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Nov 172010

Brian Cashman finally ended the Joba debate yesterday by calling the starting experiment over. Ben Kabak does a great job summing up what went wrong, and the internet is rife with people explaining how the Yankees should have handled matters. However, it seems that some of those opinions are based on hindsight, as I seemed to remember a lot more support for the actions that were taken by the Yankees as things unfolded. I decided to go back through the RAB archives (TYU is not old enough to cover it all) to try and reconstruct all of the twists and turns of the Joba saga.

2007

The Yankees moved Joba into the bullpen in the summer of ’07, and the initial reaction from Ben was that it was not a great move for Joba’s development. However, after letting the idea ferment for a few days, Ben and the commenters became more comfortable with the idea, as Joba would help the big league club without Joe Torre being allowed to destroy him.

In October, the Yankees reaffirmed their stance on Joba being a starter, but November brought Joba to the bullpen debates and the Johan Santana question. When December rolled around, the Yankee plan to limit Joba’s innings by starting the season with him in the bullpen came into view. This idea was met with concern that he would never end up in the rotation, but Ben wrote that if it was in fact being done to limit his innings, it would not be a terrible move.

2008

Reports then surfaced that Joba would prepare in Spring Training to start but would actually begin the year in the pen. He would then remain in the bullpen until June, after which he would be stretched out and moved to the rotation while some other relievers stepped up and seized the 8th inning. Joe dubbed this plan ideal, and I recall feeling the same way at the time. Joba finished spring training with some quotes that worried the Joba-to-rotation crowd, talking about how much he enjoyed relieving again.

The 2008 season began with some fistpump drama, followed by Joba leaving the team to tend to his ailing father. Hank then popped off and said that Joba should be in the rotation, and that he would absolutely be moved there later in the season, a comment that was met with glee by many Yankees fans. Converesely, Johnny Damon suggested that the players wanted to see Joba stay in the pen. As May rolled around, RAB speculated that promotions to AAA for JB Cox and Mark Melancon may be part of a strategy to have someone ready to take Joba’s place when he moves to the rotation.

On May 21st, the Yankees allowed Joba to throw 35 pitches, and then announced that the process of stretching him out had started. The Yankees stretched him out fairly quickly, as he made his first start two weeks later. While RAB highlighted a commenter who felt the process was rushed, Ben concluded that the team appeared to know what they were doing with him. By June 14th it seemed that Joba had settled into the rotation, and looked to be on pace to finish with 150-160 innings.

All was right with the Joba world until August 4th at Texas, when he was removed from the game with stiffness in his pitching shoulder that was later diagnosed as rotator cuff tendinitis. Buster Olney reported that Dr. James Andrews told the Yankees that he did not believe it was a long-term problem, but other Yankee writers were not as optimistic.

In mid-August, the Yankees announced that Joba would return in early September and return to the bullpen, an announcement that Ben was uncomfortable with, wondering whether pitching in the pen put extra stress on Joba’s arm. The Yankees then announced that the injury meant Joba would once again be on an innings limit in 2009, but intimated that he might start for the entire season and then be skipped as necessary, which Brin Cashman later confirmed. As all of this talk was going on, Joba’s velocity was down, but Joba insisted that he was fine.

2009
The offseason began inauspiciously, as Joba was arrested for DUI and subsequently apologized. The Joba debate continued to roil among the media and fans, but the Yankees were very clear that he would be starting. The conversation shifted to how many innings Joba might throw, and his health was questioned when he was only throwing 88-89 in his first ST outing. His velocity improved as the spring continued, but there were still some concerned with his stilted mechanics and diminished velocity. Jorge Posada was not one of them, as he finally ditched the Joba to the bullpen camp.

Joba was very good in his final spring outing, and looked strong in his first start of the regular season as well. Joba’s velocity was still a concern, but it seemed to be increasing as April progressed and those at RAB were not very concerned.

May saw Joba become embroiled in a fistpump controversy with Aubrey Huff, get hit on the knee by a comebacker, and struggle a bit to stir up the old bullpen debate, but otherwise the only interesting issue of the month was the beginning of the discussion on how to limit Joba’s innings. The Yankees continued to insist that Chamberlain’s shoulder was not an issue, despite the fact that he had lost 3mph on his fastball. His pitching began to decline, he made some silly comments about the sun continuing to come up, and by early July Mike wrote that he needed to be sent to the minors because he was mentally unprepared for the spotlight, and it was later revealed that the organization did consider it. Brian Cashman was asked about Joba’s innings limit and stated that Joba would not be shut down or sent to the minors, leading Joe to surmise that he would be moved to the bullpen.

