No, the Yankees didn’t ruin Joba Chamberlain

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I think the Yankees jerked Joba Chamberlain around a lot early in his career. They meant well. They thought they had a special talent and they wanted to save his arm and as such they used him as a reliever and then babied him as a starter and when that wasn’t working they used him as a reliever again. I think they should’ve just let him start and let him try to figure it out rather than yo-yo him and all of that, but they didn’t. Oh well.

But it’s one thing to say that they made mistakes with Chamberlain and it’s another thing — another silly thing — altogether to lay all the blame for what Joba Chamberlain has become at the Yankees’ feet. Which is what Jason Keidel does in his latest column:

Joba Chamberlain, if anything, was the symbol of their spiritual collapse. He and Phil Hughes were the twin pillars of their (supposedly) pitching-plenty organization, evidence that the Yankees didn’t just flex their wallets every November to find their requisite golden arms.

Then, inexplicably, Chamberlain was fired. Brian Cashman, bitten by the Moneyball bug, snagged by the sabermetricians, decided he would remold the Yankees in his newfound, Geek Squad ethos. No need to waste the prodigy’s talent in the eighth inning when he could stretch the the kid out over 200 innings. Make him a starter. Mess with perfection. And the results were atrocious . . . Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain are gone now, footnotes in the endless archive of America’s pastime. But we will always remember them, especially Joba, who had New York City at his fingers, until the Yankees cut them off.

I must’ve forgotten the that time back when the Yankees made Chamberlain fat. And made him have a drinking problem that led to him getting a DUI. And injured him. And caused him to become, seemingly anyway, immune from instruction about how to approach hitters and in-game situations. But they must’ve, right? It’s all the Yankees fault!

Or — and I know this may be shocking — a pitcher with a lot of youthful promise didn’t live up to it for a host of reasons. As happens very, very often. Just because it happened in New York where lazy writers looking for narratives cite “mystique and aura” and things doesn’t make it any bigger a deal or any different a case. Chamberlain crapped out. Lots of pitchers do.

Javier Baez: “This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it.”

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Infielder Javier Baez is back in camp with the Cubs after helping Puerto Rico to a second-place finish in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He was the focal point of what was, to many, the most memorable play of the entire tournament: Baez pointed at catcher Yadier Molina, who was attempting to throw out a would-be base-stealer, before applying the tag for the final out of the eighth inning.

While Baez didn’t receive much criticism for his theatrics, aside from an insignificant handful of spoilsports, he is one of the players who most exemplifies the emotional, celebratory culture that foreign players bring to Major League Baseball. U.S. (and Tigers) second baseman Ian Kinsler is on the other side of that spectrum, as he said prior to the WBC final that he hopes kids mimic the solemn way U.S. players play the game rather than the emotional, passionate way players from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic play the game.

Baez isn’t about to apologize for the way he and his teammates play the game. Via CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney, Baez said, “We do a great job playing and having fun out there. That’s what it’s all about. This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it. but, you know, everybody’s got their style and their talent. I have a lot of fun.”

He continued, “It’s their choice to look at how we play, how excited we get. To us, it’s really huge what we did, even though we didn’t win. All of Puerto Rico got really together. We were going through a hard time over there and everything got fixed up for at least three weeks. Hopefully, they keep it like that.”

Mike Trout proposes change to spring training umpiring

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Angels outfielder Mike Trout came up with an idea that would allow less experienced umpires an opportunity to call some major league spring training action. As ESPN’s Buster Olney reports, Trout thinks the veteran umpires should only call five or six innings as they get back into regular season shape. The rest of the innings could be called by minor league umpires.

According to Olney, baseball officials loved Trout’s idea when they heard about it last week. One official said, “It makes a lot of sense for a lot of different reasons.” Another said, “That’s Trout — he’s always paying attention to stuff beyond what he’s doing.”

Of course, I have to agree that the suggestion is a great one. As Olney notes, the turnover rate for umpires every year is relatively low, so younger, less-experienced umpires have few opportunities to get a feel for what it’s like calling major league action. Even beyond the actual interpretation of the rules, interacting with big league personalities would also be helpful for minor league umpires.