Over at River Ave Blues, Mike Axisa rounds up the latest Yankee-trade gossip.
Over at River Ave Blues, Mike Axisa rounds up the latest Yankee-trade gossip.
Today’s spring training notes from Chad Jennings.
Joba Chamberlain is, well, this picture makes me think of the following words:
load, loaf, scrub, pizza, beer, ass.
[Links from the essential Lo-Hud Yankees blog; picture lifted from there too. Original image credit goes to the Associated Press.]
Joba Chamberlain elicits a negative response from the average baseball fan that far outweighs his time spent as a big league pitcher. For a few years, Chamberlain was the lightning rod for Yankee-hating, embodying what outsiders disliked about the team.
The Yankees fan base, meanwhile, accustomed to a team that develops its own foundational members, asked too much of the kid. The Yankees called him up to the big leagues after just a year in the minors. In the hustle to nudge him, with Robinson Cano and Phil Hughes, up onto the Yankees pedestal once occupied by the four horsemen, Yankee fans made him Joba before he was Chamberlain. In the rest of the country, his unique first name became a slight, and a shorthand term for a long-held distaste for the Yankees. Soon, the name Joba came to symbolize a fatigue not only for the team’s ruthless big money practices, but also for the media’s clear favoritism towards East Coast franchises.
That Joba Chamberlain was the symbol of this sentiment is misguided and unfortunate, and more a result of bad timing than anything that Joba did. Because, generally speaking, Joba Chamberlain is the opposite of what people don’t like about the Yankees.
[Photo Credit: NJ.com]
Speaking of Tommy John, Joba Chamberlain has a torn ligament in his right elbow and is likely done for the year.
Phil Hughes is lost right now. He’s lost velocity on his pitches and is now lost in space. He threw more BP fastballs tonight and the O’s feasted on that weak sauce to the tune of five runs in four-and-a-third innings. It’s clear that something ain’t right, but what that something is, well, that’ll keep the angst-meter on blast for the foreseeable future, won’t it?
The Bombers inched their way back into the game behind a strong relief outing from Bad Bart Colon and trailed 5-4 going into the eighth. Colon put runners on the corners with one out and was replaced by Joba Chamberlain who uncorked a slider past Russell Martin. Felix Pie charged home from third but Joba beat him to the plate and blocked Pie’s leg, took the throw from Martin and made the tag for the second out.
Went something like this:
Joba struck Mark Reynolds out looking with some easy cheese on the outside corner, end of inning.
That looked to be the last thing to get excited about as Alex Rodriguez, still hot, and Robinson Cano had two out hits in the bottom of the inning but Nick Swisher, ice cold, rolled over a grounder to end the inning. Joba pitched a scoreless ninth and then Jorge Posada hit Kevin Gregg’s first pitch into the right center field bullpen to tie the game.
And Yankee Stadium was happy.
Even more so when Curtis Granderson lined a ball off Nick Markakis’ glove in right field for a double. But Martin could not get a bunt down and whiffed. Brett Gardner, who has looked overmatched, did the same and Derek Jeter tapped out to short and the inning was over.
Yet all praise the Great Mariano, who worked around a lead-off single, and got the Yanks back up in short order. The lefty Mike Gonzalez walked Mark Teixeira on a full-count pitch to start the inning and then Rodriguez, who has been hitting just about everything on the screws, ripped a double to left. Second and third, no out. Robbie. Worked the count even at two, smacked a line drive right at the shortstop, one out.
The O’s chose not to walk Swisher, batting from the right side. Swish hit a hump back liner to Markakis in right, deep enough to score the winning run.
A.J., pie, game.
Yanks 6, O’s 5. Applause.
[First picture by Michel Gravel]
I’ve spent much of the past couple of seasons actively disliking Joba Chamberlain. Not personally, just his game. But just when I thought all was lost, he reported to camp heavy this spring, and now, he’s sporting longer hair, and you know what? I think I’m lovin’ me some Joba. Call me a contrarian–guilty–but hey, I’m the guy who loved Hurricane Hideki Irabu.
So, yo: Let’s Go Chubb Chubb!
