Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Fully Committed

Joba the Hut

Far be it for me to criticize the Yankees – if I were running things, I’d make every wrong move possible to ensure a last-place finish. But I can’t help but wonder if the transition for Joba Chamberlain from the setup role to the starting rotation will blow up in everyone’s face.

Hank Steinbrenner – someone trying way too hard to be like his father – made it known he wanted Chamberlain in the rotation, stating anyone who thought otherwise was an idiot. And given the inadequacies within the rotation – and the injury to Ian Kennedy – Chamberlain will make his first start Tuesday against Toronto.

Does Chamberlain have the stuff worthy of a starting pitcher? Possibly, but I don’t think the Yankees prepared him properly. Taking him out of the setup role, manager Joe Girardi instead starting throwing Chamberlain two innings at a time, eventually raising his pitch count.

Most teams put a guy in AAA to get him used to being a starter, but not the Yankees. Apparently, long relief is all the preparation a guy needs.

But more importantly, what about the bullpen? New York’s middle relief is suspect at best, and Chamberlain was doing a masterful job setting up Mariano Rivera. With Chamberlain now in the rotation, who will set up Rivera? The Yankees could’ve used him Monday night in a loss to the Minnesota Twins, and unless someone reliable steps up, Girardi and company might regret this move.

The Yankees are in fourth place in the American League East at 28-29 as of Tuesday, seven games back of the first-place Rays (yes, you read that right). If this move doesn’t succeed the way Mini-Steinbrenner wants, New York might miss the playoffs for the first time in 13 years.

Think Joe Torre’s glad he left? Sure, the Dodgers are also 28-29, and dealing with the free-agent disaster that is Andruw Jones, but they’re second in the National League West, 3.5 behind the Diamondbacks.

You’re Fired

On the surface, the Detroit Pistons’ firing of Flip Saunders seems like a questionable move. Saunders was 176-70 in his tenure with the Pistons, taking them to the Eastern Conference Finals all three years.

But after a 4-2 series loss to the Boston Celtics, Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars said it was time for a new voice on the sidelines. Rumblings throughout the league are that the players weren’t buying into what Saunders was selling, that he had already lost his veteran squad.

If that’s true – and considering how little I follow the NBA, I can’t say if it is – then the move was a no-brainer. Otherwise, I can’t help but wonder if this will set the franchise back a few years.

Detroit has reached the Eastern Conference Finals for the last six seasons, and in 2004 won the NBA Finals with Larry Brown. The roster is so experienced and talented this move might not matter much, but if Dumars makes the wrong hire – rumors are already circulating former Mavericks head man Avery Johnson is a frontrunner – he could set this whole thing back.

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