With Joba, The Yankees Lack Transparency

I think anyone who has been reading my stuff for awhile knows 2 things: 1) I want Joba Chamberlain to start and 2) I generally have pretty tempered reactions to things.  I like to put things into perspective.  I said in the beginning of Spring Training that the 5th starter battle was overrated and now I need to remember those words.

So Phil Hughes will be the 5th starter.

Fine.  I can handle that.  Phil Hughes SHOULD be a starter after all.  That’s what the Yankees developed him to be.

Sending Joba for a “1-inning” stint?  Now, that makes me angry.  Do I take out my rage on my own body and punch a wall? Maybe make myself watch Mets highlights from last season?  No, this one needs to be reasoned out.

Here is the most important assumption I am going to make: the Yankees want Joba Chamberlain to be a starter.  This HAS to be true.  How could the Yankees have gone to so much trouble with the “Joba Rules” otherwise?  Brian Cashman is a smart guy.  You don’t invest in a player and waste that investment.  It would literally be like throwing money away.

So here is what I consider to be the silver lining: the Yankees claim they base inning limits on career numbers, not just the previous season.  That’s how they came to Joba’s cap number last year and Hughes’ this year.  So it’s conceivable that the Yankees want Hughes to start this year so that in 2011 they’ll have both pitchers as starters without limits.

Now, I can get behind that a little.  I would be completely behind it if the Yankees just said that Joba would be the de facto 6th starter if any other starter went down for more than a start or two; that does not appear to be the case however (though there is still hope, I guess).  I am skeptical that Joba can be a 1-2 inning pitcher all year and just jump right back to starting.  You don’t run 5Ks for a year and then run a marathon.

So my main question is, why haven’t the Yankees been more transparent about what their plan is for Joba?  I know we often refer to Cashman as a ninja for his stealthy trades and signings, but what’s the point in obscuring their Joba plan? (And for the record, I know many will say “They don’t have one!” but that’s seriously impossible.)

Let’s look at this from Cashman’s perspective though: I know he claims to read the blogs (and I don’t doubt him) but for the most part, he primarily hears mediots saying that Joba should be in the bullpen.  So he figures, why lay out the plan for starting Joba when it surely will simply bring negative attention?  And if they decide to tweak the plan in some way, it would then bring more (probably negative) attention.

Since Cashman took full control of the team, I’ve been a fan of almost every move the Yankees have made.  I’ve particularly loved their offseason this year, since I think Cashman got more creative (as good as last offseason was, the Yankees did simply sign the best pitcher and the best hitter).  So now, I have to trust that the Yankees understand what many of us in the blogging community understand: that Joba needs to be given every chance possible to start.

Could Chamberlain end up a closer in the end?  Of course.  Maybe he needs those few extra MPH on his fastball, psychologically, to be successful.  But he’s had great stints as both a starter and a reliever, so the Yankees owe it to themselves and to Joba to see if he can become the most valuable commodity in baseball: a young, front-line starter.

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3 Responses to With Joba, The Yankees Lack Transparency

  1. bob weisberger says:

    Brian – Interesting post, but I think it's better not to use the potential regret of "throwing away money" as a rationale for future decisions. It's best to acknowledge that an investment may not pan out rather than doubling down – a sunk cost is spent money no matter what happens next. Bottom line is what Joba is best suited to do going forward, not whether time, money and effort were previously expended in trying to make him a starter or reliever.

    • Brian Burkhart says:

      I agree mostly with your rationale here, especially because the Yankees obviously work under different financial restraints.

      The thing is though, there is no reason to think that Joba isn't best suited being a starter. Despite what the media says, Joba thrived while starting for most of 2008 and early last season. Just because he struggled a bit down the stretch last year (when he was being asked to pitch under limitations) is no reason to think he can only pitch out of the bullpen.

  2. bob weisberger says:

    And it is certainly true that Joba was doing well as a starter last season after the break until the Yanks started jerking his pitching schedule around. I do think he has been a victim of confused expectations and confused planning and has been a good trooper throughout. The Yanks deserve some blame for their own indecisiveness re his role.