Friday, January 14, 2011

Why Not Joba Chamberlain?

Saw this one coming from a mile away.

With the signing of Rafael Soriano, the question was raised today by several people on twitter as to what the Yankees were going to do with Joba Chamberlain. I was asked by's Andrew Marchand, whom I follow, if I agreed with his notion that the Yankees should make Joba a starter. My answer was yes, but I also added that if the Yankees weren't willing to make this move, that they should let him go. Apparently, that is exactly what the Yankees plan on doing.

According to this tweet by Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated, the Yankees would consider trading Joba for a viable starter. Right now, the back-end of the Yankees rotation is in dire straits with the 4 and 5-spot now belonging to Ivan Nova and Sergio Mitre. We know that the Yankees are desperate for starting pitching, especially with losing out on Cliff Lee and Andy Pettitte's return still up in the air. So I ask, why not put Joba back in the rotation?

I think the Yankees realize that they "messed up" on the Joba front and would view moving him back to the rotation as a concession. Their need for relief pitching back in 2007 caused them to use Joba in a role that he was admittedly stellar in, but was not "bred" for. During his minor-league career, Joba was a starter and the Yankees saw him as being a future starter. But relegating him to the pen, then putting him in the rotation in 2008 when he no longer had the innings under his belt to be prepared for the role, pushed back his progression. He struggled in '08 yet was still overall very good for a rookie starter, but the Yankees wanted instant results and that didn't happen. Compound what shortcomings Joba did have with the failures of teammates Ian Kennedy and Phil Hughes that year, and you almost felt as if Joba were shutdown for being "guilty by association." The Yankees lost faith in him, and convinced themselves that he could go back to his glory as a reliever. That never happened again, either.

So now, with the team having a chance to at least start the season off with less uncertainty by giving Joba another shot as a starter, they are opting to keep him in the pen. I can't for any logical reason understand why they would be more willing to take a chance on Mitre than Joba; perhaps they are still holding on to strong hope that Andy will return which would push Mitre out, but I'd still rather see Joba in the 5-spot than Ivan Nova.

Or maybe, the Yankees just believe that placing Joba back in the rotation may mess with his head, as my new twitter buddy Rich Stowe of MLB's Sports Nickel pointed out today, "Pitching is a mental thing - especially relief pitching." Perhaps the Yankees have no faith that Joba can make the mental "switch" from reliever to starter. If this is true, I'd argue that the decision makers of the "Joba rules" have only themselves to blame.

My reasoning for saying that if the Yankees don't make him a starter then they should trade him, is because I believe they owe it to him; let him have the chance to do what he's always wanted to do for a team that would benefit from his qualities as a viable starting pitcher and not waste him as a middle reliever. Joba possesses lights out "stuff." He should be dominating batters for 6-7 innings, not eating up innings in relief for a failing starter, which is all he would be used for now. It's really a shame but again, Yankees brass have only themselves to blame.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper


  1. Rasheeda, first off, very cool blog!

    Barring celestial intervention, it seems the era of Joba in NY pinstripes, could be over sometime this spring or summer.

    As for him being a starter, inherently, I respectfully disagree that he is built for that, but at this point in time, I am open to all possibilities.

    The Soriano deal has a couple of opt out clauses, which no one is alluding to, as well...from the perspective of seeing how well he adjusts or does in NY.

    As for Mitre, though I am a 3rd generation Yankees fan here in Miami, I can tell you from his Marlins coaching days, Girardi is/has always been enamored with Mitre, for some odd reason???

  2. Thank you for posting Carlos.

    I agree with you on two fronts. One, I do believe that Joba's days are numbered. It's the only logical thing to assume considering how far back the Yankees continue to push him from both being the set-up man and from starting. Unless there is something else afoot with his arm or mechanics that the Yankees don't want publicized, it just doesn't make any sense the way he's being handled unless they plan to trade him. I doubt we'll see Joba in pinstripes for very long.

    Second, I totally agree with you on Girardi's "love" of Mitre. Living in New York, we aren't privy to many Marlins games, so maybe we've missed something in Mitre's arsenal that only Girardi would be aware of, although I think Mitre's had enough opportunity to show us what that is by now.

    I made the point of Joba being "bred" for the starter role because he was a starter throughout his HS and minor-league career. Maybe he is truly a reliever/closer as was the case with Mariano Rivera, but we'll never truly know that. He's been bounced from set-up to starter to set-up to middle relief; he's never been afforded a clear role. It's a wonder that the "mental" aspect of pitching hasn't caused him to shut down completely.