Blame Joba?

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You can’t blame both Joe West and Joba Chamberlain for last night’s Yankees loss to the Red Sox. When seeking a responsible party, Mariano Rivera also has to be part of the mix. But since that’s not allowed in Yankee-centric circles, the focus turns away from Rivera to the reviled Chamberlain and the cranky veteran ump West.

There were concession speeches going on when Chamberlain was seen warming up in the bottom of the ninth inning. Not even Michael Kay could muster any enthusiasm – phony or otherwise – to show a small positive notion that Chamberlain would do anything more than what he did: give up a run to lose the game. He gave up the run and took the loss, but it’s not entirely his fault.

It really wasn’t that long ago when there were “Joba Rules” T-shirts all over Yankee Stadium; concerns were expressed that then-manager Joe Torre would abuse Chamberlain as he did Scott Proctor and other relievers to ruin his incredible arm; and near fistfights and lunatic rants as to whether Chamberlain should be a starter or reliever were a daily occurrence and went on for years.

It’s 2013 and rather than swat the Cleveland midges that partially defined Chamberlain’s 2007 coming-out party, he’s gotten so heavy that he simply would eat them to add to his prodigious girth. The Yankees and their fans can’t wait until he’s some other team’s problem. The story has come 75 percent of the full circle.

The midges are an appropriate allegory for Chamberlain’s career with the Yankees. It was sabotaged and missed being something special. Who knows what would have happened had Chamberlain been placed in the starting rotation and allowed to pitch and figure things out on his own rather than be subject to the stifling and counterproductive innings limits and pitch counts that ruined not only him, but Phil Hughes as well? What could he have been if he’d been placed in the bullpen as Rivera’s set-up man and allowed to do his job in the same devastating fashion he did when he was a sensation for two months in 2007?

As the years passed and the Yankees jerked him from the rotation to the bullpen and back, as Chamberlain himself ate and trampolined his way out of the club’s and fans’ good graces, he’s become the “Oh God, no” pitcher that no one with anything invested in the Yankees wants to see. Last night’s result was what was expected, but it wasn’t due to anything Chamberlain did. While the Shane Victorino check-swing was viewed as so cut-and-dried that it was portrayed an obvious swing and Chamberlain got himself ejected for arguing it after he was pulled from the game, it wasn’t so blatant that the entire episode should be placed at the feet of West.

After the check-swing, Victorino hit a looping single to right field to score Jacoby Ellsbury. Right fielder Ichiro Suzuki’s throw to the plate would’ve been in time to get Ellsbury had catcher Austin Romine held onto it. How are any of the events subsequent to the check-swing Chamberlain’s or West’s fault?

Chamberlain is immature and was damaged by the way the Yankees anointed and babied him since his debut. That said, he still throws a fastball that reaches the upper-90s and has a hard slider that will accumulate a lot of strikeouts if he’s simply allowed to pitch without all the hovering hatred and preordained negativity that follows him around as long as he wears pinstripes. He’s going to go somewhere next season, either be a set-up man or closer and rejuvenate his value simply because that’s what happens with pitchers the Yankees have played up as their homegrown saviors and are tormented and dispatched when they don’t produce results commensurate with the overwhelming expectations.

Don’t be surprised to see both Hughes and Chamberlain with a team like the Marlins on cheap deals and pitching well. Or for Chamberlain to be the Astros closer. Or for the Rays to try to do what they did with Kyle Farnsworth and Fernando Rodney, give Chamberlain the chance to close and coax 50 saves out of him. Then the fans will turn their ire away from Chamberlain to the Yankees themselves for not getting out of him what another team will. He can be of use. It just won’t be as a Yankee and for that, much like last night’s loss, there’s plenty of blame to go around.




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YES, the Yankees and Murdoch—A Look Into the Future

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Newscorp is closing in on a deal to purchase up to 49% of the YES Network—NY Times story.

After all those years of pure Yankees partisanship disguised as evenhanded sports news, it’s a relief that a trusted and historically non-partisan, fact-based entity such as Newscorp is buying into YES. Now, with the skillsets of Rupert Murdoch in installing qualified and reputable people to deliver fair and balanced dissemination of information, YES can become something other than the Yankees infomercial it’s been for its entire existence. Let’s look into the crystal ball of what to expect.

