Passionate defenses

joba_250_052809.jpgBy Jon Lane
Wow! Such fervor on these days. The source of it is a 23-year-old kid from Nebraska who set a standard so high as a set-up man that everything he does is measured against it. And each time he fails or simply takes his lumps, his destiny has to be altered permanently.

Yeah, here we go again. Joba Chamberlain belongs in the bullpen. It’s a topic that just won’t go away (at least we’re not discussing PEDs, the height of annoyance, this time) and right now it’s hot. Chamberlain has labored as a starter, Chien-Ming Wang is not in the rotation and everyone in the Yankees ‘pen not named Mariano Rivera can’t be completely trusted. Since we live in a town that demands instant gratification, Joba to the ‘pen will solve all the Yankees’ problems.

I’m not suggesting this is an argument without merit. It is. Chamberlain was fantastic in his eighth-inning role and only midges off Lake Erie dented him in 2007. Pitching out of the ‘pen allows him to go from zero to 100 using his best two pitches (2 > 4, writes Chris Shearn) while thriving off his emotion. Somebody has to eventually replace Rivera and Chamberlain is currently the best candidate to do it. Many made their points and they’re all valid. Kim Jones is practical. Mike Francesa is angry. Jerome Preisler combines passion with historical precedent. You the readers are speaking too. At last check of our homepage poll, it was 171-5 with the belief that Chamberlain will be back in the bullpen before season’s end. I can’t scientifically prove it, but there are probably many who initially believed in Joba the starter have since changed their tune, which is their right.

I’m not budging. Why are we drawing conclusions after 21 career starts? Does Joba have to be Rick Porcello or Justin Verlander, two guys off the top of my head who instantly met (or meeting) success as rookie starters? Do enough people study the cases of Roy Halladay, Tom Glavine or Zack Greinke, the latter who four seasons ago was 5-17 with a 5.80 ERA and now 8-1, 0.84 with five complete games? (Greinke also overcame social anxiety disorder and depression, another layer to his amazing story.)

Another question: Does anyone notice if Chamberlain was pitching in Kansas City?

Look, Joba the starter has been a tease and often frustrating, but 99 out of 100 young starters pegged for greatness experience a learning curve, and some longer than others. If Chamberlain is moved back to the bullpen, you stunt his development and reduce the innings pitched the Yankees are trying to limit anyway. Furthermore, each time Phil Hughes is lights out, he’s the phenom everyone was dreaming about. Every time he bombs – which will happen again – he’s a bust and belongs either in the ‘pen or the Minor Leagues. You can’t have it both ways and the Yankees have made the choice to build not for only this year, but rebuild a program they hope will come close to winning four World Championships in five seasons.

A big part of that is learning from failure and learning how to lose. Chamberlain deserves the same education. Once he’s a finished product he’ll have four dominant out pitches and a fully matured state of mind. I’ll take an elite starter over someone who only gets three outs and isn’t assured of pitching in every close game.


Another perspective: The problem isn’t Joba the starter. It’s the construction and handling of the current bullpen. Alfredo Aceves needs a defined role and why Jose Veras is continually asked to get big outs I’ll never figure out. David Robertson is back in the bigs. Use him and not just for mop-up duty. Thankfully for the Yankees, Brian Bruney will be back, and this time every extra precaution will be taken. That will leave you with Bruney – not Chamberlain – as your eighth-inning guy, and young guns Robertson, Mark Melancon and Phil Coke as the underbelly.

A nicely-laid plan unless the Yankees manage to swing a deal for Huston Street.


About Wang: Use him too. Don’t wait another nine days to dust him off, but don’t just shrug your shoulders and put him back into the rotation. Injury or not, Wang’s ERA was still 34.50 after three starts and that’s your judge and jury. Hughes got hurt and failed last year. He’s earning his way back. Now it’s Wang’s turn.


  1. yankeexx

    Again we have to think…were does Joba rule?
    So far not as a starter. But no one can dispute he did as an 8th inning reliever. Put Joba back where he ruled not where he’s TRYING to find a way to win.

  2. yankeexx

    If you put people where they succeed then you gain success. Joba succeeded as an 8th inning bridge. As a starter he’s just to fragile. Emotionally and otherwise. He’s going to blowout his arm to get out of the first few inning just so he doesn’t fail. The team loses or gets a no decision. As a potent reliever he has a chance to secure multiple wins in a week. That’s where Joba Rules. There’s no I in team so hope Joba realizes he offers more as a bridge than as a stand alone starter. Wang is ready and hungry don’t let him fester out in the pen. Do the flipflop and see the Yanks advance even further.
    Joe…can you hear us?(


    Jon, between you and JP (Deep In The Red), and the writings on Joba (start vs relief), Wang etc. it drives me crazy and I keep flipping back and forth on which way to go. I do want to see Wang in the rotation but I can’t agree on the notion to go to a 6 man rotation (suggested). I do however would like to see Jaba as a closer after Mo’s days are over and boy is that hard to think about and digest!


    This is really getting to be beyond ridiculous. He’s a starter for this season. Period. And he DESERVES that opportunity. Has it all been rosy so far this year? No. But he’s only 23 years old, and last time I checked, his ERA is under 4, even with the not so great outing in Texas. And his ERA as a starter last year was 2.76. You don’t waste that kind of talent, especially at his age and with four above average pitches, by limiting him to one inning a night. Even if he’s lights out in that role. For the future beyond this season? We don’t know yet. But it should be obvious to Mr Lane and anyone with half a brain that yo-yo-ing someone back and forth mid-season between the rotation and the bullpen is NOT the best thing for the team or the pitcher in question. Give the kid a chance for crying out loud and stop overreacting to every single negative thing that happens. And stop listening to Mike Francesa. Despite what he believes, he does not know everything.

