My reaction to Phil Hughes' poor 3.1 inning performance yesterday, since it fit into his declining trendline as a starter since last season, was that while we might find that Hughes' stuff translates to a reliever who faces batters once a game, it is way too premature to stick a fork into a promising 26-year-old starter who has already had success in the major leagues. Moreso since the Yankee starting rotation includes a 38-year-old pitcher who has only hitherto pitched in the NL West and a 35-year-old junkballer whose only start this year seemed a homage to the pitching style of AJ Burnett.
The Yankees will face decisions when Andy Pettitte and Michael Pineda are ready; but until then, there's no reason to rush to a decision on Phil Hughes, especially since his stuff has looked good and his changeup seems to be developing.
And indeed, thinking of Pettitte reminded me of when he was approximately Hughes' age; a poor end to the 1998 season and a poor first half of 1999, culminating in a dreadful 3.1 inning start against the White Sox, led to numerous rumors that the Yankees would trade Pettitte in a 1980s-Yankees-style manner of trading youth for declining veterans.
So this morning, when reading the NY Times I almost spit out my coffee when reading this sentence:
"Hughes had an impressive spring but his two ineffective outings, coupled with a poor season last year... are already raising questions about his long-term viability."
Were Girardi and/or Cashman hitting the panic button? Fortunately it turned out that there is nothing here that could be described as actual news - the only actual Yankee information in the article is this:
"Manager Joe Girardi, however, bristled at suggestions that Hughes was in danger of losing his starting spot after only two outings."
This conflation of gossip and news is why I so disrespect the baseball media, it unfortunately is all too typical. What happens is that the reporters express their questions and concerns as having an objective reality. A common device is to use passive sentences such as "...are already raising questions about his long-term viability" to deceive the reader into thinking the reporter is reporting on news from an objective source such as a decision-maker. The reality however is that the reporter is merely reporting that his fellow colleagues are the only ones asking this question, information which the passive sentence omits.
Now it is fine for reporters to ask questions and to refer to that in articles; it is the presentation here that is dishonest. If the reporter considered this question worth reporting on at all, the accurate way to describe it is that Girardi was asked, and his response was essentially that it was a stupid question to ask after only 2 starts.
The Times is not the only paper with this syndrome; the Yankee beat writers - like many if not most subsets of the media - have perfected the devolution of journalism into groupthink. For example, the Daily News article expresses the same syndrome, including the deceptive passive sentence:
"T[t]he four days until his next scheduled appearance are bound to be filled with questions about how long he will remain in the Yankees’ starting rotation."
This is true only insofar as the reporters will probably ask Girardi questions about it over the next 4 days!
I will make a bold prediction of what will happen if Hughes' next start is bad: the same question-and-answer routine will occur, and the reporters will write it up as though there is some controversy outside of the press box.