Saturday, December 14, 2013


Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes were gonna be huge in the Bronx and when the Yankees spoke of them... and handled them, they were "extra cautious". They were bubble boys in the Yankee farm system. The theory was, "Go slow, build them up and they will be our unstoppable duo." That, my friends was the plan at least. Looking back now, I almost feel robbed. Hey, it's no one's fault. The Yankees thought they had it figured out, and youth in the farm often follows because it's a chance to pitch in the Bronx. Now we know thought... it didn't work out.

Now, just to keep you in the loop, I am one of the few on the Internet that believed that the Yankees had a "babying" issue down on the farm. Many years ago, when Hughes was a kid being compared to Roger Clemens, he had a manager named Bill Masse. Masse questioned the training of the young pitchers saying:

"We get so ridiculous with this dumb pitch count stuff… Somebody came up with a pitch count thing (like) this is going to decide if a kid’s arm is going to be healthy or not. It’s like predicting the weather sometimes. ‘If he throws 66 pitches, he will be fine, but if he throws 81, he is going to get hurt.’ No one can predict that...he never learns how to pitch when he is tired. He never learns how to pitch when he is a little bit fatigued. I think you run into those problems because he is always fresh. Also, he is never in trouble. He needs to learn how to pitch out of his second or third jam in the seventh inning with two outs and he’s throwing 90 mph instead of 94.”

(In Photo: Bill Masse)
With that, Masse was fired, although no one truly knew if that was the reason. But you can draw your own conclusions. Still, the "babying" seemed to continue. When Joba came up around the same time, it was gonna be a nice compliment to that Roger Clemens youngster Phil Hughes. The chatter was Joba could be a starter, but he should be a reliever, maybe even a closer. Maybe even Mariano's replacement. After all, the timing was perfect and Joba was an animal. Thick body, electric and damn good.

But it's my theory that the toying of Joba, the "Joba Rules", the babying really ruined this guy. And not only that, in the process, it was continually ruining Phil Hughes as well. With Masse's theory of "not pitching out of trouble" and "not pitching passed a certain pitch counts", well, it started to ring true. And it was never more evident than in 2009 when he was outstanding as a reliever and NOT a starter.

Now, while it's true that the following season Hughes won 18 games, since that season, it went down hill.  I'll call fatigue all day long.  When your body and arm go through a dramatic transition, and innings are much more, you could almost suggest "the Verducci effect", meaning, it's a change in routine, many more innings and afterward, well, it's like going through the blues.  Sure, you feel fine, but your arm is tired and if you've been training at a pitching limit for years, you can't just jump out to 200 plus innings and stay there.  It's like a shock to the system.  It's muscle memory gone bad. That's my feeling at least.

Joba on the other hand was a Yankee and probably felt invincible even though he was jerked around.  He was still wearing the pinstripes and doing his thing.  One thing he wasn't doing though was being put in a consistent role.  After Tommy John surgery,  I was sure the Yankees learned their lesson too. I was sure then, they would keep him in in 1 consistent role, as to not damage Joba any further.  He was no longer unstoppable, he was mediocre, but he hungry and he was trying his best.  Not his fault, I believe it was the Yankees at that point.  Then... the trampoline killed everything. At the time, I killed the guy... read WHY JOBA CHAMBERLAIN NEEDS TOUGH LOVE.

Now look, you can't look back and wonder why he was jumping on a toy that causing a ton of injuries every year, but he did with his kid and I get that.  No one expected him to get hurt though. He did that too, and it was severe.

I was convinced then that the guy was finished. He surprised me though, he grew up and pushed himself to  get better.  He worked hard to become healthy and I admired that.  But Joba was never the same. He came back, but not as early Joba, but instead as broken-down Joba.  Both he and Hughes both were.  They were pitching almost like they were looking over their shoulder, like someone was after them. That "someone" was father time and an expired contract... and that's were we were when 2013 ended for them.

I was very excited for Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain to change the landscape of the Yankees pitching years ago.  On a team where veteran pitching was the "thing", something was changing, so I thought.  I thought wrong I guess because these 2 guys, in my opinion, were treated "too carefully" and matured in a bubble, too fragile to "stretch out" or further themselves.  It's my opinion that babying pitchers can ruin pitchers.  I believe in strengthening and not just in the back of the pitcher's shoulder, but in the front as well, to balance the muscles and keep the arm sound. I believe in a gradual innings increase. I believe in rest and most of all, I believe that the Yankees mishandled the roles of Joba and Phil in their desperation of uncertainty in their team's rotation. In other words, if a pitcher got hurt, "We'll just throw Joba in there." it doesn't always work out.  I feel bad for Phil and Joba and their time in pinstripes, I really do.

But now, a new hope for both of them. Phil has gone to Minnesota.  Joba has gone to Detroit.  Both have clean slates and I hope and pray that individually, they dig out of the hole, they can get some confidence and get the proper care and attention they need.  If that happens, they could be quite successful. That same success we've been looking for from them for years in the Bronx.

Hey... that's my take, but what the hell do I know... 

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1 comment:

  1. Yanks need to heed the Advice you have spoken of here with Benlous and Cabrea
    Think about it Brian and Joe


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