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.

The Japanese playoffs are super unfair

Hiroshima Carp
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I know a little about Japanese baseball. Not a lot, mind you. Like, I couldn’t hold my own with people who actually watch it or report on it or whatever, but I could explain some of the broad differences and similarities between the NPB and the U.S. majors.  I can say a few things about how the two leagues compare competitively speaking. I can name some stars and (I think) all the clubs. But there’s, quite obviously, a ton I don’t know.

A thing I did not know until today: the NPB playoffs are really messed up.

The NPB is divided into two leagues, the Central and the Pacific, with the winner of each league facing off in the Japan Series. Like the U.S. majors, they have preliminary playoff rounds in each league. Each league has three playoff teams, with the second and third seed teams playing a series first, and the winner of that series playing the top seed — the team with the best record in the league — in what is called the Climax Series.

Here’s the weird part: the higher-seeded team in the Climax Series — the team which won the league in the regular season — gets every single playoff game at home. What’s more, that team begins the Climax Series with an automatic 1-0 advantage. So, yes, it’s a seven-game series on paper, but one of the teams only has to win three games to advance to the Japan Series.

Oh, in Japan, they also have no problems ending a playoff game early if it rains. That’s what happened in the Central League Climax Series last night, where the lower-seeded Yokohama BayStars took on the league champ Hiroshima Carp. Here’s the report from Jason Coskrey of The Japan Times:

The rainy conditions in Hiroshima caused the umpires to stop play for over 30 minutes and ultimately call the game after five innings, minutes after the Carp put three runs on the board. Just like that, it was over. The Carp won 3-0, with Yokohama robbed of the four innings (at least) it would’ve had to try and rally.

Even better: as Coskrey notes, there are five days in between the end of the Climax Series and the beginning of the Japan Series, so there is no reason they could not suspend a game and resume it the next day. They just choose not to. The upshot: the Carp were staked to a 2-0 series lead despite the fact that they had only played five innings of baseball. UPDATE: they played a full game today, the BayStars won, so now it’s 2-1 Hiroshima.

Imagine if that happened in the NLCS. Imagine if the Dodgers began the series with a 1-0 lead over the Cubs and played all of their games in Los Angeles. Imagine there was a freak L.A. storm and it ended one of the game in the fifth inning, right after Justin Turner hit a homer. I’m pretty sure people would riot.

Kinda makes our complaints about the replay system seem rather quaint, eh?