Joba strung together a number of strong starts after the All-Star break, and it looked as if he had turned a corner. On August 12th, the Yankees revealed their plan for Joba, stating that they would be skipping him or giving him extra days of rest from time to time. Ben counseled us to trust the decision, noting that the team knew better than we did whether Joba could handle it. Joe agreed and concluded that although he did not like how they had handled Joba in 2007 and 2008, the Yankees were handling him well in 2009. However, Joba began to struggle mightily, and some fans started to rip into how the Yankees were dealing with Joba. On August 28th, after further ineffectiveness, the Yankees announced that Joba would pitch every five days but that the outings would be shortened. The move was largely supported in the comments, and Joe noted a few days later that there were not many alternatives.

The new plan did not produce better results, and Joba’s struggles were bad enough that RAB contemplated whether he should be shut down, moved to the bullpen, or be removed from the playoff rotation. Joba pitched well against Boston in his penultimate start of the season, but looked bad in his final start and was moved to the bullpen for the final game of the season and postseason. Joba was not great in the bullpen but showed hard enough stuff to restart the Joba-to-the-pen debate.

2010

The Yankees announced that Joba was done with innings limits, but the club did not tell Joba what his role would be for the upcoming season. People began to wonder whether one of Joba or Phil Hughes would remain in the bullpen, and Joba stated that he was going to show up early and assume that he was competing for a rotation spot. Although it seemed that Joba had a leg up on his competition, rumblings began to surface that he was in fact the favorite to end up in the bullpen. By mid-March most of the candidates had pitched well, but the growing sentiment was that Phil Hughes would get the fifth spot. On March 24th, Joel Sherman reported that Phil had in fact won the job and that it was his to lose all along. Joba was headed for the bullpen rather than AAA, something that Ben and many others bemoaned (Mike did support it). Brian Cashman did not close the door on a return to the rotation for Joba, calling him “a starter in the bullpen,” but Billy Eppler put a damper on that by suggesting the organization as a whole saw Joba as a reliever. The 2010 season was an uneven one for Joba. He looked quite ordinary at times despite strong peripherals, lost his 8th inning job, and was involved in trade talks for Dan Haren.

I do not want to draw any conclusions here, as the purpose of this exercise was to recount the whole tale and try and recall how we felt about decisions at the time. I will say that the reactions in the comments to certain moves by the Yankees were a lot tamer at the time than they are now, with the benefit of hindsight. The Yankees walked a difficult tightrope with Joba and ultimately fell off. That does not mean that every step taken along the way was an egregious error.

27 Responses to “Taking The Joba Time Machine”

  1. It’s a shame. He’s still young and has a great shot to be a real good pitcher. Just let him do his thing in the pen for the next couple years and if he comes into his own, I’d pull a Wilson/Wainwright and put him back where he belongs when he is mentally and physically developed to handle it.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    The Big City of Dreams Reply:

    His days of starting are over. I say trade him while you can.  (Quote)

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  2. They had a plan to make him a starter and simply did not stay with it long enough for him to prove one way or another whether it was the right way to go. Then saying yesterday that they had no plans to try him again as a starter lessened his trade value. I think they have misshandled him badly.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    The Big City of Dreams Reply:

    It’s really dumb to state he’s a reliever and that’s it. I get the feeling they are going to have a we’ll show you attitude and prove he can turn it around as a reliever  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

  3. I still think he makes more sense as a starter than a BP guy. Maybe they should start using him as a long man and see how that works.  (Quote)

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    T.O. Chris Reply:

    If he’s a long man who’s about to be arbitration eligible just trade him…. Long relievers only come in for blowouts don’t overpay someone for that minor of a role.  (Quote)

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  4. Joba should have been sent to the minors in the season following his “breakout” in the pen if they truly intendd him to be a starter and I thought that at the time, the guy never actually was allowed to make a start in triple A only 1 or 2 starts that were to prepare him to move for the pen at the MLB level.

    At this point I think the Yankees see the “killers” coming through the system and they’ve decided Joba isn’t worth working on anymore in the rotation and they have given up, it’s not pretty to see but it’s true let’s just hope they learned through trial and error and won’t do it again.  (Quote)

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    The Big City of Dreams Reply:

    They will probably do it again. This team falls in and out of love with prospects like girls and boys fall in and out of love with each other in HS.  (Quote)

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    T.O. Chris Reply:

    With Joba they just mishandled him and he lost his velocity in the rotation after the injury, he just isn’t the same pitcher he once was they have a deserved right to lower him in their rankings.

