Has Joba Chamberlain's Image Paid The Price For Yanks' Poor Handling?
This spring, as the Yankees decided to toss Joba Chamberlain in the bullpen (where he belongs) I kept hearing people being critical of Chamberlain for all the wrong reasons. I heard this phrase over and over again. Over-hyped punk.
Overhyped… That might be true with the “Joba Rules” etc. but can we really blame the kid for that? He’s not the one who decided that he needed to be brought through this disastrous babying system.
He didn’t push the Yankees organization into creating a situation where every single thing he did, didn’t do, or stopped doing because of a pitch count was broadcast on ESPN. All Joba did was come on the scene a few years ago, dominate a three month stretch of season, and then do what he was told (or try to). So to call him over-hyped as a jab to him is uncalled for.
If he is over-hyped then what can be said of Clay Buchholz? Other than his no-hitter what has he done that deserves to be handled with kid gloves when compared to Chamberlain? If you listened to everyone the last couple of springs he is part of the reason why the Red Sox allegedly have a deeper, more stable rotation than the Yankees.
At the start of the season Joba's career numbers were far better than Buchholz's. More IP, a greater K/9 ratio, lower BB/9, an ERA over a run lower, and unlike the Red Sox starter a winning record for his career.
We won’t mention the fact that the “kid” Buchholz is one and half years older than Chamberlain and had a full extra season in the minors to develop at a more reasonable pace before coming up. People need to think about the fact that Joba has been up in the bigs for how long? At this point in his career Papelbon was JUST ARRIVING in the show.
In addition, I fail to see how this whole situation makes Chamberlain a punk. The guy has listened to everything he’s been told to do without creating a stink. The Yankees told him to pitch three innings and get out whether he gave up five runs or had a no-hitter going… he did it.
They told him they were pulling him out of the rotation and into the bullpen for the playoffs… he did it. They told him that Hughes was to be the fifth starter and he’d be in the bullpen… he did it. So far I’ve heard nothing but positive, team-first quotes from Chamberlain about this (and judging by his publicity so far, we would have known if he said boo).
I also challenge any pitcher or athlete to succeed in a situation like the one Chamberlain went through last year. His role was constantly changing. He could pitch a whole game, then he couldn’t. He could pitch on regular rest, then he had to wait nine days between starts (good luck staying in mid-season form that way). Everything he did along the way was scrutinized under the finest microscope, something that would have utterly destroyed the confidence of lesser men.
In the few times that we saw him allowed to develop some sort of continuity as a starter, he experienced at least a little success, including a three game stretch in late July where he had three wins, giving up a total of two runs in a span of 21.2 innings with 19 strikeouts and only eight hits against the Rays, A’s, and Tigers. (It should be noted that his first nine day rest was immediately after the third game, totally breaking his rhythm). Consistency is what makes athletes what they are.
When Joba was off the leash as a reliever, however, he was electric. While it may be asking a bit much for him to repeat that kind of dominance (24 IP allowing a total of 18 base runners while striking out 34 is a mind boggling introduction to Major League baseball), he has the stuff and the make-up to be one of the best in the game.
The last couple of nights we have seen him ably handle the closing duties thanks to a "stiff left side" of Mariano Rivera's. Now the chatter is all about how "this should have been his career path from the beginning", as if somehow Joba had some kind of say in the matter last year.
Give the kid a break and realize that it’s the Yankees organization that chose this way to handle things, not him. All he has done is quietly go about his business every step of the way, not complaining about it once.
In an era where we seem to look for any opportunity to criticize the selfish "me first" mentality of athletes it's amazing people don't climb over top of one another to toss praise on this young man.
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