Sunday, June 26, 2011

Ian Kennedy Should Make the NL All-Star Team!

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Arizona Diamondbacks starter Ian Kennedy is having the best year of his career (by far) in 2011. Kennedy (8-2, 89 K, 2.90 ERA, 1.09 WHIP) is a major reason why the Diamondbacks (43-34) are tied for first-place in the NL West.

Kennedy's journey to stardom was a long one and it came via the take-no-prisoners New York Yankees.

Once upon a time, Kennedy was part of a trio of young and talented pitchers who were supposed to blossom and lead the Yankees pitching staff for the next decade. The trio were: Kennedy, Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes. These three youngsters were once considered, quote, UNTRADEABLE. But as is usually the case with the win-now Yankees, an enormous amount of pressure was put on the young trio. Of the three only Hughes was able to develop into a good starter.

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Chamberlain was BABIED with the so-called Joba Rules for the better part of three seasons and was never given a chance to develop as a starter or a reliever because of the obsession with the so-called pitch-limit. How in the world can anyone pitch with ease if they know that they have to have a strong performance with a limited number of pitches? To make matters worse, every time he had a bad outing it was front page news and poor Joba was thrown under the bus. He went from the bullpen to the starting rotation then was sent back to the bullpen to be the 6th inning setup man, then the 7th inning setup man, then the 8th inning setup man, then back to being a 6th inning setup man and so forth. The poor guy never had an identity on the pitching staff and at times seemed lost. There were times, I'm sure, he felt like he was under a microscope because one mistake by Joba was equivalent to 10 mistakes by any other pitcher and it got to the point that the kid just couldn't handle the pressure and was overthrowing.

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As for Kennedy, the Yankees eventually gave up on him and traded him to the Diamondbacks, which is the best thing that could've happened to the kid. In Arizona, Kennedy was able to develop at his own pace without the win-now pressure that goes with being a Yankee and after a so-so 2010 (9-10, 3.80 ERA in 32 starts) he is now thriving in 2011. I highly doubt with the Yankees he would have had the opportunity to pitch 32 starts if he wasn't winning right away.

As for Hughes and Chamberlain, well, both are on the disabled list. Hughes went on the 15-day DL on April 15 and was transferred to the 60-day DL on May 25 with arm fatigue. Coincidence? I think not. The Yankees are hoping that Hughes can return to the rotation in late-July. Chamberlain's case is much worse. He had season-ending Tommy John surgery on June 16 and is done for 2011. And quite possibly done for all or most of 2012 also.

Personally, I always believed that of the three, Chamberlain had the best stuff and the most potential. But now the dreadful Tommy John surgery has put his future in jeopardy and no one knows what kind of stuff he'll have when he returns. All I know is-- if the kid's career has been ruined, the New York Yankees should get 100% of the blame for it.

No doubt about it!

This notion that "anything less than a World Series title is a disappointment" is HOGWASH when you're trying to develop a young pitching staff from within. And as we can see, it has blown up in the Yankees faces-- BIG TIME! Yes, they'll win but with experienced veterans and free agents NOT youngsters.

See you in the All-Star Game, Ian!

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