Cashman Should Have Left Vazquez in the National League
Every general manager makes mistakes. To Brian Cashman‘s credit, he has made very few over the years. When he has, he hasn’t been shy about defending his manager and taking the blame for the New York Yankees’ struggles. Fortunately for Cashman, Phil Hughes is currently the best starter in the American League with a 1.38 ERA, which has been good enough to cover up the Yankees’ General Manager’s mistake of the 2009-2010 off-season — bringing back Javier Vazquez.
I suppose to a certain extent I understand Cashman’s motivation for taking the risk of bringing back a pitcher who was — to say the least — shelled quite often as a starter for the Yankees in 2004 when he posted an ERA just under 5.00. The Yankees went into the off-season short on starting pitching, and if nothing else Vazquez has been a workhorse throughout his career, making over 30 starts every season since 2000. Cashman probably looked at it as a situation where the Yankees would improve their staff if they could get over 200 innings from him, and that’s not a bad way to approach a lack of starting pitching. However, that doesn’t appear to be a realistic goal for the right-hander at this point.
Maybe Vazquez is a National League pitcher. Maybe he has a confidence issue. Realistically, both of those factors have probably lead to a 2010 season that is off to a disastrous start — a 1-4 record with an 8.10 ERA to be more specific. With the exception of 2007 — when he was 15-8 with a 3.74 ERA for the Chicago White Sox — Vazquez has not been overly effective in the American League. He was never what I would call a “lights out” pitcher until last season with the Braves, when he posted a 15-10 record with an ERA of 2.87. It was no doubt that performance that inspired Cashman to give Vazquez another shot in pinstripes.
While I don’t blame Cashman for making a mistake — we’re all human, afterall — I do blame him if he thought a 33-year-old pitcher had all of a sudden learned how to pitch again and was ready to become a successful starter in the most daunting division in Major League Baseball. The NL is a pitcher’s league. That’s never been a mystery and until the NL starts using the DH it will stay that way. Vazquez has the stuff to succeed. When he’s able to command his fastball and compliment it with one of the best change-ups in the game, he can be nearly impossible to hit. What I find to be embarrassing is the way the Yankees have to baby a 33-year-old professional who has been in the league for over 10 years. Joe Girardi has announced that he is skipping Vazquez in the rotation, once again, to keep him away from the Red Sox and the Rays this week. If they’re so afraid of his confidence being shot by facing those two teams, there’s no way he’s going to make it over the course of the year. For the sake of the Yankees starting rotation, let’s hope Major League hitters don’t figure out how to hit Phil Hughes. If they do, Cashman’s decision to trade for Vazquez could end up looking like a significant mistake.