Anyone watching the Yankees knows that Joba Chamberlain‘s last seven weeks have been tumultuous to say the least. Since starting the second half 3-0, Joba has gone 1-4 with an 8.25 ERA over his last nine starts. Limited to just 36 innings, Joba has allowed 50 hits and 21 walks while striking out just 27. Opponents are hitting .327/.409/.523, and whether we blame the Joba Rules, the extreme media attention to him, fatigue or the Moon’s current position in retrograde, everyone agrees that Joba Chamberlain has stunk up the joint lately.
While on Sunday, Joe Girardi half-heartedly committed himself to Joba in October, the Yanks’ GM was singing a different tune to Pete Caldera today. In an interview with The Record scribe, Cashman explained how Joba will have to earn a postseason roster spot. “He needs to declare himself. He’s no different than anyone else,” Cashman said. “Everybody loves his tenacity. But we’re going to take the best 10 guys. There’s no assumptions there.”
This is, of course, a warning and a threat from Brian Cashman. It’s probably an effort to light a fire under Joba, and we all know Joba could use something to spur him on. It is also an indication to watch closely tonight. In Anaheim, Chad Gaudin will take the ball and face the AL West-leading Angels. While we toss around the phrase “playoff preview” as a joke, Gaudin’s start tonight is a playoff preview. If he can hold down the Angels, he will, for better or worse, begin to inch ahead of Joba on the Yanks’ October depth charts.
So with Joba’s job in jeopardy, the Yankees will have to fill in a postseason roster somehow. Brian Cashman’s comment — “we’re going to take the best 10 guys” — gives us a starting point for a talk. The mortal locks include CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte, some guy named Mariano, Phil Hughes, Phil Coke and Alfredo Aceves. That leaves us with three spots for Joba Chamberlain, Chad Gaudin, Damaso Marte, David Robertson, Jonathan Albaladejo, Edwar Ramirez, Sergio Mitre and Mark Melancon.
We can, after last night, dispatch with Brian Bruney. His ERA as a reliever isn’t horrible, but since Aug. 1, he has allowed 29 base runners in 16 innings. Over that stretch, he is sporting an ugly 3:4 K:BB ratio. He claimed his mechanics were fine, but the results aren’t there. Sergio Mitre, Jonathan Albaladejo and Edwar Ramirez belong in the same boat. None has have much to offer.
Melancon is an intriguing candidate because he is a highly-touted prospect, but he hasn’t sported very good control at the Major League level. He is striking out and walking 5.5 men per 9 IP and has a propensity toward hitting batters. The Yankees will, however, probably take Damaso Marte just to deploy him against lefties. His numbers are bad, but the stuff has always been tantalizing. Having two lefties in the pen would do wonders for the Yanks.
In the end, then, the Joba decision will come down to two factors. There is first the David Roberston factor. If the Yanks’ unheralded middle relief specialist can come back strong this weekend, he will join the mortal locks. After watching Bruney and Albaladejo cough up the game last night, Robertson can’t come back fast enough.
If Robertson is healthy, then, the debate will be Gaudin vs. Joba. And there we are, back to tonight’s game. Chad Gaudin and Joba Chamberlain, whether they realize or not, are auditioning for the same playoff spot. With 11 games left, this battle is the season within the season. While the last man standing so to speak won’t be that determinative of the Yanks’ October chances, we will get to see just how much faith the Yanks have in Joba Chamberlain right now.