The Fan is sitting on the middle of a teeter-totter in how to approach this post concerning Phil Hughes' great first start of the 2009 season. The post hinges on a post written when Phil Hughes was sent down near the end of Spring Training. You may want to read that first. The teetering is this: Either the Fan was brilliant and correct in stating that Hughes should have started the season in the rotation or the Yankees were brilliant in sending him down for three confidence-boosting starts in AAA before his first start of the 2009 season. Hmm... It could go either way, couldn't it?
See, that's the weakness of the blogger. We who write on the sidelines don't know what's going on inside the head of a young player like Phil Hughes. We don't have access to the kid where he can be asked: "So Phil, did you need the three games in AAA to boost your confidence and was that the key to you first start this year in the bigs?"
Of course, Hughes seems like a nice kid and would probably answer: "Well, it's hard to say. The manager and General Manager here are great people with a lot of knowledge. I felt like I pitched great in the winter league and carried that over into Spring Training. But it has all worked out great and I look forward to contributing to the Yankees in any way I can." Which of course would tell you nothing anyway.
The game and covering the game has become (even in this space) about looking at numbers and projections and what the data is saying. One of the reasons that is comforting is that it's all there in front of you for analysis. When a blogger or any professional writer, for that matter, starts to speculate about what goes on in the head of a young player, things get a little dicey.
The dicey part is making a statement such as: "Well, too much pressure was put on Hughes last year when the Yankees didn't make the Santana trade. He started poorly and lost his confidence." Do we know that? Maybe he wasn't fully healthy. Maybe his mechanics were messed up. Maybe it doesn't have anything to do with confidence. All we know are the facts that show that he was great in 2007 until he hurt his leg and was pretty good after he came back from that injury. Then last year, he started really poorly, never won a game all year long and looked terrible.
The Fan is going to take the low road here and push the playground equipment towards the side of sticking with the original post. Hughes should have started the season in the rotation, perhaps even ahead of Chamberlain, based simply on his success in the winter league and in his stellar Spring Training. In the Fan's mind, he out pitched Chamberlain in Spring Training and should have won the fifth spot. Those three wins in AAA could have been in the bigs and the Yankees surely could have used them the way things started this season.
The job should always go to the person who is performing better. Right? Doesn't that make sense? Isn't that why Melky Cabrera started tonight instead of Gardner because right now, he is hitting better than Gardner?
We can speculate all we want about Phil Hughes' mental state coming into the season. He was writing a blog, but hasn't posted in over a year there, so no help there. But whatever is stated concerning that subject is slippery. Winter league results and Spring Training results showed a pretty darn good and confident pitcher.
So the original post stands. That is unless Hughes is quoted stating differently, and if that happens, then the Yankees were brilliant and the Fan is a dope. Or, it was just one start and Hughes could be terrible the rest of the year and we're all dopes. That's life.