perception, so it’s ignored.

Yesterday Hughes was diagnosed with another injury, a bulging disk in his neck, said to have occurred during infield practice. It’s not the Yankees’ fault, but it’s an example of the fragility of athletes in general and pitchers in particular when they’re performing the occasionally dangerous and stressful activity of baseball.

What have they gotten with all the developmental rules? With the numbers that they, hopefully, didn’t extrapolate from Tom Verducci? With the constant shifting of roles, shutdowns, break periods, and pitch counts?

Nothing.

This is not to pick on the Yankees. Many teams are doing the same things with similar results, but Hughes’s latest injury makes him a worthy example. Hughes has been a mediocre pitcher who could have been a star had they just left him alone. Like Kennedy, Hughes will have to develop elsewhere and be allowed to pitch the 200 innings that, after six years in the big leagues, he’s yet to do. He’s a free agent at the end of the season and there will be a team that looks at Hughes and says, “We’ll sign him and let him pitch,” and will be rewarded with, at least, more than the Yankees have gotten from him.

Teams are paranoid and afraid to do something different from the current orthodoxy and self-proclaimed experts sitting behind computers, crunching numbers and waiting for an opportunity to critique. The Giants, with an old-school GM Brian Sabean, have built one of the best pitching staffs in baseball—one that’s brought them two World Series titles in three years—and they did it by drafting two high school pitchers (Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain) and one pitcher who was too small and had such a unique motion and training regimen that teams didn’t want to touch him (Tim Lincecum). What do the Yankees have? Two failed would-be stars and another top prospect who almost won the Cy Young Award for the Diamondbacks two years ago.

The Moneyball concept of not drafting high school pitchers because of the “risk” has thankfully been tossed overboard. The Verducci Effect is in the process of being phased out. (For the record, if my GM said he was using the arbitrary research of a sportswriter to develop and dictate how he used his pitchers, I’d fire him.) Teams are looking at the reality and realizing that maybe young pitchers might be better-served to be allowed to throw innings and incorporate other factors rather than the numbers handed to them by Ivy League graduates armed with an algorithm. Isn’t this is why there are pitching coaches, managers and scouts: to determine a pitcher’s tics, movements and mechanics to decide when he’s tired; when he’s at risk for injury; how he should be deployed?

Pitchers are fragile, but instead of using that fragility as a basis to freeze them for a later date, perhaps the opposite would be a better strategy: let them pitch while they can pitch and move on when they can’t. A team deciding to do that will certainly get better results than the Yankees have with Hughes, who is probably counting the days until he can get out of the Yankees constraints and go to a club that will let him enjoy his prime years as something other than a what might have been. Currently, he’s a failed experiment in building a young pitcher and a case study of those poor decisions creating a pitcher who can be found on the market cheaply to be used and discarded.

Hughes keeps getting hurt; he’s the Yankees’ fourth starter; he’s leaving at the end of the season because the Yankees won’t want him back at the money he’ll ask for and the pitcher would probably like to get a fresh start. With all of these facts, tell me, what was the point of the rules they used as a garrote to strangle his future?

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