…but in themselves.
The Joba Chamberlain saga appears to be nearing its end—at least with the Yankees.
The signing of Rafael Soriano to such a lucrative contract demoted Chamberlain from primary set-up man to someone “in the mix” for the innings prior to the eighth and ninth.
The Chamberlain spiral—crafted by years of systematic misuse and abuse—is now a plummet and the crash will be ugly.
From phenomenon, media darling and fan favorite; to hotly debated (bordering on deranged) role from reliever to starter to reliever to starter; and now to mop-up man, Chamberlain’s value to the Yankees and for the Yankees is extinguished.
And he showed up in camp, fighting for his job on the roster, looking like John Belushi.
It’s not good.
The most disturbing aspect is the continued spin the organization is putting on the Joba Ruination—an eventuality that I predicted from the start of this tale as they perpetrated developmental malpractice on an arm—if not a person—that deserved better.
As evidenced by the headline on Yankees.com—“Added muscle has Joba eager to throw”—the weight gain isn’t classified as what it is (he’s fat), it’s “added muscle”. If that’s added muscle, I need to get back into personal training because all I’d have to do is drop a client at the nearest McDonald’s/Dunkin’ Donuts and pick them up after they’re finished eating.
“Eager to throw” doesn’t specify if that means he’s eager to throw a baseball or throw up in some desperate and unhealthy attempt to drop some of that weight.
The propaganda surrounding Chamberlain from his arrival in 2007 to now is indicative of perception being ahead of practicality, of truth.
Fabricating a monster through judicious presentation and usage guidelines was a carefully thought-out and preordained decision on the club’s part to shield themselves from the responsibility and possibility that Chamberlain would self-destruct; but what they failed to realize is that by refusing to deploy their weapon correctly or to make a concrete plan, stick to it, live and die with it, the failure is exacerbated.
Despite all the charts, graphs and medicals that can be referenced to defend the way Chamberlain was used, there was never a coherent, actionable and effective strategy to develop him on the field; the babying and special treatment might well have contributed to his sense of entitlement, poor behavior and attitude off the field.
Winking and nodding at the fist pumping; the rude comments; the immaturity—all have shades of the ends justifying the means.
“We put up with it from David Wells, we’ll put up with it from Joba”.
The old-school veterans didn’t like the antics; Chamberlain clashed with Jorge Posada when Posada was catching him; Derek Jeter appeared to want to apologize to opposing hitters when Chamberlain struck them out in an 8-2 game (with either team ahead) and felt it appropriate to shake his fist and bellow as if it was game 6 of the World Series.
Chamberlain is making his station worse with his decision to show up to camp fat, but the Yankees are still maintaining this veneer of blamelessness. From the constant allusions to the statistics of pitcher injuries derived from too rapid a jump in innings pitched; to the fluctuating roles and mishandling; to the newest excuses—his shoulder never recovered from the injury in Texas in 2008; and now the simultaneous admission by Brian Cashman that Chamberlain is “obviously heavier” while the club’s web entity publishes idiotic headlines like the one above—they’re repeating the “obvious process” (to quote Cashman).
But it’s a process to take a great talent and systematically render him irrelevant and disposable.
Chamberlain is nothing now.
He’s fat; he’s got a bad reputation; he’s not a starter nor is he an integral reliever; he’s tradeable because someone will take a chance on him, but the Yankees will get very little back in comparison to what they could’ve gotten two years ago.
Maybe this is the way it had to end. Maybe the only way for Chamberlain to rebuild himself is to do it elsewhere; for the Yankees to look at their organizational schemes in developing pitchers and realize that they’re faulty not on paper, but in practice and not let it happen again.
It’s not going to be a happy ending in the widened pinstripes Chamberlain now inhabits. Because no one wants to accept responsibility for this disaster doesn’t make it any less tragic in a baseball sense.
They destroyed him whether they admit it or not.
Short of divine intervention, the play has entered its final act.
Get your seat in the front row of you can stand to watch it.
There will be blood.