In the game thread last night, Mike noted that Joba expected to start a throwing program tomorrow. Since then, the Yanks’ valuable young arm has been overruled by his manager, and the Yanks now expect Joba to begin his throwing on Friday, a full 11 days after he was removed from the game against Texas.
With Joba on the mend, the Yanks will soon face something of a tough choice with regards to their rookie hurler: Should they bring back Joba this season?
On the one hand, the answer is an unequivocal yes. With Joba in the rotation, the Yanks are throwing out their best team and giving the team a chance to win the playoffs. With Joba in the rotation, the Yanks can bump one of their less than ideal starting pitchers back to the bullpen, AAA or elsewhere. With Joba in the rotation, the Yanks could actually think about overcoming that ever-growing five-game Wild Card deficit. So bring him back.
But wait. It’s not quite that simple. Right now, three days before Joba is set to resume throwing and weeks before we can even think about his return to the rotation, the Yanks are facing a turning point. They’re a nearly insurmountable nine games out of first place and are, as I mentioned, five games out of the Wild Card with Minnesota between them and Boston and the Rangers nipping at their heels.
In four days — let alone two or three weeks — the Yanks will have a pretty good idea if October baseball is in the cards for them, and by then, if things are looking dire in the Bronx, if the odds are stacked against them, I’d have to advocate for holding Joba out of the games this year. If the Yanks are facing a Hail Mary situation, it would make more sense to ensure Joba’s health and strength for 2009 and beyond than it would to run him out there this year, risking injury for a playoff berth that is an increasing long shot.
As a Yankee fan, this line of argument is nearly anathema to everything I’ve come to know and love about this team since 1995 when I first got a taste of October baseball. For the better part of the last decade and a half, the Yanks have won at all costs, but with such a promising arm, the likes of which the Yanks haven’t seen in years, I believe that holding Joba back and maintaining his health for next year far outweighs the slim benefits the Yanks could enjoy in an unlikely 2008 playoff run.
In two and a half weeks, the fate of this season’s Yankees will become more clear. We’ll have to go through this debate again, but if the Yanks don’t improve and make up some ground, I’d be reluctant to see Joba pitch again this year.