Wednesday, August 6, 2014


The booing surprised me. He emerged from the Visitor’s bullpen clad in a gray, Detroit Tigers’ uniform and sporting a beard that would make the Red Sox all say, “Dude, that is crazy.” He might not be our Joba anymore, but make no mistake he remains the Joba Chamberlain we all knew and rooted for when he burst on the scene in 2007…and I was happy to see him.

The debate about who ruined the fiery, young right hander in the Bronx rages on as the Tigers are in town for this 4 game set. Was it an overly cautious and conservative organization that established the “Joba Rules” and handcuffed his emotion and aggressive style? Or was it the player himself that lived and played a bit too hard and alienated himself from the club that drafted him? I’m sure arguments can be made on both sides but I firmly believe that Joba’s story could have been a very different one…one that would still have him dealing high heat in Pinstripes rather than Motown’s Blue & Orange.

The ups and downs aren’t something Chamberlain laments, he owns up to it all. He has taken responsibility for everything that happen while he played for the New York Yankees. After his shutdown performance on Tuesday night a more mature Joba addressed the media and let them know that he loved and learned in his time with the Bronx Bombers. He said the organization gave him his start and he will never forget that. If he does harbor any ill will toward the front office, manager or teammates he certainly didn’t let it show. That’s a sign that Joba Chamberlain is a professional.

Even after losing the handle and plunking his former Captain, the kid from Lincoln Nebraska said he’d never felt so bad in his entire life. You can see that Derek Jeter means a great deal to Detroit’s bearded reliever. The Captain was not only a teammate, but also a close friend and when all is said and done that is bigger than the game.

Even some of in his own clubhouse often dogged Joba because of his wild, fist-pumping war cry after a big strikeout. He was fueled by emotion and it made him effective. Yes, Mariano didn’t handle himself that way…does that mean everyone has to be Mo? Did we ever hear about guys pulling Paul O’Neill aside and telling him to cool it? No.

Some players find that zone and feed on emotion. When the Yankees took that from #62 they started making Chamberlain someone he simply couldn’t be. I loved Mariano as much as any Yankee fan, but when there was a “run-in” between the Greatest Closer of All Time and his one time heir apparent, I didn’t give it much thought. I read the biased “well I never…” story written by John Heyman and thought, “Mo ain’t the Pope!” Joba took offense to being scolded like a child and reacted. Yep, he should have waited until he and Mo were away from the press to set Rivera straight, but was Joba well within his right to feel slighted? Sure.

Nobody likes to be talked down to…especially by a teammate in mixed company. My verdict. Both guys were wrong and Heyman should’ve focused on baseball instead of being the glorified TMZ reported he tends to be.

I watched game 2 between the Yanks and Motown Cats and saw the similarities between Dellin “Icky Thump” Betances and what Joba was to the Yanks when he first came up. They throw the ball hard, make hitters uncomfortable and seem to be ticketed for greatness…let’s hope that the Yankees learned from how they handled Chamberlain. Now, Betances isn’t as fiery. He is not as colorful a character as his predecessor in the pen, but Dellin has the stuff to be incredibly special. He could possibly be a hybrid of Joba and Mo. A quiet flamethrower that makes the game shorter by shutting down the opposition in the late innings…time will tell.

As for Joba Chamberlain I will still pull for him. He is one of my guys. Yeah, I am more of the clean-cut type. I buy into the Steinbrenner Way of playing Yankee baseball, but I also believe emotion is a good thing when you compete. Many of my favorites have employed that style, O’Neill, Tino, Jorge, Nelly, Thurman, Nettles, and yes, Joba Chamberlain.

The two parties have not parted ways. Remember #44 didn’t leave this club to waste away in the Emerald City with a truckload of cash, coffee and Jay Z CDs, he was let go. He didn’t say, “He felt disrespected” and “Was shown no love by the Yankees”, he said thank you. He was a good Yankee and remains a good person. I wish Joba Chamberlain the best. I hope he stays fiery. I hope he stays who he is, a professional and an emotional competitor.

** The warm up song that fires up The Kid from Lincoln – FIST PUMP! **

--Mike O'Hara
Senior "Features" Writer
MLB Fan Cave Host, Season 1
Twitter: @mikeyoh21
   "Paulie was always my favorite player."

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