  5. check-swing

    You people are just not smart. Maybe tabbing Joba as the heir apparent closer is too much,certainly right now…..but as far as THIS year, for right NOW he needs to be in the bullpen. “He’s a starter for this season. Period” HE HAS AN INNINGS LIMIT, SIR. He will be in the bullpen one way or another by the end of the year, unless he does so poorly in his starts that he doesn’t reach the limit. LOOK PEOPLE, I’m not saying he needs to go to the ‘pen and stay there forever, and I don’t think thats what Mike Francesca is saying either. I think Joba is a number 1 starter. But the fact of the matter is that right now we have 6 capable starters and a closer. The rest are question marks. Girardi said Wang understands he is here to help the team, and thats why he’s in the bullpen. I don’t think Joba or anyone else on the team is above the sentiment, certainly not if Wang isn’t. I don’t care if Joba had a 2.76 ERA last year-which I actually doubt btw-Wang was the winningest pitcher in all of baseball for 2.5 Years. Give THAT kid a break. If you want Joba to remain a starter your arguments should be all about Phil Hughes numbers, not Joba’s. FACT of the matter is that right now we are a dangerous team, we can be really good. You put Joba in the ‘pen however, and we become a lethal, scary team. We go from a questionmark bullpen to the nastiest set up-closer duo in baseball. IN BASEBALL. How many leads have you seen blown this season already? With Bru out for who knows how long we don’t have any 8th inning guys and barely some 7th inning guys. Even when Brian and Damaso get back they have not been able to touch the success Joba’s had in the 8th. He might be only pitching an inning every day instead of 4-6 every 5 days(he’s only lasted into the 7th once so far) but he’ll have a chance to help the team win several times a week instead of once every 5 days. That so far has only equated to two wins. I love Joba, am a big fan…..but if you have common sense its easy to see what our one glaring weakness is, and for the time being that can be fixed with our personnel.

  6. check-swing

    ….and it can help us win now so we don’t have to sprint to the finish line exhausted like we have each of the last 4 years.


    There’s a bigger long-term picture here. Here’s a guy with terrific stuff, starters stuff, potential ACE #1 stuff. You want that guy’s talent working for you for as many innings as possible. And thankfully they are letting him do that, even with an innings limit, so that next season and beyond, he will be less restricted and (hopefully) maximizing that potential ace stuff into being part of the young core of a very fine starting rotation for many years to come. Mariano Rivera was moved to the bullpen from the rotation all those years ago because he basically failed as a starter. Joba has actually been decent to very good as a starter so far in his career, and he’s still very young. (He’s 2 years younger than Rivera was when he was switched to the bullpen from the rotation). He’s certainly shown enough promise to keep him on his current course of development; the course, by the way, for which he was drafted in the first place. Switching him now basically erases all that development just to go for the quick fix, which despite what many people seem to believe, is no guarantee to be “automatic” in terms of its effectiveness. Bottom line is he deserves this opportunity in order for the Yankees to really see what they’ve got on their hands. As magnificent as Rivera has been as a closer, he is a freak of nature. An anomaly as far as consistency over time for closers go. When you see that you have a 22 or 23 year old kid with the kind of upside Joba has shown, and you have a choice to develop that talent into a possible front-line starter or a possible future closer, the wise thing to do would be to develop him as a starter. Or at the very least give him the opportunity to develop as a starter.

  8. check-swing

    Like I stated, I see him as a starter and I think everyone does. I never ever said he should be a career relief pitcher or closer. But this IS New York and results are needed on a daily basis just to keep afloat in this division. RIGHT NOW the teams need in the Bullpen is greater than Joba’s need to start. And I watch enough baseball to know he won’t be “automatic,” but Joba on paper is better than what we have and if you can’t admit that then you’re just stubborn or ignorant. I would love for Joba to remain in the rotation this season but I’d rather make the playoffs and win a championship, and who knows if that could be the difference. I suppose we’ll see once the ‘pen blows a few more games.


    It’s not passion.
    It’s exasperation.
    I honestly believe that Mike Francesa has decided to prove that he has the power to control the decision a major NY sports makes by pounding this dead horse until it turns to gravy. It’s obnoxious and it’s boring.
    Every site with professional analysis of the value of roles has already explained in exhaustive detail how Joba’s contributions as a starter are already far more valuable than anything he ever did as a reliever or could do as a closer.
    With the information in hand, there is no discussion.
    Fortunately, the Yankees appear to be oblivious to the nonsense that’s suddenly erupted again in the press. They were not considering it before and, as far as we can tell, they’re not considering now.
    The press shouldn’t be considering either, and no informed fan would be considering it – esp. since it’s not going to happen.
    All Francesa can do is make his once-entertaining show unlistenable, in which he has already succeed.
    I beg of you all, talk (and write) about something else, anything else!
    Just stop with Joba. He can’t pump his arm, he can’t start – it would almost be worth trading him just to deprive Francesa et co of the object of their depressing obsession. The joy of having a great young arm is being turned to misery.
    Please, just stop.
    Just stop.

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