A Fall From Grace: So Long, Phil Hughes

by Nolan Silbernagel
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Keith Allison :: Flickr

Once a top pitching prospect, Yankees let Hughes walk

It really is amazing how much can change in only a few years, and thus proving once again that the sports world is as unpredictable as the weather.

Phil Hughes, 27, was once thought of as one of the most promising pitchers in the minors.  He was seen as the future ace of the staff with can’t miss stuff, and the Yankees considered him so valuable that they were not willing to include him in a trade in 2008 for Johan Santana when Santana was still…Santana.

Hughes initially showed promise when he first broke into the Majors.  In only his second career start, Hughes had a no-hitter over 6 1/3 innings against the Texas Rangers (in Arlington, Texas where the ball flies off the bat).  It was everything the Yankees could have hoped for in the young pitcher, but how was the no-hitter lost?  Hughes did not give up a hit to have the no-hitter be stopped in the 7th inning, but rather suffered a strained hamstring that took him right out of the game and onto the DL for the next three months. This weird turn of events was definitely a foreshadowing of Hughes’ career in the Bronx.

Inconsistent starts and a dreadful 2013 season has resulted in Hughes signing a 3 year, $24 million dollar deal with the Twins.  It is almost hard to believe that the pitcher who was so essential to the Yankees’ championship run in 2009 by being a lockdown reliever out of the bullpen was let go so easily.  It might be even harder to comprehend that the same pitcher that went 18-10 during an all-star season in 2010 and 16-13 only last year could have such an ugly 2013 season.

Hughes’ stats from this past year are not pretty, as he posted a 4-14 record with a bloated 5.19 ERA.  His erratic pitching (42 walks) and poor location (24 homers) resulted in high pitch counts and low innings pitched (only 145 in 29 starts).  His role with the Yankees was significantly reduced towards the end of the season, as Manager Joe Girardi had an extremely short leash with him, even moving him out of the rotation to the bullpen.  He never saw more than 5 innings of work after August 20th.

Yet, in the crazy world of sports we live in, the Minnesota Twins must see something that they like to give him an offer that averages to $8 million a year. Granted, Hughes did pitch in an extremely unfavorable home ballpark, as Yankee Stadium is one of the easiest places to go yard while Target Field (the home of the Twins) is regarded as one of the tougher venues to go out of the park.  Add into the equation that Hughes relies on fly balls more than almost any other pitcher in the Majors to get outs, and you could see why it was such a dysfunctional marriage. 

I do not know how many people would believe me if I told them in 2006, 2007 or even as late as 2010 that the Yankees would let Hughes walk to Minnesota with little to no interference.  But hey, if anything he has proved that even after the worst of seasons, baseball players can still enjoy a nice payday. I have nothing against Hughes as he was a nice, laid back guy in the clubhouse who always took questions from the media even after his ugliest starts, and who knows, maybe he will be worth $8 million a year in a Twins jersey. 

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