[Photo Credit: AP Photo/Frank Franklin II]
Dictionary.com lists 13 definitions for the adjective form of the word oblique. As it pertains to anatomy, oblique muscles are those that run at an angle, as opposed to transversely (horizontally) or longitudinally (vertically). In the abdominal wall, the obliques are the muscles that form the side cut of a six-pack. They’re the love handles.
Synonyms, as listed within the aforementioned link, include “indirect,” “covert,” or “veiled.” But oblique strains have directly, overtly and obviously affected the Yankees this Spring, with Greg Golson, Sergio Mitre, Joba Chamberlain and now Curtis Granderson all falling victim to the injury. Granderson’s injury may put his Opening Day availability in question. This is no surprise, given that recovery time ranges from 10 days up to 3 weeks, depending on the severity of the strain.
Chamberlain missed 10 days. He returned to action Tuesday and was throwing 95 miles per hour. Golson also returned Tuesday, after missing 15 days of action. Mitre, meanwhile, was making his first appearance since March 14. MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch, in a mid-afternoon post Tuesday, reported that Mitre thought he had a roster spot secured when he arrived in Tampa 6 weeks ago. Tuesday’s start, Mitre’s first since he suffered his oblique strain, may be giving the Yankees pause about adding him to the 25-man roster. The following quotes are priceless.
First, Mitre is confidently unsure:
“I don’t look at it as a setback. I’m hoping they don’t base everything off of one spring start. If that’s the case, then we’ll see what happens, but I don’t think that’s the case — at least toward me. They know I can get people out and they know they can rely on me, I hope.”
Let’s examine this: two home runs yielded, a sinker that didn’t sink, Nova and Colon basically acting in full carpe diem mode. But this wasn’t a setback. Fans have little to no confidence that he can get anyone out. The numbers over the past two seasons prove as much. Plus, he wears the accursed No. 45. From Steve Balboni to Cecil Fielder to Chili Davis to (gulp) Carl Pavano, that number never helped anyone in a Yankee uniform over the last 25 years. And yet I digress …
More from Mitre:
“I don’t think there should be any reason why not. If I still have to worry about that, then I’m probably not doing something right.”
(Insert laugh track here)
According to George King, Joba Chamberlain looks top notch to scouts. Good news, indeed.
Three weeks into Yankees Spring Training, and we’ve learned this: New York is a Basketball town. Alex has written about this, and I remember Sweeny Murti talking about covering the Yankees while the Knicks made their run to the 1994 Finals. It’s true. The Knicks are the sleeping giant, and now with Carmelo Anthony, they will own the back pages unless something either major or catastrophic happens in Yankeeland.
This is actually a good thing, because Spring Training for the Yankees is basically a time suck. While it’s great to see baseball — hell, grass — after being battered with snow and sub-freezing temperatures for the better part of the last two months, doesn’t seem as cool when the biggest questions year after year are who the 5th man in the rotation will be, and who the 24th and 25th man on the roster will be.
Obvious storylines have been played up like they’re original concepts. For example:
* Derek Jeter reported to spring training and in his press conference intent to prove that last year was an anomaly and that the man who is above statistics is actually going to try to enjoy the moment when he reaches 3,000 hits this summer. In a year or two, he might need a position change.
C.C. Sabathia reported to camp lighter; Joba Chamberlain is heavier. My favorite headline today comes from the Times of all places: Heftier Chamberlain Arrives with Thud at Yankees Camp:
Asked Wednesday morning for his impression of Chamberlain, General Manager Brian Cashman said: “He’s heavier. Let’s just leave it at that.”
Told that Chamberlain has said he packed on muscle, Cashman said: “He’s obviously heavier. That’s as much as I’ll say.”
…“You think about it as a manager, you think about what it says,” Manager Joe Girardi said. “As I said, Joba is going to be pretty much evaluated on how he pitches. That’s the bottom line. We’ve been very pleased in what we’ve seen so far.”
The Wall Street Journal asks: Is This the Fattest Yankee Team Ever?