Say YES in the Morning with Meredith and John—6  to 10 AM

Meredith Marakovits and John Sterling bring you all the morning sports news with your coffee (and possibly a small shot of bourbon). Join Meredith and John as long as John is able to get up in the morning and clear the bleariness out of his head and eyes.

The audience wins. The….audience…..WWWWIIIIIINNNNNNSSSS!!!!!

The Emperor’s Lair with Jason Zillo—10 AM-11 AM

If you’re wondering what it’s like to be the gatekeeper to the Yankees Universe, wonder no more. Jason Zillo takes you on a tour of the Yankees from the all-seeing, all-knowing, guardian of the brand. From Derek Jeter’s lavish Tampa home to Alex Rodriguez’s star-studded dating history (he can give you a free baseball with his number on it), Zillo grants you, the audience, an audience.*

*Like the evil, all-powerful Anthony from the “It’s a Good Life” episode of the Twilight Zone, this is contingent on you only thinking good thoughts about the Yankees. He is the gatekeeper, after all.

Hank Steinbrenner Bloviates—11 AM-12 PM

With smoke coming out his his ears, nose, mouth and eyes—some of it cigarette related, some not; as well as imparting of baseball knowledge and irrational demands reminiscent of his late father emanating from his behind amid more smoke, Hank Steinbrenner asks, no, demands that you watch. And don’t change that channel.

The Daily National Anthem with Haley Swindal—12 PM-1 PM

You’re a patriot, aren’t you? Well, then you must enjoy Haley Swindal singing multiple renditions of The Star Spangled Banner and God Bless America, followed by stories about the adventures she’s experienced traveling around the world…singing The Star Spangled Banner and God Bless America. It’s a travel show unlike any you’ve ever seen!!

Mike’s On Simulcast—the Mike Francesa Show on WFAN 1 PM-6:30 PM (6 PM in-season)

A better Yankees apologist not officially working for YES you’ll never find. Francesa doesn’t bother with the inconveniences of journalism by deciding to interview or question the likes of Yankees GM Brian Cashman or manager Joe Girardi, he interacts with them providing insight and advice on players from Brandon Inge to Nate McLouth.

Of course Hiroki Kuroda’s going to take a 1-year deal to return to the Yankees!!! Of course he is!!! He prefers the West Coast? But don’t you wanna be a YANKEE?!?!

Watch Francesa drink endless buckets of Diet Coke, rant against the Mets with a faux passion diabolically disguised by raving, incomprehensible lunacy; see him cut Rex Ryan and the Jets down to size better than liposuction and stomach stapling; listen as he makes a difference (because it affected him) with LIPA.

And don’t you ever forget that Darrelle Revis committed pass interference on the doctor when he had knee surgery too.

During the baseball season

Yankees Pregame with Bob Lorenz, Nancy Newman and “analysts”—6 PM-7PM

If you’re looking for validation as to why the Yankees are the greatest thing ever-ever and will never lose but will only run out of innings, the search is over. The team of experts will provide you with a Machiavellian justification to explain away any lingering doubts that the Yankees might not actually be the only team to win a World Series in baseball history.

From April to late October (guaranteed)—Yankees Baseball 7 PM-10 PM

Yankees baseball from start to finish with zero objectivity and intelligent baseball wisdom delivered by the endless stream of broadcasters Michael Kay, Ken Singleton, David Cone, John Flaherty, Al Leiter, Mel Allen, Phil Rizzuto, Suzyn Waldman, Dwight Gooden, Mel Hall, Frank Messer, Denver Wieland, Kyle Hanratty, Dugan McPhasenot, Bell Corling, Deafness Matriculation and the rest of the crew!!

The Yankees Post-Game Show with Bob Lorenz

Detailed analysis of each game from how the opposing team wilted at the mere sight of the pinstripes and the all-encompassing nature of the Yankees aura, or explanations why the Yankees should have won and, in fact, did win even if they lost in that inconvenient “reality” of a completed game.

