Santana a Mistake for Yanks

If reports are true, the Yankees are in hot pursuit of the most dominant pitcher in baseball. He is a two-time cy young award winner who went 32-3 in the second half of the three seasons before last year. Last season he was dubiously motivated as his team floundered and held up a white flag in the form of trading their starting second baseman. He would be invigorated by going to a winning team and his performance would reflect that. His name is Johan Santana and the Yankees should not trade for him.

Now hold your horses. Quiet down. You in the back, I have no use for that incredulous look directed towards me. Its not that Santana isn’t amazing, its that the price to get Santana is too high. The names currently being bandied about as the main cogs of a prospective deal are Phil Hughes and Melky Cabrera. Thankfully, Joba Chamberlain and Robinson Cano have been deemed untouchable. The rumored inclusion of Phil Hughes is the problem for me.

Anyone who saw the exhibition masquerading as Yankee baseball in the division series against the Indians, knows that highlights were few and far between. One of the only bright spots was Phil Hughes coming out of the bullpen. He showed poise beyond his years and the promise of what is still to come. Hughes was also dealing with the effects of a hamstring injury he suffered in May, in the midst of six plus no-hit innings against the Rangers. He consistently threw 91-93 during the second half of the season instead of 95.

So why are the Yankees considering trading him besides the lure of the artistry from the magnificent Johan? Fault lies with the lovable bunch of try-hards known as the Boston Red Sox. Poor guys and poor fan-base might I add. Curse of the Bamino. Can’t catch a break. Haven’t won in eighty…What?! They won in 2004 and again this year?! Sure buddy, I’ll take one of whatever you’re having on the rocks….you’re serious? And they have the second highest payroll and paid $100 million for a Japanese pitcher? I thought they were still lovable losers. Sigh.

But I dirgress. The Red Sox have a playoff star in Josh Beckett, who vanquished the Yankees in the 2003 world series when he was on the Marlins. He was decidedly ordinary this season against the Yankees but he helped lead the Red Sox to another world series championship this year. Baseball, like any other competitive atmosphere, is a place where the top dog is emulated. So the Yankees have taken to operating like this: “If Boston has a dominant ace in his prime, then we need one who is better.” It’s a cold war arms race. The Yankees have drawn a line in Chamberlain and Cano but its not enough.

What bothers me the most is a lack of perspective and selective memory. Beckett had a 4.39 era against the Yankees last season including a couple of stinkers. No pitcher is a sure thing and that includes the sage-like fire-breathing Santana. When Boston traded for Beckett they received a pitcher who was 25-years-old. If the Yankees trade for Santana he will be 29 by Opening Day. They will be missing out on much of his prime while giving up a pitcher who is just entering his.

The preoccupation with getting the best current pitcher is also unnecessary. Does no one remember that the Red Sox finished in third place last season? As in, on the outside looking in to the playoffs. And this year they had a parade with pink Ortiz shirts as far as the eye could see. Why can’t the Yankees give the young pitching staff a year to do their thing? Why not give Hughes the chance to be the ace that everyone is clamoring for? They have a high-powered offense and are probably the favorite for the wild card. Low expectations for a change might work as reverse psychology and keep everyone loose. Every writer might jump at the chance to wax poetic on the fall of the franchise while the Bombers come to town and throttle the home team.

Minnesota wants major league talent to replace the departure of center fielder Torii Hunter and to cushion the blow from losing Santana, which is why the Yankees are the favorite. Boston is a close second with the possibility to be the favorite if they offer more but they seem unwilling to do. Boston has Clay Buchholz who threw a no-hitter this season, Coco Crisp a great defensive outfielder, Jon Lester who came back from lymphoma and pitched very well in the world series and Jacoby Elsbury who was a rookie revelation for them.

The Yankees are leading if they are indeed offering Hughes and Melky. Cabrera came into his own after a shaky start to his major league career and is the type of young centerfielder Minnesota would be interested in acquiring. The poor guy had a very good season and now might see himself traded from the only organization he has ever known and away from his best friend Robinson Cano. I know that its not an episode of The Young and the Restless but I am still affected.

But it all comes back to Hughes. As Hughes has risen through the Yankees system he has stood for more than his abilities as a player. He represents the Yankees recent commitment to developing their young players rather than trading them for veterans. He came into the season as Baseball America’s top pitching prospect and showed flashes of brilliance the Yankees haven’t seen in a young pitcher since 1995 in a guy named Pettitte.

I was looking forward to rooting for Hughes next year and still am going to. I’m just hoping he won’t be wearing a Twins cap when I do.


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