Yeah, it’s cold again in New York, but their is plenty of hot air about C.C. Sabathia keeping heads busy down in Florida. Hey, Sabathia might opt out of his deal at the end of the year: Oh, word?
Meanwhile, George King has a piece on A.J. Burnett:
“Last year it really hit me how important I am to this team,” Burnett said yesterday on the way out of George M. Steinbrenner Field.
“I am not saying that we didn’t win the World Series because of me, but I know if I had been right, it would have been a lot easier chore. I never knew how important I was to a team. That’s not being cocky or arrogant, it’s the way it is. I mean, what did I do to help?”
First off all, something interesting: last night many people (including me) were eager to jump on the Cliff-Lee-took-less-money story, embracing the idea that here was the rare athlete motivated by something different, and therefore in some way admirable. Well, beware of easy storylines. It now seems that Lee may not have taken much less money at all. Our old friend William argues, at his blog and The Yankee U, that when you include the Phillies’ vesting option for a sixth year, the difference is negligible; he gets into the details of things like tax rates and interest rates which I am wary of diving into myself, but it does at least seem clear that while Lee may have taken less money, it was not near the $50 million less that was being thrown around last night. (Of course, I would love to get paid in a year what Cliff Lee will make in an inning, so it’s pretty much all magic-fun-numbers anyway at this level).
None of this really changes my reaction, which could be summed up as “probably for the best down the road, and if you need me in 2011, I’ll be on the floor, curled into the fetus position around a bottle of Laphroaig.”
With the drama of days and days of fevered speculation behind us, what’s next? The Yankees are already beginning to move on, making the non-inspiring but likely harmless move of signing Russell Martin to a one-year deal. To me, this doesn’t say they’re necessarily planning to trade one of their catching prospects (though of course that’s a possibility), but rather that they really, really do not think Jorge Posada can catch much anymore. Will the catching situation be the new dead horse upon which we release our impatience and frustration?
I’m taking suggestions, but I would like to preemptively oppose further debate on the Joba-as-starter idea. Yes, it makes sense to me too… but apparently it doesn’t to the Yankees, and there’s no meat left on that bone. He remains, for now, the World’s Most Famous Mediocre Middle Reliever.
Also, anybody who so much as whispers a word rhyming with “Pavano” gets slapped with a fish, Python-style.
55 days ’til spring training…
I have a bunch of things up over at SI.com today.
First, there’s my weekly Awards Watch column, which this week looks at the two Cy Young award races. Those who haven’t been paying attention will be surprised to see that Ubaldo Jimenez no longer tops the National League list. Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes, who were regulars on the American League list earlier in the season, are both off but have been replaced by one current Yankee and one former Yankee that will likely send the average Bronx Banter reader into hysterics.
Then, I noticed that SI linked to the gallery of the top ten Hall of Fame classes that I ranked and captioned last year. This year’s class of Hawk, the White Rat, and God didn’t threaten to dent the list, so it’s just as relevant now as it was then and a fun read, if I do say so myself.
Finally, I have the lead baseball story for the day (until a trade bumps it) in which I take a look at five of the biggest holes on contending teams. One of those five exists in the Yankee bullpen. Dig:
Need: Relief pitching
8th Inning: 4.74 ERA
MLB average 8th Inning: 3.88 ERA
The Guilty: Joba Chamberlain (5.66 ERA, 41 1/3 IP), David Robertson (4.76 ERA, 34 IP), Chan Ho Park (5.74 ERA, 31 1/3 IP)
Potential Targets: Scott Downs (2.41 ERA, 41 IP), Shawn Camp (2.92 ERA, 49 1/3 IP), Aaron Heilman (3.60 ERA, 45 IP), Koji Uehara (2.35 ERA, 15 1/3 IP)
When the Yankees moved Chamberlain back to the bullpen, he was supposed to return to being the dominant set-up man he was in late 2007 and early 2008. Instead, he has brought the inconsistency he showed in the rotation to the ‘pen, helping to make the eighth the most problematic inning for the Yankees other than the sixth (when starters typically start to tire and relief pitchers frequently become involved). With Robertson and Park also struggling and Alfredo Aceves and lefty Damaso Marte on the disabled list, the Yankees are running out of in-house alternatives. They still have the majors best record and look like a safe bet to make the playoffs, but the defending world champions will need to lock down those set-up innings if they want to go deep into the postseason again.