During the off-season

The Kay Factor—8 PM-9 PM

If you enjoy Michael Kay on CenterStage, you’ll certainly enjoy him in an edgier version of the previous incarnations of his show. Resplendent in leather, Kay will take the Mets to the woodshed; he’ll jab his finger in your face; he’ll threaten to punch Phil Mushnick!! With guests such as Joel Sherman, Dick Morris, Karl Rove, and Richard Gere(?), join Michael for a hard-hitting hour of sports news that’s sure to whet your appetite for chicken parm!

Curry—9 PM-10 PM

Don’t you dare question Jack Curry’s journalistic credibility. He’ll get the story from the PR department of the same organization for which he works and then throw a tantrum if ESPN reports it as well. Prepare to be Re-Tweeted and called a clown for an hour each weeknight if you’re not onboard the unstoppable Curry train!! It’s like Sean Hannity, only with less rationality and more self-indulgent tantrums.

Cash—10 PM-11 PM

Brian Cashman’s entire world is opened up for all to see. From the “obvious process” that goes into any and all decisions, to the “Big Hairy Monsters,” to the pitching development, to the trades, he’ll take you from Carl Pavano to Pedro Feliciano, from Joe Torre to Joe Girardi, from the Joba Rules to his exhilarating nightlife.

Prepare to be stalked with internal baseball knowledge (among other things) from a guy who works hard and plays hard!

The Randy Levine Revue—11 PM-Midnight

One part Dr. Phil, one part Oprah, one part Jim Henson, and one part Frank Caliendo, Randy Levine informs and entertains! With such guests as Rudy Giuliani, a puppet version of Torre in which Randy retorts in a different way each to night to Torre telling him to “Shut the bleep up!”, along with singing and dancing, Randy’s as talented as he is versatile.

If you thought the YES Network was the go-to place before with George Steinbrenner’s looming presence, you have no idea what’s coming. Prepare for the reckoning with Fox News and the YES Network joined together. You’ve always compared them. Now they are one. It had to happen. And finally, it is.

We all win.

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The Life And Rant Of Brian

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I apologize in advance for subjecting you to the writing of Joel Sherman.

Sherman wrote this piece in today’s NY Post in which Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman went into a self-indulgent tangent about the Life of Brian.

It’s no wonder he’s defensive considering his pitching choices that have deprived the team of their number 1 hitting prospect Jesus Montero and a useful arm for their rotation in Hector Noesi in exchange for two pitchers that now reside on the disabled list and will be there for the foreseeable future. Michael Pineda—who Cashman referenced in the piece with a clear agenda to defend himself—is lost for the year with shoulder surgery. Jose Campos is also on the minor league disabled list. He was initially put on the 7-day DL with elbow inflammation. That “7-day DL” has lasted for, by my count, 46 days.

Manny Banuelos is also injured and Dellin Betances has lost the ability to throw consistent strikes. The reality surrounding Cashman’s pitching maneuvers precludes any raving mania of, “It’s not my fault!”

Here are the main clips from Cashman’s rant. Facts ruin his foundation for said rant.

Cashman stews because he does not like the perception the Yankees’ usage strategy led to Joba Chamberlain’s Tommy John surgery.

No one who knows anything about baseball and pitching thinks that it was the Yankees’ usage of Chamberlain that caused his Tommy John surgery. Tommy John happens to pitchers who are starters, relievers, journeyman, stars, huge prospects and non-prospects. It happens to infielders, outfielders and catchers. It happens to quarterbacks in the NFL and anyone who stresses their elbow ligament with a throwing motion. There’s no stopping it no matter how cognizant and cautious teams are. Stephen Strasburg was the catalyst for the Sherman column to begin with and in spite of their babying, Strasburg got hurt too. That same thing happened to Chamberlain and it’s not the Yankees’ fault.

In fact, he used the term “people are so [bleeping] stupid” three times because he feels matters have been twisted to fit a narrative that he does not know what he is doing.

There’s a significant difference between not knowing what one is doing and not realizing that what one is doing is not working. Whether or not Cashman knows what he’s doing is only determined by the results of what he does and his pitching decisions have been, by and large, failures.

