If any of you had any remaining doubts about how much an athlete’s career can change literally overnight, you now have your answer: a lot.
As you may know if you’re anywhere near Twitter right now, Joba Chamberlain suffered an ankle injury while jumping on a trampoline last night. WFAN’s Sweeny Murti is reporting that Joba dislocated the ankle and had surgery to repair the damage last night. He will spend the next few days in the hospital.
Brian Cashman isn’t estimating yet how long this injury will keep Joba, who is already recovering from last year’s Tommy John surgery, out of the game. Cashman did note that the injury is significant, and that his gut tells him this injury is not career-threatening, though it is too soon to be sure.
Just last night I appeared as a guest on BBA Baseball Talk ft. David Mitchell, and Dave asked me “if anyone has ever been so famous for doing so little as Joba Chamberlain.” From a non-Yankees fan’s perspective, like Dave’s, it certainly seems as if Joba’s career has been a lot of fluff and little substance. In fact, for this Yankees fan it is getting difficult to remember Joba’s good performances with the team because he has had so many setbacks in his career.
Some of the blame must necessarily be shouldered by the Yankees front office. I maintain, though I can’t absolutely prove a negative, that Joba would have been in a better place in his career if the Joba Rules had not been implemented when he first reached the major leagues. He was a starter. Then he was given an innings limit and shut down completely. Then he was given a bullpen role. For any young player, especially one with as a much raw talent and a power arm like Joba has, this would be confusing from a developmental perspective. In relief roles Joba was expected to go hard and utilize his power stuff. As a starter he was expected to reign that in and still be as successful over 6 or 7 innings as he would be in one inning of relief. The guy was never given a real shot to sink or swim as either a reliever or a starter.
Regardless, one could argue that the Yankees’ early treatment of Joba’s development is moot now, because it is injury after injury keeping him out of the game, not the front office’s innings limits.
Hopefully we see Joba back in the future. It would truly be one of baseball’s sad stories if a guy with so much potential were to never realize it because of a freak injury such as this.