Wednesday, June 4, 2008


JOE GIRARDI is supposed to be a man of character; a man not afraid to stand up to his superiors if he thinks they’re wrong.

After all, he was fired by the Florida Marlins for allegedly telling owner Jeffrey Loria to “shut the f**k up” when he was heckling the homeplate umpire.

In his days as a player with the New York Yankees, he was seen a leader of men, a key figure inside the clubhouse. As a broadcaster with the YES Network, he wasn’t shy to give his opinion.

Well, if Girardi really is all these things then he needs to open his cell phone this morning, call Yankees’ senior vice president Hank Steinbrenner and tell him that he’s putting Joba Chamberlain back in the bullpen.

Of course, it won’t happen. Having openly campaigned for Joba’s switch to the rotation, Steinbrenner won’t be backing down after one start.

And having publicly supported the move in the first place, Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman won’t want to lose face either.

But if the three wise monkeys really do have the best interests of the team at heart, they should swallow their pride and admit they are making a big mistake.

I’m not saying Joba will never make a starter. I’m sure he will. But after last night’s farce at Yankee Stadium, I believe the experiment should be abandoned right now.

Here are the reasons why:

1. The Yankees are bottom of the American League East, seven games behind the Rays and six and a half behind the Red Sox. If they’re going to continue their proud record of making the play-offs every year since 1994 then this is no time for experiments. Had Joba been available in Minnesota, they might not be on a three-game losing streak right now.

2. Okay, so the starting rotation is weak and the Yanks lack a pitching ace. But what about the bullpen? Do you really want to see Kyle Farnsworth (eight home runs in 26.1 innings) or Edwar Ramirez pitching the eighth inning? With Joba coming in for the eighth and Mariano Rivera the ninth, the Yanks are a virtual lock to hold a lead.

3. The Joba Rules. Joba threw 62 pitches in two and a third innings last night. You need your starter to go at least six, hopefully seven, innings. It wouldn’t be so bad if Chien-Ming Wang and Andy Pettitte were occasionally pitching a complete game, but they’re not making it beyond the fifth either. We’re going to see a shaky bullpen, already minus Brian Bruney, being pressed into service night after night.

4. The future. Joba should be marked “handle with care.” In less than a year, the 22-year-old has attained almost cult status in New York. Why tarnish that image by thrusting him, unprepared, into the rotation now? The transition should be made in 2009 spring training.

This was the season when the Yankees decided to go with youth over experience. Why would they need Johan Santana when they had prospects such as Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy?

Two months in and this highly touted trio have yet to win a game for the Yankees in a combined 15 starts.

Of course, that stat is very unfair on Chamberlain. He has been one of the few bright spots in a so far gloomy season for the Yankees.

He’s the one guy on the team who outwardly shows any passion and ignites the fans. Now we’re only going to get to see him throw for a brief spell once every five days.

That’s why if Girardi really is in charge of this team, he needs to get out the scissors and stop Steinbrenner from pulling the strings. 

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