Hank Steinbrenner is at it again! Not satisfied with the Yankees' 10-10 start to the season, he’s let it be known that he wants Joba Chamberlain in the starting rotation — and he wants it done eight months ago. “There is no question about it,” he told the Times, “you don’t have a guy with a 100-mile-per-hour fastball and keep him as a setup guy. You just don’t do that. You have to be an idiot to do that.” Hank, apparently playing the part of the non-idiot in this scenario, also made it clear the decision was not his.
“The mistake was already made last year switching him to the bullpen out of panic or whatever,” Steinbrenner said. “I had no say in it last year and I wouldn’t have allowed it. That was done last year, so now we have to catch up. It has to be done on a schedule so we don’t rush him.”
Of course, Hank’s version is more than a little revisionist. First of all, despite Joba’s meteoric rise through the minor-league system, Hank (or anyone else, for that matter) couldn’t have envisioned that he’d be quite this good. And even if he did, Hank surely had enough pull last year to at least raise an objection, even if it would have been ignored. As for its being a panic move, by the time Joba made his debut, the Yankees had already made up much of the ground in the standings and were just a half-game out of the wild card. (Contrast that to signing a 44-year-old Roger Clemens in May when they owned the fourth-worst record in the American League.)
But more important, the promotion of Joba to the major-league bullpen — a perennial weakness for the Yankees — was universally heralded in large part because it was the company line at the time that he’d be a starter this season anyway. It was only this spring — when Hank was in charge — that it was decided that he’d stay in the bullpen, at least to start the season.
As for what suddenly set Hank off this time, could it be that Joba gave up his first run of the season yesterday, raising his ERA to (gasp!) 1.42? If so, talk about a panic move. —Joe DeLessio