Tuesday, July 27, 2010

With Truncheons And Torches

  • The pariah:

Joba Chamberlain has become the combination of Frankenstein; the hunchback of Notre Dame; the Elephant Man; and Kyle Farnsworth in the circle of Yankee fandom. In fact, I'm sure some of his teammates----who were subjected to the stifling attention doled on a young pitcher who'd essentially accomplished nothing aside from being a media phenomenon and blowing away big league hitters for little over a month----were somewhat rankled over the special treatment he received.

Dragged into the debate of whether he should be a starter or reliever, it had to have grown tiresome to hear this young pitcher canonized for nothing; to see his accomplishments placed on the side because of what he "could" be; because he bore a resemblance in motion and ability to Roger Clemens.

Now, the circle is almost complete. Fans don't even want to hear the name Joba Chamberlain as a starter or reliever; his former defenders in the media are suggesting that he be included in trade talks; and even the likes of Mike Francesa, who looked like his head was literally about to erupt (no doubt emitting a volcanic blast of Diet Coke from his bloated cranium) are only still lauding Chamberlain's talent as a self-justifying device rather than honest assessment----far be it from Francesa to ever admit he's wrong about anything; so invested in Chamberlain's success as a reliever after his daily bloviating on the subject that he'll stick to his "Joba is a reliever" mantra to the end of days, Chamberlain's career, Francesa's retirement, or all three.

As cynical as I am, the subjectivity of Chamberlain's rapid plummet is stunning. How he got to this point isn't in debate. The Yankees jerked him around; babied him; treated him as if he was a breakable and invaluable artifact; and have fostered his demise.

But that doesn't absolve the pitcher himself.

He has not been good.

The whole combination of nickname (I'm going to stop referring to him as "Joba"); hype (from team, fans and media); personality (the fist-pumping is only charming when he's doing well and only to Yankee fans); and ability (he's got brilliant stuff) have combined to build and incrementally dismantle this monster.

Can he be rehabilitated in a Yankee uniform in any role? And how can they salvage him as reality sets in and he's judged on what he does rather than an interpretation of what he can be?

The Yankees have several choices with Chamberlain. They can trade him while he still has value in the eyes of opposing executives or before he gets hurt; they can use him in a role less stressful and important as the eighth inning; or they can send him down to the minors.

Trading him is fraught with risks, but he could potentially be the centerpiece for the return of a star player. Opposing organizations would still give up a lot for Chamberlain; but the reality is that the Yankees: A) don't have the glaring need for a star player they'd get with Chamberlain fronting the deal; and B) the big chips for whom Chamberlain might have been worth moving----Dan Haren, Cliff Lee----are off the board. Plus with Lee and Carl Crawford, all the Yankees have to do after the season is throw money at them rather than give up a still valuable asset like Chamberlain. I don't see it happening until the off-season and it's highly unlikely then.

They're not going to stick him back in the starting rotation now. The public and media would slaughter them for the wishy-washy was in which Chamberlain has been handled and the repeated indecision on his role; plus, it wouldn't work. Given his stumble as a reliever, the call for him to remain there won't be anything more than the selfish bellow of Francesa and the brigade of not seeing truth as they're blinded by egomania of being "right". If they want to make him a starter, it has to be next season.

What they can do is what manager Joe Girardi suggested after using David Robertson and Boone Logan to get through the eighth inning last night and go by matchups and whoever is pitching the best. Right now, that's Robertson. They can't trust Chamberlain in a close game. Placing him in a lesser role in the sixth or seventh inning with a lead that is too ample to be blown is the best way to try and get him straightened out unless they're willing....to send him to the minors.

It's not crazy to demote him.

No one could reasonably argue that his performance isn't demotion-worthy and if it was anyone else, he would've been sent to the minors or traded already. Chamberlain might benefit from an increased wake-up call of being sent down, plus it's a strong message to everyone that the Yankees don't have a scholarship program that allows rotten performance to go unpunished. Would he be mentally tough enough to handle such a fall from grace? Would it be an opportunity to rebuild him out of the spotlight? It shouldn't be dismissed out of hand and after a few more bad outings, it could happen for the good of the pitcher and the team.

Everyone has a hand in the decline in results and reputation that has befallen Chamberlain. The Yankees insipid set of rules to ostensibly "protect" Chamberlain have sown the seeds of this burgeoning disaster. The fluctuating roles are a byproduct of internal and external debate of how best to use the pitcher and he's now a non-entity in the Yankees bullpen because Girardi is afraid to use him.

It's either rebuild him or get rid of him to give him a clean start; and either/or might be the best thing for him. Expectations have dwindled to the point where no one's going to much notice what they do with him as anything other than idle curiosity bestowed upon a freak or as a means to criticize Chamberlain's (mis)handling. In any event, what's done is done; what the Yankees do about it going forward is the question.

  • Speaking of "insipid" and "Girardi":

With Yankees manager Joe Girardi's contract expiring at the end of the season, there's been talk that the Illinois native would have interest in the open Chicago Cubs managerial job.

On the one hand, it would be a revelation as to Girardi's true managerial skills if he did take the Cubs job, but does anyone really think that he's going to leave the Yankees for the Cubs? It's a negotiation ploy that's not going to work because if he actually did try to use the Cubs job as a hammer over the heads of Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenners, I can bet that they'd wish him well, let him leave and find someone else to manage the club without hesitation.

