Is this the end of Joba as you know him? As a Yankee? No more Jobamania? In case you didn’t know, Joba severely dislocated his right ankle jumping on a trampoline with his son Karter. This has resulted in Joba needing two surgeries- one to repair the bone that broke through the skin (and prevent infection, which could possibly result in the loss of the LIMB) and another to insert metal pins to strengthen the ankle. Michael Kay and the NY Daily News even reported that Joba lost so much blood his life was actually in danger- which means it was particularly gruesome. Its not inconceivable that he may miss an entire year of playing time. Joba was not due to return from Tommy John surgery until mid season, but now he is being told that he can put no pressure on his foot for four to six weeks, which will be followed by lengthy rehabilitation. And I think a year is a conservative estimate.
Ankle dislocations can be career ending for an athlete, especially if there are associated injuries. Pain, loss of motion, and loss of strength can be long term issues that do not allow the athlete to return to competitive sports. It could take up to 2 years of rehab to try and get it back to where it is trustworthy and flexible enough to withstand the torque that he puts on it every time he throws a pitch.With good reason, there are already people speculating that Joba is DONE in New York.
Brain Cashman has come out to say that, “This is just an unfortunate accident that’s clearly derailed his comeback. What more does this mean? I don’t know.” When asked if it was a career-threatening injury, Cashman replied, “I’d like to say no. My heart and gut tells me no.” But what does that tell us really? Joba is 26 and if he doesn’t return this season he will have missed an entire year and a half of competitive baseball. The Yankees love him, but being so injury prone do they want to pick up his contract for another year?
Remember, Joba is eligible for arbitration at the end of this season. Will they let him go or will they gamble and sign him at a reduced rate? The big question is, if (and the more we hear, thats if is getting bigger and bigger) he comes back, will he be the Joba we all know and love? The hard throwing, fist pumping strike out artist? Or will he come back as your average middle reliever, glory days well behind him. There have been serious questions raised about his work ethic in the past and now he is going to need to work twice as hard as he has ever worked just to get back playing. In addition, how is a guy his size going to keep that weight off without cardio work? Does he have the stomach for the fight? Will the Yankees want him back if he is damaged goods? I’m not so sure they would, no matter how special the guy was to them. So if he is allowed to leave, what an ignominious end that would be for the once heir-apparent of Mariano Rivera.
What impact will it have on the rotation however? Until his injury last June, Joba was a key piece of the bullpen last year, forming part of the “Three Headed Monster” with Mariano and David Robertson, holding down a 2.83 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 29 innings pitched. He was a force, giving up only 10 hits and was showing us what he was capable of when he was dialed in. However, yesterday’s events will almost certainly halt any rumors of Phil Hughes being traded or used as trade bait, as even if Hughes doesn’t make the 5 man rotation or is demoted at any point during the season *cough Andy Pettite’s return in May cough* his arm and experience will be a prize asset in the bullpen. What about the Bridge to Mo? Well, presuming he doesn’t make the roster you have Freddy Garcia in the long man role, a revitalized looking Soriano and Houdini Robinson as the 7th and 8th inning guys respectively, as well as a host of other young arms including Cory Wade, Boone Logan and guys like Cesar Cabrel and Clay Rapada who have shown real desire for a call up during Spring Training. As for Mariano’s heir apparent- as far as I’m concerned, its Robinson’s to lose.
Make no mistake, loosing Chamberlain is a huge loss for the Yankees. He was looking like he was on course for an amazing comeback. Last week he said that he felt like he had been given a new arm. This is a huge blow for the team and an even bigger one for him. I love the guy, his enthusiasm, his exuberance and his desire to win. The guy has shown us flashes of brilliance on the mound and who knows just what he could have achieved if the
Yankee’s has handled him correctly. Sadly, Jobamania is long forgotten, but hopefully its not the end of Joba.
By: Daniel O’ Broin
Official Yankin’ Off Correspondent