    I suspect Joba was a learn from foul kind of thing, I don’t think you will ever see them develop a starter in that way again so in that way Joba was a good lesson but at his expense.  (Quote)

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    The Big City of Dreams Reply:

    They may never develop a starter like that again but I believe prospects will fall out of favor with them based on their struggles or short comings. That’s how this org. operates put up in yr one or we lose faith in you.  (Quote)

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  5. I think people tend to take Cashman’s comment that Joba is a reliever as too literal and final. There is really no reason for Cashman to say anything but that and fuel more media speculation. I don’t mean to suggest that there is some secret plan to convert him back to a starter but given the right set of circumstances I think they would consider it regardless of what he says now.

    If everyone had known that Hughes would be as good as he was last year and that Javy would stink, that deal would never have been made and Joba and Hughes would both probably be starters today. There was really no way to know that and I don’t question the logic of preferring a proven quality innings eater like Vasquez to having both Joba and Hughes in the rotation as at least somewhat question marks. If Pettite returns and they add Lee, there’s no starter position available so why would Cashman say that Joba is anything but a reliever at this point? Even if Pettite retires and there is one spot open (assuming Lee signs), Cashman may view the Killer B’s as better long term options. I don’t think it would make a lot of sense to convert Joba back for one year. Nova makes more sense if they are only looking for a short term placeholder. If Pettite retires and Lee signs elsewhere, I think their thinking could change. If there are two openings, it may make more sense to convert Joba and develop him as a long term starter which would still leave a spot open down the road for one of the Killer B’s. I’d be surprised if they didn’t at least seriously consider Joba as a starter under those circumstances.

    The point is that while we can lament the lack of patience with Joba’s development, there will always be a tension between winning now and developing youth on the Yankees. Joba got less of a chance with the Yankees than with other clubs but it is neither that surprising or that easy to question NY being unwilling to enter the season last year with a plan of Joba and Hughes making 40% of their starts. They’ve underutilized Joba but to some extent that is the cost of being a perrenial contender. There’s little point to debating his role as much as we do but I still expect that sometime down the road he will get another opportunity to start. He’s too tantalizing an option to overlook in the face of the inevitable needs that will present themselves and be hard to fill. In the meantime, Cashman is right to say that Joba is a reliever. The ongoing debate really doesn’t do anyone much good.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    T.O. Chris Reply:

    If Pettitte retires and Lee signs elsewhere I guarantee Joba doesn’t get a look to start they will instead trade for a starter much like they did with Javy to be the 2 starter, Hughes will slide into the 3 spot and they will let internal options like Nova, Noesi, etc… fill out the final spot.

    The days of Joba starting for the Yankees are 100% over! Even if their are injuries in the middle of the season he can’t be sent down to the minors to stretch out and he hasn’t started a game in over a year and they would be better off making a trade or using another minor league starter.  (Quote)

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    bg90027 Reply:

    You guarantee it huh? I don’t guarantee that he will start again especially for the Yankees but I do think its likely that he gets a chance to start somewhere and I don’t rule it out for NY. I agree that finding a #2 through a trade would be explored before they committed to converting Joba back to a starter but there aren’t a lot of #2 starters available though and you need to trade alot to get them. Javy wasn’t a #2 btw, he was supposed to be a #4. I’m not saying Cashman would be excited about the decision, just that its not that inconceivable that he’d view it as the best option. It’s reasonable to have an open competition for #5 with Nova as the favorite (and Joba not a candidate) but if they have two vacancies then they couldn’t expect to get two starters from a pool of Nova, Noesi, Phelps and Mitre/Other Scrap heap types. I think they’d also look to Joba before they traded prospects they really like for a starter they don’t like much or committed multiple years to a Jaret Wright/Carl Pavano type again.  (Quote)

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    T.O. Chris Reply:

    Javy was a number 4 for us but even then many people thought Javy would wind up being the 2 and he was coming off of a sub 3 ERA people tend to look ay Javy based on this past year but going into last season he was coming off what some thought was a Cy worthy season.

    Also I didn’t mean that we traded for Javy to be a number 2 I was just citing the fact that they traded for Javy over starting Joba and I believe they would do so again.

