Saturday, June 11, 2011

Let the Joba Rules backlash begin

Now that Joba Chamberlain is officially heading for season-ending surgery, the Joba Rules backlash can really begin.

Since the shocking news of Joba’s elbow injury, we’ve seen the mumblings or mild criticism of the New York Yankees’ approach to handling young pitchers, which first came to light when Joe Torre openly talked – with a hint of disdain – about the restrictions on his use of a very young Joba in 2007. Now, with Chamberlain needing Tommy John surgery and Phil Hughes missing most of the first half of the 2011 baseball season, the Yankees have to answer questions about the effectiveness – or lack thereof – of the rules. Cashman seems to be annoyed by the prospect of having to defend the Joba Rules, but there are legitimate questions to be asked given the serious arm problems that Chamberlain and Hughes have been dealing with, the very problems that the rules were put in place to avoid.

In all fairness, the rules were probably necessary during the Torre reign because of his overreliance on his core guys. Cashman, understandably, didn’t want Torre burning out his prized young pitchers. But I wonder if the Joba Rules are even necessary anymore with Joe Girardi now running the club. Unlike Torre, Girardi is committed to protecting his pitchers and willing to risk losing a game rather than risk a dangerous injury to a key reliever by putting him out there three days in a row. Girardi doesn’t need to be told to do this, he just does it and deals with the consequences.

Regardless, with Chamberlain and Hughes both down, Cashman will spend a lot of time defending the Joba Rules. Hopefully, he spends as much time thinking about whether they are necessary or should be modified to make them more effective. It’s too late for Joba and Phil, but perhaps the Yankees can learn something valuable about how to really protect their promising young arms.

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