There is no doubting that Joba Chamberlain possesses the makeup of a front line starter in the majors. He has the command of four devastating pitches and the attitude that you want from someone at the top of the rotation. But being a starter is not in his best interest, nor the Yankees'.
The Yankees, like their fans, are excited about what Chamberlain can bring to the team for many years to come, and who can blame them? But it is simply not the right decision for a variety of reasons.
With the signings of C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, Chien-Ming Wang being healthy, and Andy Pettitte coming back for a possible final swan song, placing Chamberlain in the bullpen makes the most sense, both short-term and long-term.
By being in the bullpen, it allows Chamberlain to affect the outcome of 60 to 70 games a year, instead of just 35 if he were a starter. The Yankees do not need him to be a starter. Instead, they need him to bolster the back end of the bullpen. Phil Hughes is more than capable of filling out the fifth spot in the rotation that Chamberlain is scheduled to occupy.
Who is seriously going to be the bridge to Mariano Rivera if Chamberlain starts? Damaso Marte, Brian Bruney, Jose Veras, or Edwar Ramirez? None of them are capable of shouldering the crucial role of a setup man in today’s game that Chamberlain could.
Chamberlain’s presence and lights out ability could be identical to the MVP role that Mariano Rivera filled before he took over the closer's role. And with Rivera coming off of shoulder surgery at age 39, who knows if the Yankees might need someone to save a few games or even fill in for Rivera if his shoulder acts up?
What are the Yankees going to do then? Convert Chamberlain back to the bullpen mid-season and risk ruining his 23-year-old arm?
The Yankees are going to learn their lesson sooner or later. And unfortunately for everyone, it looks like it will be with Chamberlain this season.