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The Greater Joba Chamberlain Anti-Rant

I completely sympathize with Duggan's point of view. If a spot in the Yankee rotation were to open up before the start of the season, I hope Joba Chamberlain would have a chance to win it.  I'd probably even support giving Joba the chance to fight for a spot with AJ Burnett (only 3 more seasons to go).

But Duggan loses me midway through his rant:

[Joba's] season was widely considered a failure and he was relegated to the bullpen after another starter was acquired (Javier Vazquez) and he lost his spot in a Spring Training competition.  He will most likely spend the remainder of his career in the bullpen or be traded.


The problem is that when it comes to these two, the organization has absolutely no logical consistency.  Phil Hughes is the favorite nephew who does no wrong and Joba is the weird cousin that could never quite live up to his SAT score.

Certainly, the fan outcries have been reactionary and illogical, but to say the same is true of the organization is a step too far.  While they could have been clearer in communicating their vision for Chamberlain, I don't think that means they were visionless.

1. Let's start at the finish- "the organization has absolutely no logical consistency."

Joba Chamberlain began 2008 in the bullpen, and as injuries took down Chien Ming Wang, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy, he moved to the rotation.  He was brilliant in his 65 innings- he allowed 3 ER or fewer in every start, and a string of 6+ IP starts gave Yankee fans hope for another late season comeback.  When he hurt his shoulder, and he came one Dr. Andrews visit from seeing the knife, the wind went out of the Yanks' season.

So in 2009, the Yanks tried a different approach- stretching Joba's limited innings over the length of the season in hopes of keeping him fresh enough to use in the postseason.  Of course, Joba pitched so abysmally in August and September (7.69 ERA and 1.93 WHIP in 11 abbreviated starts) that Joe Girardi wasn't willing to use him and nearly left Joba off the postseason roster all together.

Then came 2010. The 3 World Series stars (CC, AJ and Andy) owned the top spots in the rotation, and the re-acquired Javy Vazquez was a lock for the 4th spot.  Joba lost the competition for the 5th spot to Phil Hughes.

2. "[Joba's] season was widely considered a failure and he was relegated to the bullpen"

2009 ended badly, and the fan reaction was predictably outsized.  But what about the front office?

I suppose the Yankees could have handed Joba the spot without considering their other options, but Joba lost the competition in 2010 for the fifth rotation spot.  And it wasn't close: "Sergio Mitre outpitched Joba Chamberlain for the starting rotation competition in spring training anyway," said Brian Cashman.

That brings us to our next point.

3. "Phil Hughes is the favorite nephew who does no wrong and Joba is the weird cousin..."

With one spot open in the bullpen, either Joba or Hughes was going to spend most of the season in the bullpen.  Why shouldn't the starting spot go to Hughes, who was arguably the best pitcher in the minor leagues before his major league debut, and who had a spot in the 2008 rotation before being derailed by injury and inefficiency?

The argument that Hughes has received preferential treatment presumes that he hasn't earned it/ doesn't deserve it.  It's easy to show that Joba was pitching well in 2009, but at the start of 2010, it's hard to suggest he was throwing the ball nearly as well, and he took those struggles into the pen with him for the first half of the season.

4. "He will most likely spend the remainder of his career in the bullpen."

While Joe Girardi has made statements to that effect, and the current rumor mill projects the Yankees with five starters for next Spring, nothing is in stone.  Even less is sure for 2012 or whenever Pettitte retires, or when AJ pitches his way into purgatory, or even when someone goes down with an injury.