    I only said they would go after someone to be the 2 I never said he would be a number 2 in caliber, most likely the Yankees would go hard and heavy on a Josh Johnson type and try and pry some young ace potential starter away to be the 2.

    There is o scenario in which I can see them giving up prospects “they like” for someone they “don’t really like” it would be more like upping the names in the trade to go after some young pitcher they really really like.

    There is no way (in my own opinion obviously that is) that the Yankees let 2 guys start from the collection of pitchers they have now, if both Pettitte and Lee move on then the Yankees will make some kind of move before they allowed Ivan Nova to be the 4th starter and Joba to be the 5th, there is little to no chance that the Yankees can beat out the Rays and Red Sox having Hughes, Burnett, Nova, Joba following after CC.

    Both Nova and Joba would be on inning restrictions (since Joba is once again coming from the pen) and neither one has proven themselves to be able to go even a full 6 innings consistently as a starter in the MLB, that may be a fine gamble wiith the 5 spot once a week but doing twice will kill your pen.

    IMO if Joba ever starts agaun it will be for another team.  (Quote)

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    T.O. Chris Reply:

    I will add one thing IMO if it came down to a scenario where Pettitte is retired and Lee re-signs with Texas and the only options are down to letting Joba start and signing Jorge De La Rosa I’m positive they would sign De La Rosa.

    BTW I don’t want Jorge De La Rosa he is too old at this point to have never put it together in a season.  (Quote)

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    The Big City of Dreams Reply:

    I agree even if Lee goes somewhere else and Andy retires they wouldn’t even think about having Joba start. That ship has sailed.  (Quote)

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    The Big City of Dreams Reply:

    “there will always be a tension between winning now and developing youth on the Yankees. ”

    If that’s the case then they should just focus on buying free agents. They always get up in arms when teams complain about them spending money. They’re so quick to say how they have young guys on the way and how they’re going to be major pieces to the big club. If they can’t handle the tension of developing then stop doing it  (Quote)

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    T.O. Chris Reply:

    I think you kind of missed the point.

    He was trying to say for the Yankees “re-building” isn’t an option so instead you have to find a way to balance developing and infusing young talent wild building with a veteran core of free agents who know how to win.  (Quote)

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    The Big City of Dreams Reply:

    I understand where he’s coming from but I believe what I wrote is right about the organization. I realize that can’t rebuild so they have to find a balance.  (Quote)

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    T.O. Chris Reply:

    None of your posts have been about the Yankees striking a balance between growing prospects and veteran free agents/trades all of your posts have criticized the Yankees for being unable to develop prospect and/or unwilling to develop prospects and that simply isn’t true.

    Robinson Cano is a perfect example of a player who came up very raw and they allowed him to go through struggles, peaks and valleys to come out as good as he is, Gardner is another example of a raw player who at first struggled to hit but was given a starting job after those first troubles and losing his job to Melky in 09.

    This may have been Phil Hughes first full season starting but it was in no way his first with the team, Hughes has been developed and brought along the entire way with nothing but development on the brain, he has been throughva few struggles and injuries and the Yankees always preached patience with him when the fans even wanted Santana.

    You paint a picture of the Yankee brass like they are feable, scared and dumb and this simply isn’t true, have they made mistakes? Yes, who hasn’t in this buisness? However to act like they “can’t stand the heat of developing players” and they “should just stop” is ludicrous.  (Quote)

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    The Big City of Dreams Reply:

    It’s true though they can’t stand the heat when it comes to developing. They pumped up the Kennedy train but the moment he stumbled all we heard about is how bad of an attitude he has. They were the ones that gave him a rotation spot based on 26 minor league starts and 3 major league starts in Sep. Were they shocked when he fell flat on his face in 2008? Was it too hard to believe he that a kid rushed to the majors would struggle in his first full yr? My point is if you succeed early then everything is good but if you take a step back you fall out of favor with them.

    “he has been throughva few struggles and injuries and the Yankees always preached patience with him when the fans even wanted Santana.”

    Weren’t the Yankees the one that threw his name in a potential package for Santana.

    Cano hit the ground running when he came up. The struggles he had occurred in the 08. Cano is also the same guy they trade to trade 3-4 times before he made it to the majors.

