For the better part of two seasons, debate has raged about Joba Chamberlain. Should he be a reliever or starter? The debate has concentrated on two trains of thought:
1. As a starter, Joba can develop into a prototypical top of the rotation stud. He has a plus fastball, slider and curve. He just needs time to get stretched out and become dominant.
2. Out of the pen, Joba just rares backs and makes ML hitters look foolish.
Well, we’ve been waiting for two years while lesser names like Clayton Kershaw and Cole Hamels have blossomed. And its beginning to look as though, party line not withstanding, Brian Cashman and Co are now leaning towards putting Joba into the 8th inning role.
The thing is, there’s precedence for this debate – one the Yankees only need to dust off their copy of Baseball Almanac to find.
Back in the mid-1970’s, the White Sox had a young right hander with a plus fastball, slider and curve. But he never found success as a starter. He was, at best, inconsistent. But coming out of the bullpen, he became the original Mr. Nasty. He let loose with a 95+ fastball, spitting fire and daring hitters to swing. For him, it was all about attitude and not having to think on the mound. His demeanor was, you know what I’m going to throw. Everyone here knows what I’m going to throw. I double-dare you to try and hit it.
Joba has the same attitude when coming out of the pen. And likewise, he tends to overthink and overanalyze when starting. For both, the mental side of the game had the potential to prematurely end promising careers.
That guy in the mid-70’s? He went on to post 300+ career saves and a plaque in Cooperstown. His name? Goose Gossage.