Thursday, February 10, 2011

Can Joba Chamberlain get his mojo back?

I don't think there's one player on the New York Yankees I will be rooting for harder this year than Joba Chamberlain.

Of course, Derek Jeter getting hit #3,000 will be the most iconic and memorable moment of the regular season. And I will love watching Mariano Rivera inch closer and closer to taking his rightful place at the top of baseball's all-time saves list. But in terms of wishing someone success for the entire season, I'll be cheering for Joba to once again find the electric stuff and the attitude that made him an instant superstar in New York.

What I really want for Joba more than anything is for him to find his rightful place on the Yankees. A few years ago, he looked like he was destined to take Rivera’s place closing games. But the Yankees completely ruined him by shuffling him back and forth between the starting rotation and the bullpen. Now he’s not even an option to pitch the 8th inning, let alone the 9th frame.

The Steinbrenners clearly have lost faith in Joba. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have felt the need to overrule Cashman and force him to sign Rafael Soriano. But I hope he can prove them wrong and reclaim his status as a reliable and trustworthy reliever in Joe Girardi’s bullpen.

Can Joba do it? Well if the New York tabloids are to be believed (and I don’t believe them all the time), his weight could be a problem. If he is out of shape, that doesn’t bode well for his chances of reclaiming a top job or his mental state heading into the baseball season. Granted, I would probably have been upset or even depressed after the Soriano signing myself. But I hope for Joba’s sake he can rise to the challenge.

I always hated Joba’s hijinks on the mound after striking someone out to end an inning. I want all pitchers to be like Mo, simply walk off the mound with little more than a mild fist pump, if that. But Joba’s histrionics reflected a confidence and cockiness that was a sign of just how unhittable he had become. I hope to see it again and soon. It would mean that Joba found his mojo.

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