If I am to believe the media's spin, then today is apparantly the biggest day of Joba Chamberlain's life.
If he pitches well in today's critical game against the Phillies (who, by the way, may or may not use half of their regular starting lineup), then he'll stay in the running for the 5th starter's job, and we'll get to rehash the argument over his role on the pitching staff for another few days, until he makes his next do-or-die start (followed by another few days of debate and another do-or-die start). On the other hand, if he pitches poorly, then he'll almost certainly move to the bullpen to start the season, and perhaps inevitably, for the rest of his career.
I don't know what's spin and what's real anymore. Joba Chamberlain has been a godsend for the careers of so many sportswriters who owe their professional existence to having something to write about every day. Other than that, he's just like any other young pitcher who has ups and downs.
Does anbody else realize how irrational our obsession with this poor guy has become, how ridiculous and self-serving the media's coverage is, and how this long-winded and ultimately futile debate is ultimately the result of four trivially small numbers?
24 is the number of major league innings Joba pitched in 2007, as a reliever, which, in hindsight, set the bar so unrealistically high that the rest of his career will almost inevitably be viewed as a disappointment.
10 is the number of earned runs he allowed in 2009 that made up the difference between his ERA and Andy Pettitte's. Putting aside criticism of his tendancy to run up high pitch counts early, or the awkward way the Yankees tried to limit his innings late in the season, if Joba had given up one less earned run every three starts (perhaps by getting a few more lucky bounces and having a few more close defensive plays ruled as errors instead of hits), we probably wouldn't be having this debate anymore.
6 1/3 is the number of innings he pitched in the 2009 postseason, as a reliever, where, thankfully, he posted a good ERA to help hide the fact that he was used erratically (he had 7 apperances of less than 1 inning), posted a subpar WHIP (1.58), and could have very easily been the goat of Game 4 had it not been for Johnny Damon's double steal and A-Rod's late inning heroics.
2 is the number of innings he's pitched this spring, plus perhaps another three or four today.
Somewhere around 35 innings and 10 earned runs are the crux of what nearly every Yankees fan and New York sportswriter has been talking, obsessing, and arguing about for the better part of two years. 35 innings and 10 earned runs.
Just stop and think about that for a minute.