Wednesday, April 30, 2008


JOHAN SANTANA and Phil Hughes pitching on the same night in New York, but with very different results. No doubt the irony was not lost on Yankees senior vice president Hank Steinbrenner.

Word has it that Steinbrenner was in favor of giving in to the high demands of the Minnesota Twins and including Hughes as the cornerstone of a multi-player package for Santana last winter.

But, apparently, he was dissuaded from doing so by general manager Brian Cashman, who believed that by sending Hughes and Ian Kennedy to Minnesota, the Yankees would be trading away their future.

Santana has hardly been lights out so far for the Mets, giving up 29 hits and 15 runs, including seven homers, in 40.1 innings for an ERA of 3.12.

He has a 3-2 record, but that’s considerably better than Hughes, whose stats are rising higher than the price of eggs: 22 innings, 34 hits, 23 runs and an era of 9.0.

For so long the most prized possession in the Yankees’ farm system, the 21-year-old has been a bust. The alarm bells were ringing during spring training. Now it’s a real emergency.

Is this just a crisis of confidence, a kid being dazzled by the bright lights – and floodlights – of New York City, or is Hughes simply not as good as Yankees management thought? And how much longer can they wait to find out?

After allowing six runs in three and two-thirds innings in last night’s 6-4 loss to the Detroit Tigers, Hughes was subjected to the now customary boos from the less than patient fans at Yankee Stadium.

Surely the time has come when the best decision for both Hughes and the team is to send him down to the minors and allow him time to rediscover his form and confidence. At least he will be in good company with Kei Igawa, another major disappointment.

Hughes is hoping that isn’t going to happen, saying: “The mound is just as far away in Triple A as is here.” It is, but you’re not pitching to Manny Ramirez or Gary Sheffield.

Rasner deserves another chance in the Majors

Darrell Rasner, the man most likely to replace Hughes, will testify to that. Yet to make an impression on the big stage, he has a record of 4-0 with an ERA of 0.87 at Class AAA Scranton Wilkes this season.

Like the Steinbrenner family, Yankees fans pay big money to watch a winning team. Eight years is too long without a World Series Championship and playing second fiddle to the Boston Red Sox is simply unacceptable.

There’s no such thing as a transition year for the Yankees, a team with a payroll in excess of $200 million.

But a lot of Yankees fans, myself included, are facing up to the grim reality that this could well be the first time there is no October baseball in the Bronx since the strike year of 1994.

Lady Luck is hardly smiling on new manager Joe Girardi. First Derek Jeter, then Jorge Posada, now Alex Rodriguez. Injuries to key players will cripple any team.

More damaging, however, is having three players ¬– Cano, Giambi and Duncan – hitting under .200.

Add that to the fact that two-fifths or your starting rotation has yet to win a game and you can consider yourself fortunate to be 14-14.

The good news is the Yankees were 9-14 at the end of April last year and still made the play-offs. The bad news is that there aren’t too many reasons for optimism this time round.

A-Rod was on his way to having a career season, Posada was about to hit peak form and Roger Clemens was waiting to ride into town on his white charger.

Will anyone come to the Yankees’ rescue this year?

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