Monday, August 31, 2009

My Joba Rules

The Chicago White Sox have a lot of talent, but they're struggling at the moment. You never know when manager Ozzie Guillen is going to be a mad genius, or just a madman. And they just fell in 3 terrible-looking games at Yankee Stadium II.

That is, the games were terrible -- unless you're a Yankee Fan. As I am.

Friday night, Robinson Cano hits a walkoff home run. Very good. Saturday afternoon, Sergio Mitre and Chad Gaudin combine on a one-hitter, and the bats do their job, 10-0. Very good. Sunday afternoon, a tight 3-2 game becomes an 8-2 game in the 7th, including Mark "the Eyes" Teixeira channeling his inner Maurice Richard (ever see a picture of the Rocket -- and I don't mean Roger Clemens -- with the puck? Scary guy) "sending a Teix message" as John Sterling would say, on the way to an 8-3 win. Wiping out the White Sox. Sweeping the ChiSox. Pounding the Pale Hose.

I have no hatred for the White variety of Sox, but as Tim Robbins (sadly, a Met fan) would say, "I love winnin', man, I fuckin' love winnin'. Ya hear what I'm sayin'? It's, like, better than losin'!"

But one thing bothers me a great deal about yesterday's game. Joba Chamberlain was scheduled to start, and, for 3 innings, he was fine. But, once again, "The Joba Rules" were changed in order to baby him -- I mean, protect him, and Joe Girardi took him out. His idea? Someone else's? Does it matter?

I'm thisclose to saying the Yankees should get rid of Joba. Not because he can't get the job done, but because they won't let him get the job done. What good is a starting pitcher if you're only going to throw him for 3 innings? What kind of strategy is that?

Even Billy Martin never tried a stunt like that! Putting a pitcher 7th in the batting order as a DH? Check. (1988 -- I was there, and it worked, Rick Rhoden hit a sac fly in a Yank win over Baltimore.) A good-fielding pitcher as an emergency outfielder? Check. (Ron Guidry in the pine-tar replay in '83. I wasn't there for that one.) Best home-run hitter of the era on the bench until a righthanded reliever comes in and then send him in as a pinch-hitter? Check. ('77 Pennant-clincher in Kansas City, Billy didn't want to risk Reggie against lefty Paul Splittorff, but Reggie hit an RBI single off Doug Bird.)

It was Lou Piniella rather than Billy who put Don Mattingly in at 3rd base in an injury-induced emergency in Seattle in '86 -- and, unlike the Yankees when Curt Schilling had that ankle injury in the '04 ALCS, the Mariners bunted on Mattingly! And it didn't work: I was watching it on TV, and he spun around and fielded it just fine. Let's see Keith Hernandez, also a lefty thrower, try that! (And the Yanks came from 12-5 down to win the thing, 13-12! It was a late night.)

But this... Joba only pitches 3 innings? For what? Saving his arm? Isn't that like giving a car a "jackrabbit start"? It's one thing if you take your starting pitcher out that early because he's getting shelled. Guys get knocked out of the box. From time to time, it happens. But Joba he was pitching fine!

Yankee management -- and I mean the Steinbrenner sons, Gene Michael, Brian Cashman and whoever else makes these decisions -- has got to decide what to do with Joba. Either make him a real starter, and ask him to throw 6 to 9 innings every start, never mind how many pitches or innings he throws, just do the best you can on that day; or make him a reliever; or trade him to someone who thinks he can help them, and get someone that you think might be useful in return. But pick one method of using him and stick with it, so he (and everyone else) knows what the role will be.

Because, right now, the Yankees are messing up a very talented but very emotional kid who could still turn out to be one of the defining pitchers of the 2010s. Either use him as a real starter, or use him as a reliever, or get rid of him! Fish or cut bait! Maybe some other team will do him some good, but, right now, the Yankees are doing him no favors!

That's my "Joba Rules": Pick one set of rules and stick with it!

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