PHIL HUGHES IS THE Yankees' minor leaguer the Phillies tried to land in the Bobby Abreu trade.

The Yankees didn't panic last summer and they didn't budge. Yesterday, the Yankees panicked. They announced that Hughes would make his major league debut on Thursday, much earlier than anticipated.

Hughes is a 20-year-old righthander who is 2-1 with a 3.94 earned run average at Triple A. After the Yankees were swept by the Red Sox over the weekend, the organization summoned Hughes.

"It's a necessity for us," manager Joe Torre said. "They don't think it's the wrong time for him. His ability, his presence, I think he's mature enough."

Phillies fans, fatalistic by nature, will no doubt keep an eye on Hughes' progress.

It gets no worse than this

Only 5 more days until the worst sports programming in TV history kicks off. (Think about what is required to earn that distinction.)

It's the NFL draft. It's 2 days of senselessness. It's experts heaped upon experts, mouthing off about the intangibles of a potential third-round draft pick from Clemson, his Wonderlic scores, 40 time, whatever.

And there are the poor, misguided fans, numb to it all, watching intently to see who their team gets with the 29th pick.

And, it means nothing.

Here's a better idea: Watch the actual games and report back to us in 2 years to see how these picks actually play in the NFL, and not how they perform running the three-cone drill.

If you must watch, don't take it too seriously. Don't go ballistic if your team doesn't take the so-called "best player available." Remember these names: Ricky Williams and Mike Mamula. Here's another better idea: Watch the Weather Channel. It's more interesting and it's way more accurate.

- Chuck Bausman