Chances are that Joba Chamberlain is entering his final season with the Yankees. While he’s spent the majority of the last two seasons on the disabled list, he’s continued to amass service time and he’ll be eligible for free agency next winter at the tender age of 28.
The news yesterday that Chamberlain still thinks of himself as a rotation candidate makes it even less likely that he’ll remain in pinstripes. The Yankees obviously don’t see him in that role and haven’t for years. For what it’s worth, Chamberlain was far from bad as a starter early in his career, going 12-7 with a 4.18 ERA and 206 strikeouts in 221 2/3 innings over 43 starts. He did struggle to work deep into games, but he was effective more often than not.
Of course, that was before Chamberlain hurt his shoulder. He’s no longer the talent that he was when he entered the league as a brash 21-year-old reliever in 2007. He has been effective while healthy, though, posting a 3.47 ERA and a 46/13 K/BB ratio in 49 1/3 innings the last two years.
Chamberlain is set to be a sixth- or seventh-inning guy for the Yankees in front of David Robertson and Mariano Rivera this year. Perhaps the one thing that would keep him in New York is a stellar setup campaign that would establish him as the heir to Rivera’s job. That might cause the Yankees to ante up and keep him around. If, on the other hand, he matches my guardedly optimistic projection — a 3.30-3.50 ERA in about 60 innings — he figures to be too expensive to re-sign for a non-premium role. And if he ends up struggling, well, then he may be long gone before even hitting free agency.
Regardless, Chamberlain will, for the first time, control his own destiny next winter. If he decides he wants to start, it could well cost him some money, but he shouldn’t have much trouble finding a team willing to give him a shot. For all of his injuries, Chamberlain still throws in the mid-90s as a reliever. He possesses two breaking balls, and he expressed an interest in throwing his changeup more. His ability to hold up as a starter would be in question, but the stuff is there to make him a decent one.
As I note every spring, “Best Shape of His Life” stories aren’t really about players being in The Best Shape of Their Lives. They’re about players and agents seeking to create positive stories.
We know this because the vast majority of Best Shape of His Life claims are about guys who were either injured the season before, guys who had subpar years the season before or players whose conditioning was a point of controversy the season before. These folks, or their agents + reporters who have little if nothing to write about in the offseason = BSOHL.
James McCann hurt his ankle last season and had a subpar year at the plate. So not only is he a perfect BSOHL candidate, he went old school with the claim and hit it right on the money, verbatim:
Spring training is less than a month away, folks!
Last week Bo Jackson said that, if he had it to do all over again, he would have never played professional football and that he would never let his kids play. The sport is too violent, he said. “I’d tell them, ‘Play baseball, basketball, soccer, golf, just anything but football.’”
Fair enough. Thom Loverro of the Washington Times, however, thinks that Bo could do more than simply give his opinion on the matter. He thinks Bo should become an official ambassador for Major League Baseball:
Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, pick up the phone right now and call Bo Jackson. Tell him you have a job for him — vice president of something, whatever you would call the man in charge of converting a generation of young athletes to baseball. And pay him what he wants.
You won’t find a better symbol of the differences between the two sports than Bo Jackson. After all, he was an All-Star in both. Bo knows football. Bo knows baseball.
Bo, tell the children — baseball over football.
The Children: “Who is Bo Jackson?”
Yeah, I’m being a bit flip here, but dude: Jackson is 54 years-old. He last played baseball 23 years ago. I’d personally run through a wall for Bo Jackson, but I’m 43. I was 12 when he won the Heisman trophy. While he may loom large to middle aged sports writers, a teenager contemplating what sport to play is not going to listen to someone a decade or more older than his parents.
This isn’t terribly important in the grand scheme of things, but it’s indicative of how most columnists process the world through their own experiences and assume they apply universally. It’s probably the biggest trap most sports opinion folks fall into.