Before the Yankees lost to the Angels on Monday night, Joe Girardi addressed Joba Chamberlain and the steadily diminishing returns the Yankees are seeing when he's on the mound. Girardi seemed particularly peeved by the fact that Chamberlain didn't flagellate himself following Sunday's poor start, choosing to express continued confidence in himself instead of crying in his soup.
"I think that at times anyone can be in some form of denial ... It's time for him to step it up and obviously we need him to pitch well," Girardi said. "He's important to our success and it's time for him to step up, whether he's got one start, two starts, it's time for him to step it up. He needs to step it up."
Nothing surprising there. Only the most cockeyed of optimists could spin Chamberlain's 8.42 ERA over his last eight starts into something other than a giant honking red flag about a member of the team's starting rotation entering the playoffs. That is, if he's actually a member of the team's starting rotation when October comes around.
Girardi's more surprising comment Monday was that Chad Gaudin has a chance to move past Chamberlain into the fourth starter spot if he pitches well over the final two weeks of the season. No matter how easy it is to spin the move as being the most prudent course of action thanks to Chamberlain's combustion, the real message that the Yankees send if that happens is that their handling of Chamberlain and the vaunted Joba Rules have failed miserably.
The entire goal of the rules was to make sure that Chamberlain would be peaking come the playoffs with enough gas left in the tank for him to be a key member of the quest for title number 27. Now he's one bad start away from being kicked to the bullpen or left off the postseason roster altogether. Maybe it isn't because of the short starts or the long rests or the nightly massages with essential oils culled from Hank Steinbrenner's hair, but without a clearer answer that's certainly the most logical conclusion.
That doesn't mean that the whole thing's a failure, of course. There's a long term goal to the handling of Chamberlain that continues to be a Yankee priority. His eventual ascension to ace status is far from guaranteed, however, and the intent was never to sacrifice today for the glory of tomorrow.