Monday, February 7, 2011

Hughes Is Becoming Self Aware

Any time I read about Phil Hughes doing something baseball-related, I usually get excited.  This little tidbit from today's NY Post was no exception to that rule:

"Hughes said when he looks back on last year, he thinks he did not throw his changeup enough early in the year. The development of that pitch was a big story last spring and a reason he won the spot in the rotation. But when the season began, Hughes did not throw the pitch very often because his other pitches were so good. When he tried to go back to the pitch later in the year, he had trouble throwing it.

'I felt like that might have hurt me a little bit, just not having it,' he said. 'Then, maybe when fatigue set in and I really needed that changeup to help me get through these games it just wasn't there.' " (via The Post)

I'm loving everything about that for 2 reasons.  One, it once again showcases Phil Hughes' maturity beyond his years.  He recognizes the fact that he worked on it a lot in Spring Training 2010 because he knew he was going to need it, he recognizes the fact that he got away from it early in the year because his better pitches were working and he stuck with that, and he recognizes the fact that because he didn't work it early on, it failed him later in the season when he really needed it. 

Hughes is acutely aware of his own strengths and weaknesses, before they happen, as they're happening, and looking back on them once they've happened.  He knows what he did to be successful last year and he knows what he needs to do to become more successful this year.  That may not seem like a huge deal, but to me, when I watch veteran pitchers who have been doing this for 5-10 years talk about how they didn't know what went wrong in a rough outing and then watch a 24-year-old kid with essentially one full year as a starter under his belt talk intelligently about their season as a whole, it's an eye opener.

Second thing that excited me was just the fact that Hughes is already in Tampa, working out and throwing bullpen sessions.  That shows me that he's ready to prove that the first half of 2010 was no fluke and the second half of 2010 was not a true representation of how good a pitcher he truly is.  Surrounded by question marks in the rotation, Hughes is already putting the work in to step and become a reliable 2nd option behind CC.  Dude is younger than me and he's already more mature and dedicated than I could ever hope to be.  Love it!

Then, as if that wasn't enough, the always spot-on Chad Jennings of LoHud brings up another interesting point in light of last year's performances and Hughes' early start to his 2011 campaign:

"CC Sabathia will obviously start on Opening Day, but who gets Game 2? Should the Yankees show A.J. Burnett that they still have confidence in him, or should they acknowledge that Phil Hughes seems to be the more reliable option at this point?" (via LoHud)

This should become one of the hottest ST storylines once things start getting into gear in the next couple weeks.  If it's based on career track record and money, then A.J. should probably get the #2 spot.  If it's based on 2010 body of work, then the nod should probably go to Hughes.  My guess is, if A.J. shows any kind of marginal success in his Spring Training outings, he will get the call from Joe based on seniority.  But if Hughes is lights out and shows continued improvement and better use of his secondary pitches, it's going to be hard to deny him a spot that he probably earned.

Why All The Horse Hate?

Other than the Packers winning, the commercials sucking, and the Black Eyed Peas continuing to be an embarrassment to the musical arts, the biggest story coming out of the Super Bowl last night was the image of Cameron Diaz feeding popcorn to the one and only A-Horse.  If you're one of the few of the unwashed masses who hasn't seen the image, here it is:

The reaction to this image has been negative across the board, mainly in the form of people mocking the majestic A-Horse for not being able to feed himself.  This is incredibly stupid and shallow, and so being the faithful soldier that I am, I will take it upon myself to explain the situation and point out why nobody should be criticizing A-Rod here.

First thing, the limp-wristed look.  Make all the gay jokes you want, but I think that's a smart move.  Spring Training is right around the corner and A-Rod hasn't exactly been a model of perfect health the last few seasons.  Why risk moving the wrist more than you have to in order to get popcorn when you can leave it there, nice and loose, and keep it ready for batting practice?  And why risk doing anything when you've got a perfectly good Cameron Diaz ready and willing to serve right next to you?  I mean, come on, she's no fool.  Homegirl is staring down the barrel of 40, she hasn't made a good movie since "Gangs of New York" (which she sucked in), and she's sitting there with the world's greatest centaur athlete.  She knows she has to step her game up to keep that seat next to The Horse, and he knows she knows it, so let her handle the popcorn so he can watch the game.

Secondly, and this is really a no-brainer as far as I'm concerned, THE GUY IS A CENTAUR!!!!!  Centaurs have hooves for crying out loud!  Have you ever tried to pick up popcorn kernels with hooves?  Doesn't exactly work well.  So instead of getting on A-Rod for looking like a homo and having a chick feed him like a little kid, let's show a little appreciation for the intelligence and forethought that he showed in bringing Cameron Diaz to the game in order to make sure he was not unable to enjoy a little snack because of his centaurian condition.

No worries, Al, I've got your back.  Haters gonna hate...