What a weird turn the season has taken through the first 91 games, and specifically over the last two weeks. With the passings first of Bob Sheppard and then of George Steinbrenner and news of the fall that landed Yogi Berra in the hospital, a somber mood has befallen the Yankee Family, which includes us.
There’s a lot on my mind — nothing new there — and I wanted to get it as much of it down as I could, not only for my own cathartic reasons, but also for your reading enjoyment.
Here we go …
* The discussion regarding the fifth starter spot was rendered moot very quickly, Phil Hughes, with an improved cutter and curveball and most importantly, and an Eff-You attitude that he took from his eighth-inning role in ’09, took control in Spring Training and never let go. He won 10 of his first 11 decisions and earned an All-Star appearance. Now, with Andy Pettitte on the shelf and AJ Burnett looking like an extra in “Girl Interrupted” — more on this in a bit — Hughes is effectively the Yankees’ No. 3 starter, maybe even No. 2, depending on your opinion of Javier Vazquez. Yes, even though Hughes got roughed-up last night.
The question with Hughes now becomes how the Brain Trust wants to handle the Phil Rules. He is supposedly on an innings limit (160 innings? 175? What’s the number?). But what will that do to his effectiveness? Skipping starts to curb innings is likely not the best move, as evidenced by the 10-day break between his home starts in June against the Mets and Mariners. The Yankees need him to be effective in September and October, yes, but they have to figure out a way to do this right.
On WFAN Saturday, Steve Phillips, commenting on the Cardinals’ management of prospective NL Rookie of the Year Jaime Garcia, said Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan are not taking chances with Garcia; they’re not allowing him to start the seventh inning when he has a big lead. The Yankees can learn from that with Hughes. Skipping starts, especially as the pennant race heats up, could be devastating to both the Yankees’ chances and to Hughes’s development. Look what happened to the Tigers and Rick Porcello last year. Porcello was skipped several times over August and September as a means of preservation for the stretch run. He pitched well in the one-game playoff against Minnesota, but then this year had a miserable start and was optioned to Toledo in mid-June. He’s back with the team now amid rumors he’ll be packaged in a trade? Do the Yankees want to take that chance with Phil Hughes? Probably not.
So, okay, the Yanks’ didn’t hit much last night. Felix Hernandez was tough again, though not as dominant as he’d been against the Yanks in New York (without Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada in the line-up, he wasn’t facing the team’s best). It eventually caught up to the Yanks when Joba Chamberlain coughed-up a slim, 1-0 lead in the eighth. Gave up a grand slam of all things as the Yanks fell, 4-1 to the Mariners. Shame because Javy Vazquez was terrific–he had a no-hitter through six.
According to Ben Shpigel in the Times:
“He’s a human being that’s giving everything he’s got out there, so I don’t get frustrated,” Manager Joe Girardi said. “I still believe in him. He hasn’t been the eighth-inning guy for a year and a half. Most of the times we’ve had the lead, he’s done a good job. Tonight, he struggled.”
Girardi is correct, in a sense: of the 31 times Chamberlain has entered with a lead, only four times has he departed with the score tied or the Yankees trailing. One other time, he left with the lead, but Mariano Rivera allowed three inherited runners to score. The larger problem plaguing Chamberlain and, by extension, the Yankees is his unreliability. After every implosion, he calls it a learning experience, but does not seem to be learning from it or to have an explanation.
“You’ve got to go out and pitch,” Chamberlain said. “That’s the art of pitching. You’re not always going to have your best stuff, you’re not always going to have your best command. That’s the journey we have as pitchers.”
