Whatever plans you had for tonight, cancel ‘em. Mark tonight on your calendar. Burn the date into your memory banks. Years from now, you’ll want to remember where you were the evening of June 3, 2008.
The world stops tonight because Joba Chamberlain makes his first career start for the New York Yankees.
The pitcher formerly known as the best set-up man in the history of mankind will throw about 65 pitches as he tries to become the dominating starting pitcher of Hank Steinbrennner’s (wet?) dreams.
These won’t be just any 65 pitches. They will be THE MOST IMPORTANT 65 PITCHES EVER THROWN since Abner Doubleday invented the game.
These will be the 65 pitches that make or break Joba’s career, the Yankees season, their success or failure for the next millennium and determine whether Hank gets to gloat about how brilliant a baseball mind he is because Joba should have been a starter all along.
Millions of words will be written about these 65 pitches, including this non-sensical babble you are reading now. Trees will be felled to print the newspaper pages needed. The Internet will be in danger of collapsing under the weight of all the bandwidth needed to handle the news reports, columns, blogging and discussion of THE MOST IMPORTANT 65 PITCHES EVER THROWN.
Seriously, I think expectations are way out of control for Chamberlain at this point.
He may one day be a tremendous starting pitcher. Shoot, that might even happen this year. The Yankees and their fans — of which I am, of course, one — need to be realistic about what they will get from Chamberlain tonight and over the next few weeks.
He has undeniably been a tremendous reliever, and he has great stuff that makes you believe he can be a great starter. But, it is unfair to expect him to be dominating immediately as a starter. Consider:
- He is a 22-year-old kid making his first major league start.
- He has never pitched more than two innings or thrown at least 50 pitches in a major league game.
- He has never, to my knowledge, pitched long enough to face the same hitters more than once in a game. That’s a huge adjustment.
- He isn’t stretched out anywhere near well enough yet to pitch normal starter innings. The Yankees likely will have to be happy if they get four innings out of him tonight.
Much IS riding on the Yankees’ decision to make Chamberlain a starter, as well as to put so much faith in youngsters Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy. Little, though, will be determined tonight.
Amazingly, it is Steinbrenner who is providing a voice of reason when it comes to expectations for tonight.
“What’s important is what he does for us over the next 10 years, not what he can do for us [tonight],” Steinbrenner said. “It’s not about what [Chamberlain] can do for us [tonight], or what the bullpen did [Monday night].”
It will be fun to watch as Chamberlain begins the next phase of what the Yankees hope will be a dominant career. It’s just highly unlikely that tonight will be historic.
And no matter what happens, it won’t prove anything.
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