IAN KENNEDY: COACH KILLER?
There’s a huge difference between simply beating expectations and beating actual opponents on the field. Just ask New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi. In 2006, Girardi led the hapless, talentless, Florida Marlins to a record of 78-84. Those 78 wins were enough to get Girardi named National League Manager of the Year. Last season, as manager of the Yankees, Girardi skippered his team to an 89-73 record. That might be good enough to get him fired. The Yankees missed the postseason in 2008 for the first time in 14 years.
This year, the Yankees have lost six out of their last seven games. Yesterday, young pitcher Phil Hughes was pounded by the Baltimore Orioles. The loss was a tough one for New York. The Yankees were counting on Hughes to stablize their starting rotation so that they could possibly move Joba Chamberlain back to a depleted Yankees bullpen. Instead, Hughes gave up eight runs in the second inning last night and was so awful the New York Daily News has already labeled him a “huge letdown.”
The news was even worse for onetime Yankees top pitching prospect Ian Kennedy. At least Hughes is still pitching. Kennedy has an anuerism in his shoulder and will undergo major surgery on Tuesday. That means Kennedy, who won exactly ZERO games for the Yankees as a member of their starting rotation last season, will win another zero games this year.
Now, obviously, nobody is going to feel sorry for the Yankees. They can afford to cover their mistakes by spending hundreds of millions of dollars on free agent pitchers like C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. But, think for a moment about what might have been.
Going into last year’s offseason, the Yankees were the frontrunners to get pitcher Johan Santana when he was traded by the Minnesota Twins. Santana is the best pitcher in baseball. The Yankees and Twins had talks where New York apparently reluctantly agreed to give up Hughes, their best piching prospect in decades. However, they would not part with both Hughes and Kennedy. New York GM Brian Cashman made a once-in-a-lifetime (at least George Steinbrenner’s) decision to build from within. The Yankees were going to sink or swim with homegrown prospects. They sank. NOT making the Santana trade has destroyed the Yankees and could have implications for the rest of the decade.
Make no mistake, New York failed to make the playoffs last year solely and only because of Hughes and Kennedy. They combined for ZERO wins last season. The two were a combined 0-8 and New York was 5-12 in games they started. Meanwhile, Santana was eventually traded to the New York Mets where he went 16-7. Those 16 victories would have been more like 25 wins had Santana pitched for the Yankees last year. The Mets bullpen constantly blew leads for Santana. With just an ordinary bullpen and the Yankees offense, Santana would have easily led New York into the playoffs last year.
The bottom line is the Yankee organization’s decision to keep Ian Kennedy in favor of Johan Santana was insane. They could have had BOTH Santana and Sabathia at the top of their rotation and their payroll would still have been lower than it was in 2008. That would have left them enough money to still sign their pick of either Burnett or Mark Teixeira. That’s a team that would make the playoffs every year.
Instead, the Yankees are left with just Ian Kennedy, a guy who won zero games in 2008, zero games in 2009 and may end up never winning another game in his career. So much for hanging on to your prospects.