    No I think they are willing to develop but get turned off when that prospect struggles or doesn’t live up to their expectations. I’m not saying if a player struggles for 5 yrs keep him anyway no I’m not saying that. What I’m referring to is you can’t give a player limited chances and then simply get rid of them because they aren’t pros out of the gate.  (Quote)

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    T.O. Chris Reply:

    That’s not what happened though, you act as if Kenedy was DFA’d he was traded for one of the best centerfielders in the league and I would make that trade again, you have to give up talent for talent and honestly from the very begining I never Kennedy as anymore than an Alfredo Aceves type in the AL, he needs the NL and the breaks that come along with it and he still pitched better than his peripherals and FIP said he should. Were not talking about an ace here we are talking about a 4 or 5 starter at best for the Yankees and a long reliever at worse.

    Cano was never actually traded and they could have swaped him for Matt Kemp had they wanted too after 08 and they didn’t they stayed with him even after an awful year and a lot of the fan base turned off.

    Also Robby had attitude and work ethic problems until just recently and he was never ranked as highly in the minors as he is now, if anything he looked like a future problem but with some amazing talent and they DEVELOPED him into the ball player he is today.

    As far as I know the Yankees were asked about Hughes and were never fully convinced to pry with him and they were off limits on Joba.  (Quote)

  6. All of this is criticism is centered on management, and I don’t intend to render them blameless. But had Joba excelled as a starter, then he would have decided his own fate. At some point, you have to look at the player and assign blame to him. The Yanks gave him every opportunity to succeed as a starter, the better parts of two years were spent in the rotation. People seem to forget he started 31 games in 2009. The more he started, the more he regressed. The Yanks are trying to win, and by the end of 2009 he wasn’t giving them much of a chance every 5th day.  (Quote)

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    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    I’ll disagree with this. He got less than 2 months in the rotation in 2008, and pitched very well. He did not pitch that great for large parts on 2009, but he was a 23 year old starter in his first season in the AL East. I think they absolutely gave up too quickly, although as you say, some of the blame should fall on Joba. His conditioning isnt great.  (Quote)

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    T.O. Chris Reply:

    I have to agree they did give up on Joba too quickly and in this instance I think they really worked Joba’s development over but at the same time once he was inserted back into the bullpen he dissapointed in big step up or shut up spots, yes he had great peripheral numbers but when watching the game in a big spot he almost always found a way to lose that game and it’s his performance that has had him fall out of favor which is his fault.

    If your splitting up blame on Joba i’d probably go 70/30 70% The Yankees at fault for development the rest on Joba and his work ethic.  (Quote)

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    The Big City of Dreams Reply:

    Every opportunity to start lol. He pitched a couple of months in 2008 and 1 yr in 2009. How is that considered every opportunity to start. If the yankees are concerned with winning then that’s not a problem but when ppl say all they do is buy players no one wants to hear them bitch about how everyone overlooks them developing talent. The truth is the Yankees cann”t stand the heat when it comes to developing their talent.  (Quote)

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  7. That’s not what happened though, you act as if Kenedy was DFA’d he was traded for one of the best centerfielders in the league and I would make that trade again, you have to give up talent for talent and honestly from the very begining I never Kennedy as anymore than an Alfredo Aceves type in the AL, he needs the NL and the breaks that come along with it and he still pitched better than his peripherals and FIP said he should. Were not talking about an ace here we are talking about a 4 or 5 starter at best for the Yankees and a long reliever at worse.Cano was never actually traded and they could have swaped him for Matt Kemp had they wanted too after 08 and they didn’t they stayed with him even after an awful year and a lot of the fan base turned off.Also Robby had attitude and work ethic problems until just recently and he was never ranked as highly in the minors as he is now, if anything he looked like a future problem but with some amazing talent and they DEVELOPED him into the ball player he is today.As far as I know the Yankees were asked about Hughes and were never fully convinced to pry with him and they were off limits on Joba.  

    I have no problem with the them trading Kennedy for Curtis Granderson. Like you I would make the trade again. What I didn’t like was him being rushed to the majors and then labeled as a kid with a bad attitude when he struggles in his first full yr as a starter. My point is the lack of patience the have in developing their talent.

    The Yankees were dying to get the Randy Johnson deal done and were hoping the D’backs would take Cano in order to complete the deal but luckily for us they passed on him. Yes Cano is still property of the Yankees but let’s not act as if he wasn’t thrown around in trade talks before he made the big club. The main reason why they kept him is because he succeeded in his first couple of seasons.

    “As far as I know the Yankees were asked about Hughes and were never fully convinced to pry with him and they were off limits on Joba. ”

    They might not have been fully convinced but they did throw his name in there. That’s a fact. I remember that being news in NY when it came out.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

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