Jockbeat: Think Sending Joba to the Bullpen is an Easy Solution? Jim Bouton Begs to Differ


“This is not meant to disparage Brian Bruney, Chad Gaudin, and Sergio Mitre,” writes George A. King III in today’s New York Post. “But who would have thought Joba Chamberlain would be in a fight with those names to be included on the Yankees ALDS roster?”

Who indeed? But why, at this point, should there be a controversy at all? “We have to talk about the roster and who is the best at getting outs,” said Yankees GM Brian Cashman yesterday. “He is in there versus Gaudin, Bruney, and Mitre. It could come down to two or one out of that group.”

Ya think, Brian? In that case, Mitre, 3-3 with a horrendous 6.79 ERA and a whopping 71 hits allowed in 51.2 innings, should be sent home. Next on the list should be Joba. There isn’t any question that both Gaudin and Bruney have been more effective — far more effective. And they haven’t been all that good. Gaudin, at least, has an ERA of just 3.54 and has allowed just under one hit per inning in 40.2. Bruney, despite a deceiving 5-0 record, has been less effective than Bruney: ERA 4.03 with 36 hits allowed in 38 innings.

Joba, no matter how you spin it, has been awful: 4.78 ERA and 167 hits — and 75 walks — in 156.1 innings. If he wasn’t the Yankees most publicized bonus baby in two decades, would this even be a debate?

In the same edition of the Post, Kevin Kernan makes the case that “Chamberlain In Pen Would Be Big Relief.”

Kernan’s believes that “Chamberlain’s terrible outing Wednesday night [against the punchless Kansas City Royals] could be one of the best things to happen to this team all season.” Why? Because “It gives Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi the perfect opportunity to build up that lockdown bull pen the Yankees will need to win their 27th world championship.”

He could be right, of course, but that assumes that all the Yankees have to do to make Joba effective again is to put him in the bullpen for one and two inning appearances — just serve as the “hold” guy for set-up man Phil Hughes and closer Mariano Rivera. But if it was that easy, why didn’t the Yankees make that decision weeks ago when Joba could have made the adjustment easier? Why, for that matter, aren’t they making that decision right now for the final weekend of the season?

Jim Bouton, who began his career with the Yankees as a starter and finished as a reliever for the Seattle Pilots, thinks it isn’t so easy to make that transition: “From a distance,” he says, “it appeared to me that Joba just wasn’t ready to start games. He didn’t seem to be ready with that third and fourth pitch that starters have to have. Relievers need just two pitches, their pet pitch — mine was the knuckleball — and a secondary pitch to play off of.” What was the second pitch you played off of, we asked him. “Something, anything, besides the knuckleball.”

“It’s hard to drop that starter’s mind set and just go back out in the bull pen and think, ‘Just one pitch. Just one pitch.’ Maybe sometimes that second pitch a confident reliever needs to have. I’m not saying that the Yankees should have gone either way on this, though considering the circumstances I would have put him back in the bullpen weeks ago: ‘Throw fastball, slider, fastball.’ And I’d have sent him back to the minors before I’d be talking about this five days before the playoffs start.”