Strasburg’s Coming Back—Get The Hype And The Pitch Counts Ready

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So what’s the pitch count going to be for Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg‘s return to the big leagues?

Will the hype for his comeback from Tommy John surgery match that which surrounded him from his drafting to his rise to the big leagues?

Far be it from me to roll my eyes at the media circus that surrounds certain players, but this Strasburg madness is a repeat of the same silliness that accompanied him when he first came into the public consciousness as a college player; the same reaction when Joba Chamberlain became a phenomenon with the rules and regulations that dictated his use.

Eventually people tire of the hype for hype’s sake and move onto something else. This summer a similar media darling (whose mere mentioning begets a large number of readers and webhits—shocker!!) Brett Favre has had his name prominently suggested in a “Will he come back?!? Dum dum DUUUUM!!!!” style story.

In prior years, Favre has created much of that himself with his retirements and unretirements, but this time he’s said he’s done and hasn’t even implied anything to the contrary.

But the stories keep popping up.

I like watching Strasburg pitch, but we’re talking about someone who had a serious injury; was babied before that serious injury; is going to be babied more now; and is pitching for a team that’s going to end up about 30 games out of a playoff position.

It’s a diversion and not worth the attention it’s getting as it approaches.

But the machine is going to spin for the purposes of gaining readers, viewers and tickets sold.

It’s already starting and isn’t going to stop.

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The Joba Ruination Is Now Complete

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Noble and misguided, the Joba Rules surrounding the use of one-time Yankees phenom Joba Chamberlain demolished what was once a promising career for a young pitcher whose demeanor, look and stuff elicited memories of Roger Clemens.

Enacted to protect rather than develop, they became a growing and marketable entity with T-shirts emblazoned with the saying; chafing dictates placed on manager Joe Torre to protect Chamberlain from….manager Joe Torre; pitch counts; altered roles; rampant fear and eventual destruction.

Chamberlain was placed on the disabled list yesterday with discomfort in his elbow.

Today it was revealed that he needs Tommy John surgery and is lost for the year.

Now he’s not going to be a dominant starter.

He’s not going to be a great closer.

He’s not going to be a useful set-up man.

In fact, there’s every possibility that the Yankees might not tender him a contract at the end of this season.

That’s right. He might never throw another pitch in Yankees pinstripes.

How far he’s fallen.

Because the hype surrounding Chamberlain was so stifling and the expectations grew to such monumental proportions, the Yankees were more worried about him getting hurt than they were molding him into a good big league starting pitcher. After all was said and done, he never even became that. Following his nuclear splash onto the scene as a devastating set-up man for Mariano Rivera in 2007, Chamberlain was like a delicate and rare artifact that no one was allowed to touch for fear of breaking him.

He never became anything more than a “what could be”.

It’s becoming abundantly clear that every pitcher—save the freaks like Nolan Ryan, Steve Carlton, Tom Seaver, Greg Maddux—gets hurt. Regardless of the mandates of usage that have become prevalent today based on such idiocies as The Verducci Effect, they get hurt anyway.

And that’s the point.

Had the Yankees allowed Chamberlain to pitch as a starter without constraint in 2008, would he have injured his elbow or shoulder?

Maybe.

They would’ve been criticized for a lack of care for his powerful right arm and the result would’ve been exactly the same as it is.

They got nearly nothing out of him apart from aggravation and eye-rolling because of that paranoia. He never developed. They yanked him from the starting rotation to the bullpen back to the starting rotation and back to the bullpen; they used silly, arbitrary pitch counts to take him out of games after 3-4 innings in a start; they allowed him tremendous leeway in his behaviors and antics on and off the field; and they dealt with the constant and never-ending argument as to what he was; what he should be; what he could be.

He got hurt anyway.

Chamberlain and to a lesser extent, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy, were part of what was supposed to be a homegrown renaissance of Yankees pitchers leading the club from the championship years of Andy Pettitte/Mike Mussina/David Wells/David Cone/Clemens days into a new era of dominance.

It didn’t work out that way specifically because of the way all three pitchers were mishandled.

Kennedy’s in Arizona and pitching well—finally—away from the glare of expectations and spotlight shining on him, far from New York which exacerbated his struggles with a plethora of stupid, arrogant comments.

Hughes is on the disabled list coming back from an undefined injury; the club isn’t saying that his velocity is returning; that indicates to me that it isn’t as he rehabs under the watchful eye of pitching coach Larry Rothschild. He’s not close to being ready.

Chamberlain’s Yankees career may be over.

They did this and unlike the circumstances with Pedro Feliciano, they can’t blame the Mets.

Unlike the circumstances with Rafael Soriano, GM Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi can’t hold their hands in the air, tilt their heads, purse their lips and shrug as if to say, “hey, we didn’t want this guy in the first place”.

There’s a new generation of young talent coming up through the minor league system in Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos. Both are at least as impressive as this last crop that didn’t pan out. The organization is using the same strategies to baby them and keep them from getting injured.

It didn’t work with Chamberlain, Hughes and Kennedy. So what makes them think repeating the same mistakes all over again is going to yield a different result?

The Joba Ruiniation is now complete and the Yankees have no one to blame but themselves.

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