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Put Joba Chamberlain In Lockdown


Apparently Joba Chamberlain has to go under house arrest for his own good. The guy was already recovering from elbow ligament replacement surgery when he destroyed one of his ankles last week playing on a trampoline with his young son.

Who knew a trampoline could be a deadly weapon? Yeah, I know, whatever goes up must come down, but a trampoline is supposed to be spongy, squishy, springy, not like landing on concrete. Another case of accidents happening at the home. A fluke, of course, but one that must be demoralizing and depressing for the pitcher whom at one time the Yankees felt was going to be the next Ron Guidry.

Lately, the big dude, who is 6-foot-2 and weighs 240 pounds, has more resembled Jabba The Hut. Laying around for weeks on end now with his right ankle encased in a cast will not do wonders for Chamberlain’s conditioning. It was not so very long ago that Chamberlain was a flavor-of-the-month media hit.

When Chamberlain made his Major League debut in 2007 fans loved him and sports reporters ate up his personal story of overcoming a difficult childhood with a mother who had trouble with drugs and a father stricken by polio who after Joba’s toddlerhood raised him alone after leaving an Indian reservation in Nebraska. Although some details have grown fuzzy, that was essentially the tale. There were a lot of attaboys directed Chamberlain’s way for making it to the New York Yankees.

After the novelty wore off, however, he was expected to pitch and pitch well. Only irregularly has that occured. The Yankees yo-yoed Chamberlain from the bullpen to the starting rotation to the bullpen. He was a sensation that rookie year, throwing 24 innings, going 2-0 with a 0.38 earned run average. Yanks fans adored the feel-good story more than vendors’ street corner hot dogs and pretzels. The next year Chamberlain appeared in 42 games, went 4-3 with a 2.60 ERA. He was only 22. So far, so good.

In 2009, Joba was a full-timer in the rotation. He started 31 games and went 9-6. But his ERA shot up to 4.75. Uh, oh.

Schizophrenia on Chamberlain useage set in and in 2010 Chamberlain didn’t make a single start. He appeared in 73 games out of the bullpen, even closed out some games, and collected three saves, but the ERA was still up there, like an unhealthy cholesteral reading. It was 4.40, not acceptable at all for a closer who is supposed to put out fires, not ignite them.

Things started pretty well for Chamberlain in 2011. He was 2-0 with a 2.83 ERA in 27 showings out of the bullpen when his arm lost its snap like a wrung out dish rag. Arm surgery followed and the tentative game plan had it that Chamberlain, now 26, would be back on the active roster by June, 2012.

Then he was ambushed by the trampoline. There are gruesome descriptions of what Chamberlain’s ankle looked like with bone protruding through the skin and other non-friendly breakfast images. Although Yankees manager Joe Girardi bravely predicted that Chamberlain will pitch for New York this season, it seems as if only a miraculous combination of healing circumstances for his arm, ankle, and physical conditioning will allow that to occur. And even so, it seems it would probably be in September as a cameo.

You’ve got to feel badly for the young man. Baseball fans have gobbled up morsels of Chamberlain at his finest and wanted to devour more. Now this. It wasn’t exactly as if he was breaking the rules of society, his contract, or even common sense really. Though I wouldn’t play trampoline if I was a professional athlete counting on my body, it’s not as if Chamberlain got into a stupid bar fight, was riding a motorcyle without a helmet, or went downhill skiing at 90 mph.

He was playing with his kid. Seems like the punishment is much worse than deserved for such an innocent acvitity.

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