As of right now it is only a rumor, but it is a very real possibility that the New York Yankees could put newly acquired star Japanese pitcher, Masahiro Tanaka, on an innings limit this season. If the Yankees go through with this move, it is obvious they would be doing it to protect the future of Tanaka. Tanaka was an absolute workhorse in Japan. In seven seasons with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, Tanaka pitched over 1,000 innings, repeatedly going deep into games, including Game 6 of the Japan Series last season, in which he threw 160 pitches, and closed out the Game 7 victory the following day.
While some may view this as a smart move on the Yankees’ part, I for one believe it would a catastrophic mistake. The Yankees tried this once before with another promising young pitcher by the name of Joba Chamberlain. Chamberlain’s usage in games was initially restricted by what were referred to as the “Joba Rules,” which prevented him from pitching on consecutive days and gave him an additional day of rest for each inning pitched in an outing. Although the Yankees did it with the best interests for Chamberlain in mind, the move completely blew up in the their face. After an outstanding first couple of seasons for the Yankees, he was never the same again. Chamberlain suffered multiple injuries throughout the rest of his Yankee career. He had Tommy John surgery performed on June 16 2011 to repair a torn ligament in his right elbow and was knocked out for the rest of the season. On March 22, 2012, Chamberlain injured his right leg while bouncing on a trampoline in a Tampa jump center, which only intensified the fragileness of his body. He suffered an open dislocation of his ankle, and did not return until August of that season. Here’s Bryan Hoch’s take, who is a beat writer for MLB.com:
I wouldn’t expect a reprise of the “Joba Rules” or anything approaching that, but there will be a lot of planning put into how Tanaka and the Yankees orchestrate this entire process. Keep in mind that it’s not just the innings: Tanaka will be adjusting to pitching every fifth day instead of once a week, facing deeper lineups, using a more slippery Major League ball, pitching off clay mounds instead of the sand-based ones in Japan and working with a consistently tighter strike zone. There’s a lot to absorb.
After another abysmal season this past year, Chamberlain was not resigned by the Yankees, instead signing a 1-year deal with the Detroit Tigers. How could the career of a young man who had once been thought to have such a promising future ahead, been derailed so badly? The answer is, it all started with the Yankees’ tampering. The Yankees paid Masahiro Tanaka $155 million for a reason. To pitch. To win now. As of right now, the Yankees do not have the most promising of futures ahead, farm system-wise. Their time to win is now. If the Yankees decide to tamper with Tanaka as they did with Joba, and they end up ruining his career in the process, they will be known as arm killers, and will forever feel the wrath of Yankees fans…