Everybody's favorite so-so Yankee swingman, Joba Chamberlain, was diagnosed today with a torn elbow ligament that will likely require Tommy John surgery.
Joba's sojourn from MLB—recovery takes about a year—should make us reflect on his never-not-scrutinized five-year Yankee stint. In 2007, he appeared in September for 19 relief outings—one earned run and 34 strikeouts in 24 innings. Joba was king.
He came back in '08 to do the setup man thing, with the legendary "Joba Rules," silly and seemingly arbitrary innings limits. Then, in May, the Yankees figured what the hell, we'll make him a starter. Joba went seven innings in only one of his 12 starts. By September, the Yankees had turned him back into a reliever. The shine was off Joba, but he still pitched well enough—2.60 ERA, 10.6 K/9—in both roles.
Then, in the offseason, we got the DUI. We got the mug shot. He came back as a full-season starter in '09 and got shelled—4.75 ERA, highest walk and hit rates and lowest strikeout rate of his career. The splendid Mike Francesa diatribe from above came in the middle of the '09 season. The Sports Pope didn't persuade Joe Girardi. Joba started all season until it became the playoffs and he didn't.
2010, the next year—you guessed it—he was a reliever again, with slightly (and predictably) better component stats. Down the stretch, though, David Robertson and Kerry Wood became Joe Girardi's preferred chew toys. Phil Hughes was the starting rotation's golden boy. Our hearts didn't beat for Joba the way they once did. This offseason, Joba porked up and the Yankees signed Rafael Soriano to a baffling contract. Chamberlain had pitched fairly well (and certainly better than Soriano) to date this season, but Robertson was now the one with the bonkers strikeout rate and the ERA (1.16, as of today) to match. And Joba got hurt.
Fare thee well, Joba. We'll miss you not because you were particularly good at baseball, or deserving of the unending hype you received, but because whenever we were alone with you, you made us feel like we were young again.