Archive for May 28th, 2010

Larry MacPhail made a significant impact in his brief tenure with the Yankees.

World War II was a transitional period in Yankee history. From 1936 to 1943, the Yankees won six World Series as well as the pennant in all but one season. However, the full outbreak of war, and the subsequent draft and enlistment of more than 350 major league ballplayers, significantly altered the landscape of the game. So, while America was helping to win a word war, the Yankees were treading water in the American League, finishing six games off the lead in both 1944 and 1945.

By 1946, World War II was over and the country was desperate for a return to normalcy. A big part of that effort included baseball, and a big part of baseball involved the Yankees. However, things were far from normal for the Yankees in 1946. Over the winter, the team had been sold by the estate of long-time owner Jacob Ruppert, who had passed away in 1939, to a trio of new owners: Del Webb, Dan Topping and veteran business/baseball man Larry McPhail. In his book Yankees Century, author Glenn Stout referred to McPhail as a cross between Frank Farrell (for his drinking and carousing), Bill Veeck (for his “creative” promotions) and George Steinbrenner (for his meddlesome bullying). Such a personality was a major break from the Yankees more dignified, family approach that put winning above all else. With McPhail as both a co-owner and general manager, however, the team was now much more beholden to its bottom line.

The Yankees won their fair share of games during the 1946 season, but simply couldn’t keep up with the powerhouse Boston Red Sox. Still, the team drew an astounding 2.3 million fans, which more than doubled its previous record attendance and nearly tripled the number of fans who turned out during the last year of the war. Although the season wasn’t a success by the Yankees’ old standards, it was cork popping by MacPhail’s new criteria.

In addition to a nation that was hungry for baseball, MacPhail’s frequent promotions also helped drive fans to the ballpark. On May 28, 1946, one of the larger crowds of the 1946 season turned out for one such novelty: night baseball. Way back in 1935, MacPhail first introduced baseball under the lights while with the Cincinnati Reds, but the more traditional Yankees had resisted the trend, even despite the urging of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who looked at night baseball as a reward for those working long hours during the day to support the war effort.

On a Tuesday no less, nearly 50,000 fans poured through the turnstiles to witness the historic occasion of night baseball at Yankee Stadium, which would be the first of 14 scheduled night games that season. The Yankees wound up losing the contest 2-1 to the Washington Senators, but by all accounts (especially McPhail’s adding machine), the night and the lights were a success.

Night baseball was the brainchild of MacPhail.

Larry MacPhail outdid himself with the finest lighting plant in baseball floodlights, but the Yankees still couldn’t see [Dutch] Leonard’s flitting ‘dipsy doodles’” – AP, May 29, 1946

Interestingly, the May 28 game against the Senators was also Bill Dickey’s debut as Yankee manager. Dickey took control of the club after Joe McCarthy, who had managed the team to seven championships since 1931, resigned because of health concerns. The real problem, however, was too much drinking, and at least part of that was the result of too much meddling by Larry MacPhail. Dickey himself would wind up becoming fed up with MacPhail and resign before the end of the 1946 season, giving way to Johnny Neun, who also parted company with the Yankees so he could become manager of the Cincinnati Reds. (more…)

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The day after Javier Vazquez turned back into a pumpkin probably isn’t the best time to have a discussion of the “Hughes Rules”, but according to Andrew Marchand, that’s exactly what the Yankees have been doing.

In his report at ESPNNewYork, Marchand stated that the Yankees are planning to lighten Phil Hughes workload over the next six weeks in an attempt to limit the young right hander’s innings to about 175 for the season. Although not explicitly defined by the Yankees, the Hughes plan will seek to be less intrusive than the Joba Rules, which took on a life of their own and seemed to overwhelm the pitcher with their uncertainty. The biggest break with the Joba rules, however, seems to be the Yankees will now instead focus more on the number of pitches thrown by Hughes.

Some innings are more stressful than others,” Eiland said. “You can throw five innings and 100 pitches and it can really take its toll on you because you are really laboring through that or you can throw seven innings and 100 pitches. It is less pitches in an inning and you are not laboring as much. The more you have to labor, the more stress it puts on your arm.” – Dave Eiland, speaking to Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com

Because Hughes has pitched so well, there will undoubtedly be a temptation to not skip many of his starts, especially if Javier Vazquez’ outing against the Twins represents a setback instead of a blip. Also, there will likely be some backlash against any limitations on Hughes after the Joba Rules turned out to be such a fiasco. Still, the Yankees would be wise to exercise restraint with their talented young starter, even it means compromising their chances in 2010.

Could the "Hughes Rules" have the Yankees young righty throwing more pitches in the bullpen and fewer from the mound?

Looking to the future is not something the Yankees usually make a priority, but under Brian Cashman, the team has made a point of protecting young pitchers. Although they may not have always taken the best approach, the intentions are noble. Having said that, if Hughes is forced to curtail his 2010 campaign, and the Yankees fail to make the playoffs as a result, there will be some blame to go around.

When Hughes was demoted to the bullpen, Joe Girardi used him almost exclusively as a short reliever. Although very effective in that role, Hughes only wound up compiling 86 major league innings (109 2/3 including the minors and playoffs). Coming off a 2008 campaign with 79 2/3 combined innings, the Yankees had more room to stretch Hughes out, but squandered that opportunity. Had they had more foresight last season, the limits on Hughes this season would likely be less stringent. It’s too late to make up for lost time, so, if Hughes is forced to take a breather, and the Yankees suffer as a result, the team may wind up regretting how it handled both Hughes and Joba in 2009.

Phil Hughes’ Career Workload (Innings)

Year Age MLB Post Season MiLB Total
2004 18 0 0 5 5
2005 19 0 0 86 2/3 86 2/3
2006 20 0 0 146 146
2007 21 72 2/3 5 2/3 37 2/3 116
2008 22 34 0 35 2/3 69 2/3
2009 23 86 4 2/3 19 1/3 110
2010 24 49 2/3 0 0 49 2/3

Phil Hughes’ Major League Pitch Count (regular season only)

Year Age PA Pit Pit/PA
2007 21 306 1235 4.04
2008 22 157 630 4.01
2009 23 351 1454 4.14
2010 24 197 839 4.26

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