Tough night. It might not be fair (since when does fairness have anything with being a fan?) but every time I think of Joba these days, this is what I hear:
[Photo Credit: AP Photo/John Froschauer]
Over at SI.com Cliff takes a look at second-half X-factors who could decide playoff chases. First up, that man Joba:
On Tuesday night, Mariano Rivera announced that he’s going to skip the All-Star Game due to some minor injuries. Rivera has been pitching through the pain and doesn’t expect to go on the disabled list, but he’s unable to pitch more than one inning per appearance, and Yankee manager Joe Girardi has to be extra careful with the 40-year-old’s workload. That means Chamberlain, whose frustrating inconsistency has followed him back to the bullpen, will not only have to get out of his own jams, but could be called upon to close at points in the second half (he has already picked up two saves in the first half). While Rivera has been his usual dominant self thus far, the rest of the Yankee pen has been struggling, hurt, or both (see: Park, Chan Ho) for much of the season. Chamberlain dominated out of the pen before the Yankees moved him into the rotation in mid 2008 (1.32 ERA, 12.1 K/9 in 47 2/3 IP). In an AL East race in which the three best teams in baseball are separated by just three games and at least one will miss the playoffs entirely, Chamberlain needs to find that old consistency and fast to help ensure that the reigning world champions will be back in the playoffs to defend their title.
Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain, the Yankees’ two best right handed pitching prospects of my lifetime, don’t stand at a crossroads of their careers – they stand at a cloverleaf freeway entrance. Since 2007, Joba has been a starter, a reliever, a starter, a reliever, a starter, a reliever, a competitor for a starting job, and currently, a reliever. Phil has a more reasonable track record. He’s been a starter, a reliever and currently a starter. The buzz is that Joba may never make it as a starter, and if Phil also fails, they Yankees will have to ask if they handled them correctly.
Off the top of my head, I can think of several high profile, pitchers who jumped back and forth between starting and relieving roles and whose destinies were not forever derailed. Adam Wainwright and David Price pop immediately into mind as starters turned relievers turned back to starters with little detriment. And who could think that Mariano Rivera or Jonathan Papelbon were meant to do anything but hasten the extinction of rally caps and monkeys? Did the Yankees do anything that differently with Joba and Phil than has been done in the past?
I think the Yankees have a healthy respect for pitch counts and innings limits and are willing to pre-determine usage quantity for their young guys in the name of injury avoidance. But after that, I think they really don’t see much difference in which roles their pitchers accumulate those innings. What this may mean is that the arms are protected, but the starting pitching skills are severely under-developed.
Joba throws a 96-97 mph fastball out of the pen. He throws a 92-93 mph fastball in the rotation. Hughes throws 95 in the eighth, but only 91 in the first. These guys have to learn how to get out MLB hitters with the lesser stuff if they want to make it as starters. In short relief, they rarely work in a third pitch, and they never have to face any hitter more than once in a game.
The 1970s featured some of the greatest films of all-time. On my list is Network, which starred Peter Finch, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Robert Duvall and Ned Beatty, among others. I believe it’s one of the greatest of all-time in large part because it’s still relevant. The theme of ratings ruling success, damn the people responsible for creating the programming, hasn’t changed. Corporations who own the networks need a positive return on their investment. Money rules. Always has, always will.
Howard Beale, portrayed by Finch, who won an Oscar for the role, is a network anchor who is fired due to low ratings. Then, he is allowed to stay on the air and responds by announcing he’s going to kill himself on television during his final broadcast. The stunt, plus his famous rant, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” leads to huge ratings over the next two weeks, in which time the network exploits Beale’s insanity rather than take him off the air.
How does Howard Beale pertain the New York Yankees? Consider the case of Joba Chamberlain. The once-upon-a-time can’t-miss phenom has come full circle. He’s back in the bullpen for the 2010, where he’ll have to “earn” his spot as Mariano Rivera’s 8th-inning bridge. Or maybe he’ll pitch the seventh inning or be a swingman. Joe Girardi still doesn’t know.
Pitching coach Dave Eiland has told anyone who will listen that even in the event of an injury to starters ace through four, or mediocrity from Phil Hughes in the fifth spot, Joba will remain the bullpen. GM Brian Cashman called him a “starter who can relieve.” Joba is taking this like Cush from Jerry Maguire: “I just want to play baseball.”