Saturday, March 27, 2010


  • Faith vs Delusion:

It's getting to the point where I'm almost embarrassed for Yankees GM Brian Cashman.

So invested in Joba Chamberlain being a starter, Cashman's no longer straddling the line of faith and delusion, but he's leapt over so irrevocably that I have to question his perception of reality.

It's hard to know Cashman's true motivation of having Chamberlain as a starter; of still holding onto this charade that the young righty has the ability mentally and physically to do the job well enough that his presence in the rotation would justify not having him in the bullpen. Even after the decision was announced that Phil Hughes had "won" the competition for fifth starter, Cashman maintained the belief that Chamberlain can article.

The main quote:

A day after handing the final spot in the rotation to Phil Hughes, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said he still believes that Joba Chamberlain is capable of being a starter.

"I think he can be that right now, actually," Cashman said.

At first the debate of what Chamberlain is----of where he'd best be suited----was viable. There were reasons on both sides for Chamberlain to get a chance to be a starter and for him to be placed in the bullpen. Initially, even with the clear dominance and swaggering demeanor that Chamberlain exhibited when emerging from the bullpen, I felt that he deserved a chance to start. If there was a small possibility that Chamberlain could develop into a Roger Clemens-style starter, it made sense to give him that opportunity. At his age, it would've been wrong to pigeonhole him as a reliever when he had (and still has----Cashman's right about this) the ability to be a starter.

Ability doesn't always imply what's best for the individual and the team; it doesn't always result in the proper implementation of talent.

Now, two-plus years into Chamberlain's big league career, the club has jerked him around and messed with his head to such a degree that he doesn't know whether he's coming or going; whether he's a reliever or starter. The player himself must want a definitive decision once and for all of what he is; to be allowed to pitch and not worry about being yanked after a certain number of pitches; of being watched by a paranoid, frightened and overprotective parent hindering his evolution into an adult.

And it's enough.

Cashman may truly believe that Chamberlain is a starter; he might be clinging to this fantasy due to stat zombie tenets of a good starter being more valuable than a great reliever----Cashman has avidly embraced those tenets in his remaking of the Yankees positively and negatively.

Or he might simply want to be "right".

As much of an understated, close-to-the-vest character as Cashman portrays himself, he's got an enormous ego; he wants credit for running the Yankees his way. Always chafing at the implication that it was Yankee-money that crafted the dynasty of the late 90s; jealous of the appellation of "genius" bestowed on Athletics GM Billy Beane and Red Sox GM Theo Epstein, Cashman wants his respect. Why else would there be this desperation to lower the payroll; to build from within; to steer the club as he saw fit? He may believe it's the correct strategy, but he also wants to be known as more than the guy who throws money at his team's problems.

Nothing is exemplifying the Cashman-way than this endless argument of what Chamberlain is; what he could be; what he should be.

It won't stop.

Cashman won't stop.

It appears as if everyone, everywhere can see what Chamberlain is; that his body language is different when he's relieving than when he's starting. That he loves being a reliever; that he's uncomfortable as a starter; with the constraints put on his personality by needing to pace himself as a starter; that his deployment as a weapon is far more devastating out of the bullpen.

Everyone can see it but the GM.

Would Cashman be so intractable with a young righty named Mariano Rivera if he were to arrive now in the era of the stat zombie; in the day of the idea that every pitcher with great talent has to be a starter? It sounds absurd now that Rivera is the best reliever ever-----EVER!!!! But now? I really wonder. Think about it----would he force Rivera to start even it's clear that he's not a starter?

Cashman's skill at judging pitchers has always been wanting. From thinking Kyle Farnsworth could be a set-up man; to Damaso Marte; to Carl Pavano and Steve Karsay, you can't deny the evidence that he's mediocre at best in evaluating pitchers. It takes more than numbers; more than a foundational belief in what's most appropriate in the name of team to nurture and acquire pitchers.

The case of Ian Kennedy was a misreading of talent, plain and simple. He was appraised wrong not just physically, but mentally as well. That mistake was rectified when Kennedy was traded. Now, he's...still...harboring...this...hallucination with Chamberlain.

I can understand the arguments that are being presented to keep Chamberlain as a starter. That he has four pitches; that his 200 innings could possibly be great; that the two years of babying will be wasted if he's sent to the bullpen permanently; but they're all easily batted down.

It's not wasting him if he has four pitches as a reliever; because he can blow people away with his fastball alone is irrelevant; outs are the key; shortening the game and using him in the best possible fashion for the team trumps anything else whether he does it with 1,2,3 or 4 pitches.

Could he be a 15-game winner if he's allowed to start 32 games and left in games to pitch rather than pulled at an arbitrary number of pitches and a chaotic strategy? Maybe. Is he more valuable to this Yankee team as a reliever? Absolutely.

The belief that the "wasted" years of babying justify him still being a starter is specious. Simply fulfilling a "plan" is no reason to compound a mistake; and that's what continuing to shove Chamberlain into the starting rotation does. It's not a matter what's best for the pitcher and team anymore; it's being obstinate for reasons that only Cashman knows. Why make things worse when they're clearly not working?

Cashman's not listening.

He doesn't get it.

And I'm starting to believe that they're going to cling to this ideal for a superior talent even if it destroys him. Someone has to get through to the Yankees GM, but at this point, it may be impossible, because he's got too much personally and professionally invested in Chamberlain being a starter that he's blinded; and when there are ancillary issues in developing a player, the best interests of said player are placed in the background and that's an invitation to disaster that is still being created by the day.

  • K-Rod the mentor:

There was an interesting article in yesterday's NY Times about Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez mentoring the 16-year-old Mets prospect Juan Urbina----Link.

Urbina's father, Ugueth Urbina was a closer for several teams in his career including the 2003 champion Marlins. The father is now in jail in Venezuela for a kidnapping and assault incident and asked K-Rod to mentor and keep an eye on his son as he makes his way in pro ball.

I don't know if I'd suggest that the young lefty mimic everything K-Rod does (the Mets closer does go over-the-top with his celebrations), but as a veteran big leaguer, it's a positive that K-Rod is watching over the youngster. It'll be interesting to see if Juan Urbina makes it.

In case you missed it, my book----Paul Lebowitz's 2010 Baseball Guide----is now available via Amazon and I-Universe. I'm pushing it ad nauseam. Accept it.

A preview is provided here.

People are telling me their orders have already shipped, which is an odd twist of fate and mail as they'll probably have their copies of the thing before I have mine.

No matter.

Order it now. NOW!!!!!


She-Fan said...

I don't have a problem with Cashman saying Joba is a reliever who can start....or he's a starter who can also relieve. The decision has been made to put Joba in the pen and I agree with it, but it's a luxury to know there's a guy who's had experience in the rotation - as inconsistent as he's been.

Gabriel said...

I think Cashman said that to tell everyone that he's the one steering the ship, and that though Hughes won the competition, Cashman is right and you'll see it during the season, Chamberlain WILL start some games.