There's a part of Girardi that still has the "athlete's ego" and takes offense that his contribution to the Yankees' success is minimal; that anyone can take that group of players and win, but it's pretty much true. In fact, Girardi was lucky that his glaring mistakes in last year's post-season didn't cost the team the championship.

Girardi is very smart and still learning, but he'd neither make the money in Chicago that he'll make with the Yankees; nor will he have the prestige or guarantee of having the players to win.

He is not going to the Cubs.

  • Eye of the beholder:

The Diamondbacks return on the trade of Dan Haren to the Angels is being roundly criticized. I can't sit here and say anything about the players they received aside from what I read on the stat sheet and what others are saying about them; there's no way to know much about those players aside from established big leaguer Joe Saunders. As I said yesterday, two of the three look good enough numerically and age wise that the Diamondbacks got a pretty good package in Patrick Corbin, Tyler Skaggs and Rafael Rodriguez.

Who knows?

It has to be taken into account that under their current regime the Angels haven't made many mistakes in trading youth for veteran help. The acquisition of Mark Teixeira in 2008 "cost" them Casey Kotchman and Stephen Marek. Marek is pitching well in Triple A for the Braves as a reliever, but he's also going to turn 27 in September; if he was a legit, big time prospect, he'd have made it to the big leagues by now.

The Diamondbacks liked the package they got from the Angels and the Angels took Haren's whole contract. To rip the trade now right after it was completed isn't just premature, it's stupid.

  • Viewer Mail 7.27.2010:

Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE Bobby Valentine; Dan Haren and the Angels:

If he gets a gig, I would hope Valentine could manage a game better than his job jockeying.

There's another "OOPS" moment for ya.

As for the Angels and Haren... ruthless, those Angels. Ruthless. They don't ever give up. That's baller.

It's a shame how managers without half of Valentine's strategic skills are recycled, but he's done this to himself. You can cross off about 20 teams that would either want nothing to do with Valentine personally; wouldn't have the players to compete; or wouldn't pay him what he wanted. Then there are the teams that could handle him, were willing to talk with him----and he alienated them or things didn't work out (the Red Sox before hiring Terry Francona; the Orioles; and now, apparently, the Marlins).

Where's he going? I'd keep an eye on the Dodgers situation with Valentine. Tommy Lasorda loves him like a son and the club is going to need a big name with skills to replace Joe Torre if this is truly it for him. Valentine is a candidate there. The Cubs? I don't see it. Conceivably, a new regime in Texas might want a name to manage the Rangers and if they keep Nolan Ryan, he and Valentine were on good terms when Valentine managed the Rangers 20 years ago.

If he toned it down a little, he'd get another job; but he's Bobby V and he won't.

The Angels aren't simply ruthless; they're fearless too; and stealth; and aggressive; and smart; and they don't panic; I could go on and on.

Max Stevens writes RE the Angels:

In a response to a letter posted Monday, you suggested that Bobby Abreu is among a number of players who will be gone at the end of the 2010 season. I could be wrong, but my understanding is that the Halos gave Abreu a two-year deal after last season, worth about 18m. If this is the case, it seems to me that the club needs to get younger and better defensively at both corner outfield positions. Would they move Abreu to DH? Also, will the Angels be serious players for Carl Crawford in the offseason, or are they more likely to give Mike Trout and/or Peter Bourjos chances to make the team and be everyday players? Crawford is a solid player, but the Angels would be adding a lot of salary at a position where they have guys in their system who seem like they may be ready for the show sooner rather than later.

Max is right. My mistake. Abreu is locked in for next year with an option for 2012. The other contracts about which I spoke were accurately assessed. (I also said the Skaggs was a 40th round pick yesterday when he was actually the 40th pick in the first round----I'm a mistake machine!!!)

Since they value pitching, the Angels always have to be watched with the likes of Cliff Lee, but they are also enamored of Crawford. They're highly, highly, highly unlikely to overmatch the Yankees spending power in their desire to get Lee, so the next logical choice is to go for a bat in Crawford and use the pitchers they have while looking for a less-expensive name like Jake Westbrook to fill out the rotation.

With the youngsters, the Angels have never been shy about giving one of their kids a chance to play, so they might decide to go with one of their homegrown talents; but if they don't get Lee, Crawford is someone they're going to be after and one of the few teams with the money and venue to get him.

I was a guest with Sal at SportsFan Buzz on Friday discussing all sorts of stuff. You can listen directly here----link----or click on Sal's site and download it from I-Tunes.

My book is still available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and Noble.com. It's available for download as an E-book here. You can also now get it for less that five bucks on BN via download here.


Jeff said...

Ugh... Joba. Spot on with the man-child's sitch (it's never pleasant being compared to Farnsworth, I'm sure)...

I don't think the Yanks will get much for him at this point. Maybe he would do well with a change of scenery.

If he joined my team I'd kick his ass for every time he did one of those outrageous fist pumps in a meaningless situation.

She-Fan said...

I think sending Joba to the minors would be a good idea. Cliff Lee went to the minors and look how that turned out. Contrary to your comment on my blog, Joba was indeed rushed through the minors the first time around, rising through three levels to the majors in 07. Yes, there were The Rules, but the problem might be a case of too much too soon.