He’s clung to the innings limits, rules and regulations that have been shunned by other clubs and watched as those clubs have developed their young pitchers with greater rates of success than the Yankees have.

The most glaring part of this lament is that he’s still clutching to these failed strategies like he’s in quicksand and they’re a lingering tree branch. He’s made no indication of accepting that things may need to change to get the most out of the talented young arms they’ve accrued.

“Joba was a starter his whole amateur career and his first pro season (2007) with us,” Cashman said. “We only brought him up to relieve to finish off the innings he was allowed to throw while trying to help [the major league team]. And we probably don’t make the playoffs in ’07 if we didn’t put him in the pen. But he wasn’t bounced back and forth. And the debate only began because instead of keeping him in the minors hidden as a starter, we tried to win in the majors.”

This is the Yankees’ fault. Period.

If the long-term intention was to make Chamberlain a starter, what they should’ve done after 2007 was to make him a starting pitcher and leave him in the starting rotation in the face of the demands of the players, the media and the fans.

They didn’t.

Here’s what happened with Chamberlain: he was so unhittable as a reliever that he could not, would not surpass that work he did over that magical month-and-a-half in 2007. If not for the midges in Cleveland, that Yankees team might’ve won the World Series. The entire context of Chamberlain from his dominance to the “Joba Rules” T-shirts to the fist pumping made him into a phenomenon. It’s up to the man running the organization to contain the phenomenon and Cashman didn’t do it.

Cashman is engaging in revisionist history here to shield himself from the onus of contributing to Chamberlain’s on-field performance downfall, not his Tommy John surgery nor the shoulder injury that’s been called the real reason his stuff has declined and why he can’t start.

The debate began because he was a dominant reliever. They kept using him as a reliever to start the 2008 season, then shoved him into the rotation with the same hindrances preventing him from getting into a rhythm as a starter.

It got worse in 2009 as they again jerked him back and forth, placed him in the rotation—in the big leagues—but used him as if it was spring training during the regular season and let him pitch 3 innings in one start before pulling him; 4 innings in another start before pulling him, and continuing with this charade. Even when he pitched well and appeared to be finding his groove as a starter, they messed with him by giving him unneeded “extra” rest. After that extra rest, he reverted into the pitcher with the power fastball, inconsistent command and scattershot secondary pitches. Saying he wasn’t bounced back and forth is either a lie or Cashman has truly convinced himself of the fantasy.

Cashman also angrily said he believes the Yankees are held to a higher standard on this matter. He noted most organizations — such as the Nationals with Jordan Zimmermann and Strasburg, and the Mariners with Michael Pineda — shut down young starters when they have reached a prescribed innings cap.

If there’s a “higher standard” for the Yankees it’s because they invite it with the suggestion that they’re better than everyone else.

And no, Brian. It doesn’t work that way. You don’t get the benefits of being the “Yankees” without having to endure what’s perceived as a negative when it doesn’t go your way. I say “Yankees” in quotes because I’m not talking about them as the most decorated organization in baseball, but as the entity of the “Yankees” with their history and smug condescension of being one of the richest, most famous and recognized brand in the entire world. He has more money than any other GM to spend and with that comes responsibility. When things go wrong, he’s the man who holds the bag.

Without getting into a Selena Roberts-style bit of autodidactic pop psychology the kind she used with her amateurish biography of Alex Rodriguez and traced every A-Rod foible to his father having abandoned the family, it’s abundantly clear that Cashman’s profane forthrightness—bordering on unhinged—is stemming from the pressure he’s feeling not just for the hellish trade he made for Pineda and Campos, but because of his off-field crises that have embarrassed him as well as the organization and made him into someone whose mid-life disaster is negatively affecting his job.

It may have been cathartic to get these feelings out into the open, but he’d have been better off telling it to a psychiatrist than a hack writer from the New York Post because all this did was place Cashman back into the headlines with a bullseye on his back as a paranoid, egomaniacal, deluded and self-involved person whose job is on the line.

It’s not the “bleeping stupid” people who are to blame. It’s Cashman himself. He did it and he has to face the consequences.

All he succeeded in doing was to make himself look worse.

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