Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes: It's the New York Yankees' Fault

Harold FriendChief Writer IJune 9, 2011

Joba Chamberlain
Joba ChamberlainAl Bello/Getty Images

An Open Letter to the New York Yankees

A few short seasons ago, you had two young pitchers whose futures rivaled those of almost any young pitchers in recent memory. Today, their futures are tenuous at best. Sadly, there is little chance either will become the dominant force predicted.

The "Joba Rules" and "Hughes Rules" that you instituted in futile attempts to protect both pitchers from injury have backfired. Part of the problem is that both Chamberlain and Hughes didn't know if they were starting pitchers or members of the bullpen.

Young pitchers must be given time to develop. You never gave either the proper chances to do that.

Joba Chamberlain was once considered talented enough to become the ace of your staff, but upon your instructions, he went from being a starter in the minors to a reliever in order to limit the number of innings he would pitch.

Such an approach is patently wrong.

During his entire minor league career, Chamberlain worked a mere 88.1 innings. What a ridiculous way to treat a young, hard-throwing pitcher who stands 6'2" and weighs 240 pounds.

In one sense, you took advantage of a trusting, inexperienced pitcher. Yes, you had good intentions, but your methods were wrong. Chamberlain was naive when he told the media, "Obviously, if it's never been done before, there has to be a first, and that's what I was, but I'm sure everybody learned a lot from how it went last year, including the organization.

"After all is said and done, I'm glad I went through it last year, and especially if that experience helps the team in the situation with Phil."

He couldn't have been more incorrect. You don't experiment with potentially great young pitchers.

Yesterday, you put Chamberlain on the disabled list, telling the media that he had a strained flexor tendon. Today, it was reported that Chamberlain was having an MRI to determine the extent of the injury.

You, Mr. Cashman, admitted to the New York Post, "That [problem] can lead to a long time, We have had guys in the past that it took a month."

UPDATE: Chamberlain has a torn ligament.

Including this season, Chamberlain has pitched 282 innings since 2007. What a joke. He should have been allowed to pitch every fifth day in the minors beginning in 2008, with a routine that allowed an extra day of rest on occasion. His first full season with your team should have been 2009.

You treated Phil Hughes with even greater incompetence.

In 2010 you imposed an innings limit on Hughes of 170 innings, despite the fact that, unlike Chamberlain, he had pitched 146 innings in the minors in 2006. 

Hughes potential might have been even greater than Chamberlain's.

During the fall of 2006, Baseball America ranked Hughes as your number one prospect. His curve and control were considered the best of any pitcher in your system. Look at what has happened to the pitcher projected to be your top starting pitcher in 2010.

Hughes is trying to come back from what is thought to be an inflamed shoulder. His velocity dipped precipitously during spring training and it has yet to improve substantially.

Yes, it is not known if Chamberlain and Hughes would have developed problems if they had not been shuffled from the role of starter to that of a relief pitcher, but as Chamberlain said, it was the first time that such "rules" were imposed on young pitchers with such great potential.

If you had allowed both to develop in the minors, maybe they and your team wouldn't be in, as Walt Frazier says, in such dire straits.


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