Friday, April 4, 2008

The Real Joba Rules

So on Opening Night, Joba Chamberlain, who had been a Chicago White Sox fan growing up in Nebraska – I have no problem with that, although I’ve usually thought of the Cornhusker State as Kansas City Royals territory – faces Frank Thomas, now in a Toronto Blue Jays uniform, but the best power hitter the ChiSox have ever had, and maybe their best hitter period except for Shoeless Joe Jackson.

It’s the 8th inning, the Yankees are up by a run, and this guy’s got over 500 home runs and 2 MVP Awards. He’s about to turn 40, but he’s very much still a force with a bat. And he looks mean. (Every interview I’ve ever seen of him seems to suggest a decent and intelligent man, but he looks every bit as mean in the batter’s box as the kindly Mariano Rivera looks on a pitcher’s mound.)

Heck, his nickname is The Big Hurt, one of the most intimidating nicknames in baseball history, and one of the best nicknames in sports in my lifetime.

Joba strikes him out to end the inning. And he pumps his fist. (And Mariano gets the last 3 outs for the Yankee win.)

And, oy vey, the outcry! How dare this young Yankee punk express joy at striking out a childhood hero! Frank’s a Hall-of-Famer in waiting! Joba’s just a kid with barely 30 major league innings under his belt!

Here we go again, the Yankee Doodle Double Standard. The other 29 teams can do it and it's "youthful exuberance." A Yankee does it, and it's "arrogance," and we have to worry about the opposing team being offended.

Which is sort of like Democrats being afraid of questioning Republicans on their military strategy, since they'll call us "unpatriotic." They do that anyway, so let's get over it.

Here is a Muppet News Flash: The other teams are already offended by our history of championships and our money and our packed Stadium. It's time to start saying, "You're offended by us? Do we look like we give a damn? You don't like what we do, there's a way to stick it to us: Beat us. It's been known to happen. So do it -- if you can."

Here are the real Joba Rules:

1. Joba Chamberlain, help us win baseball games. Do that, and you will not only get a 2008 World Series ring, you will become the next "greatest closer in baseball."

2. Joba, don't listen to what people connected with other teams or rooting for them think. They don't pay your salary. They don't cheer you in your home park. We do. Please us, as you already have a few times, not them.

3. Joe Girardi, you are the manager. Pitch Joba as you see fit. It's easier to do that with a reliever than a starter, anyway. And remember: Every pitch thrown by Joba is a pitch not thrown by Kyle Farnsworth.

4. Brian Cashman, you are the general manager. Joba does not work for you. Shut up and let him pitch.

5. Hank Steinbrenner, you are the operator, if not the actual franchise owner. Your job is to run the business operations of the franchise. Joe Girardi works for you, but the players work for Girardi. If you're nervous about the way Girardi uses Joba, tough. Your father worried about the way Sparky Lyle and Goose Gossage and Mariano Rivera were used, but it worked. Trust your manager. That's why you hired him.

And finally...

6. Yankee Fans, just a reminder of a rule you're already following: Give Joba the chance to be the new bridge to Mariano and eventually the next Mariano. You'll be fine, and I suspect so will he.

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