What Should the Yankees Do with Hughes and Joba?

Perry ArnoldSenior Analyst IJanuary 14, 2010

NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 04:  Joba Chamberlain #62 of the New York Yankees throws a pitch against the Philadelphia Phillies in Game Six of the 2009 MLB World Series at Yankee Stadium on November 4, 2009 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

One of the most frequent questions among Yankees' fans is what should be done with Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain?

Both of these big stud right-handers were first-round draft picks by the Yankees. Both have shown great promise, and both have been the source of much frustration.

When Joba made his gala opening with the Yankees in mid-summer 2007, he became one of the major reasons the team made the playoffs, as he was almost automatic out of the bullpen setting up for Mariano Rivera. 

There is certainly a strong argument that if Joba had not done the job he did that year, New York never would have seen the postseason.

But in 2009 Joba disappointed many. Despite some spectacular moments (as in the game against Detroit just after the All-Star break), Joba seemed flustered and erratic at best much of 2009.

The same story can be told of Hughes. He has had periods when he was spectacular coming out of the pen last year.

And there were times he was a major disappointment—most notably at the start of the 2008 season, when he and Ian Kennedy were placed in the starting rotation during Yankees' GM Brian Cashman's fleeting youth movement.

I give Hughes the benefit of the doubt—he did have a strained oblique and a cracked rib in that '08 season—but he was really bad.

So, what is the story on these two?

First of all, you have to take into account that they both are still very young. Joba just turned 24 in September, and Hughes will not be 24 until June, 2010.

And then you also have to take into account how much the Yankees' management may have confused them.

Both have been touted by the brass as can't-miss starters. Both have been relegated to the bullpen. Both have been put on innings limits.

Both have been told they were being prepared for the starting rotation in 2010, only to find Cashman re-signing Andy Pettitte and trading for Javier Vazquez.

At some point, you have to wonder if it is time for a psychologist—and I am suggesting that the shrink start with Cashman, not Joba or Phil.

What is all this crap, and how has it affected these two kids?

They are hyped and promoted. They are thrown into the spotlight. They are the subject of adulation.

And then they are told they are not ready to pitch. They are kept from pitching. They see that other starters are being brought in when they have heard they were to be the starters.

Both of these young men are big, healthy young men. Joba had a strain in his pitching arm at one time in '08, and Hughes has had miscellaneous issues that had nothing to do with his arm.

But generally, they are studs. So why have they been limited? 

If you go back and look at C.C. Sabathia, he started 33 games and threw 180 innings when he was 20 years old. By the time he was 24, he followed that up with successive years of starting 30 or more games and pitching at least 188 innings every year.

I know, C.C. is a freak of nature—a 290 pound man who seems as though he could pitch every day.

But at some point, the Yankees' brass have got to make a decision about Phil and Joba.

Are they starters, or are they relievers? 

Are they going to be given a chance to prove that they can out-perform Andy Pettitte, Javier Vazquez, Sergio Mitre, and Chad Gaudin? 

Or are the people who pass out the checks going to keep sowing self-doubt and indecision in these young kids' minds?

The Yankees have refused to consider trading either one of them for the likes of Johan Santana or perhaps even Doc Halladay. What are they being kept for?

Turn them loose, let them pitch...let them fail if that's what it is going to be. 

At least then we would know. 

But the pattern the Yankees have followed with Hughes and Joba over the past three seasons is ridiculous, and there is every indication it will carry into the new year.


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