Were the expectations of Joba Chamberlain's debut as a starter a media creation, as Big Stein the Younger said? Did the spoiled sector of the Yankee fan base add to the unrealistic bar that was set? Did the Yankees bring this on themselves by messing with a good thing in the short term for a potential benefit in the long term? It depends on what you read and what you choose to believe.
True: Chamberlain started most of last year in Triple-A until he was tabbed as the Next Big Thing in the bullpen (not a media creation; an organizational decision).
True: Chamberlain teased us with a phenomenal Shane Spencerish, lightning-in-a-bottle performance in late-summer, solidifying a bullpen that was nowhere outside of Mariano Rivera. In fact, his performance was on par with 1995-96 level Rivera, and 2002 Francisco Rodriguez, the Playoff Edition.
True: Injuries to fellow young guns Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy, who started the year in the rotation but have gone winless, likely forced the Yankees' hand.
True: The Yankees had Chamberlain on a tight pitch count. But what was it? 65? 70? Different reports had different numbers? Unless they went to different sources in the organization, there should have been a consistent number. And the editors should have picked up on it. I can hear the voices of two of my formative journalism professors now: "Be careful with numbers. First, make sure you get them right, and don't overuse them. They should only enhance the story, not be the story." Bottom line, get the number right, guys.
True: The Yankees' middle relief … well, you and I have a better chance of getting outs than Edwar (leave off the last D for disappointing outing) Ramirez, Jose Veras and "What is" Kyle Farnsworth, thanks to this move. In short, the bullpen could be bull$&!#@ real fast.
TO THE COVERAGE…
I can't recall the last time, if ever, so much was made of a 9-3 loss. Criticism was rampant, as was to be expected, but there was little criticism levied at Chamberlain. There were interesting bits from both the Yankees and Jays camps. Kevin Kernan of the Post spoke solely to Harlan Chamberlain, and preached patience to Yankees fans.
Fred Kerber, the Post's Nets beat man — and a devoted Detroit Tigers fan — shifted gears and had some interesting nuggets from the visitors:
• "It's tough going out there on a pitch count when the other team knows about it." — David Eckstein
• "I don't know if he was pitching away from contact or didn't have confidence in the fastball. Only he knows, but early in the game, you've got to pound the strike zone." — Lyle Overbay
Also from the Post, Joel Sherman's analysis, both in the Hardball Blog, and in his regular column, are worthy reads even if they do paint an ominous picture.
Maybe it's me, but I don't understand why this piece was included anywhere. First off, please don't include Joba Chamberlain with the likes of Ron Guidry, even if you're making comparisons to first major league starts. And to have the article include premier New York pitchers who started their careers with other teams like Catfish Hunter or Goose Gossage is silly. What basis for comparison is that? Anyone else have an issue with this?
In the Daily News, Bill Madden copied off of Joel Sherman's paper but didn't get any points taken off. The inline, batter-by-batter feature detailing Chamberlain's outing was an interesting addition, particularly the breakdown of types of pitches thrown. I would normally take issue with this inclusion, but I can see the value of it. Being a commuter and knowing that the majority of my fellow train riders are not savvy in the ways of the Internets or web viewing of a baseball game (GameDay, etc.), an uncomplicated stat-based feature like this within the confines of the game recap helps the traditionalist who still wants to read a story and get ink on his hands.
Of all the recaps and breakdown snippers, and I include those from the blogosphere, ESPN the Magazine's Jorge Arangure, Jr., a former Yankee beat writer for the Bergen Record before stints in Baltimore and D.C. covering the Orioles, detailed Chamberlain's history of subpar first starts, going back to high school. I've discussed in this space the beat writers' lack of historical context in the non-feature writing. This story is an example of why points of reference are so important.
Perhaps the best judgment came from Steven Goldman in the most recent Pinstriped Bible. If, like me, you're a longtime reader of Goldman, you know that he can write longer than Bill Simmons and hammer a point till it turns to silly putty. He can demonstrate a facility for brevity, and he did so here: "And note: not much to say about Joba today. Let's just let it happen, then we'll assess." … The assessment came hours later when the Pinstriped Blog hit cyberspace, complete with some harsh analysis of the strict pitch count. In addition, his notes on the perceived suckdom of the Yankees' clutch hitting is educational. Thank you, Steve.
HARTFORD IS OFFICIALLY A RED SOX TOWN The Courant, a Tribune-owned paper, is linking its Yankee coverage to Newsday, and likely will until the Cablevision takeover is complete and the Long Island paper becomes a PR firm for the Dolans in the coming months. I should have picked up on this earlier. Former Yankees beat writer for the Courant, Dom Amore, who can type a 750-word recap faster than most people can think of 750 words, is now on the Red Sox beat. It seems like a minor thing, but once upon a time the Courant, through Dom and also New York BBWAA chapter stalwart Jack O'Connell, provided hefty coverage of the Yankees. Moreover, there was a balance of original Yanks and Sox content in the paper reflective of the divided loyalties, with Hartford sitting square in the middle of the rivalry. Now, the scales are tipping north, and it's unfortunate.
Until next week … at which point Joba could win his first game as a starter, and Mike Mussina could be the Yankees' first 10-game winner of the season.