Thursday, April 26, 2012

Meet A Prospect : Joba Chamberlain Edition

Welcome back to The Greedy Pinstripes where we will be re-introducing you to Yankees reliever and fan favorite Joba Chamberlain. Joba Chamberlain is a very interesting story when you look at his successful career at Nebraska, him flying through the Yankees system, his dominance as a reliever in his young career, his mothers DUI, the "Joba Rules", Tommy John Surgery, the trampoline incident, and so much more. He has definitely had a very interesting career up to this point, especially to be so young, and hopefully this is just the beginning. Let's meet Joba Chamberlain.

Joba Chamberlain, born Justin Louis Heath, was born on September 23rd , 1985 in Lincoln Nebraska, where he grew up until he entered the MLB First Year Player draft.  Chamberlain was born to parents, Harlan Chamberlain and Jackie Standley, who were never married and ended their relationship when Joba was only 18 months old. Joba's mother began abusing drugs when Joba was a young boy, around 4 or 5 years old, and that has really hurt him and his mothers relationship as they currently rarely speak to each other. Joba has native american blood running through his veins as his father was born on the Winnebago Indian Reservation but he ultimately had to leave to be treated for polio. Joba still currently has other family members living on American Indian reservations. When Joba, then Justin, was young his two year old cousin was unable to pronounce her brothers name (Joba's other cousin) properly instead pronouncing it Justin she pronounced it Joba. Joba's dad Harlan heard the name and liked the name right away and started calling his son, Justin, the name Joba because he said the name was "dynamic." Joba obviously agreed because he eventually had his name legally changed.  

Joba served as a ball boy and bat boy for the Lincoln Northeast High School's state championship baseball team. That is unlike any of the Meet A Prospect sessions we have done so far because Joba did not really play much baseball  in High School until his senior year. That year though he was named to the second team Super State from the Lincoln Journal Star going 3-2 with a 3.35 ERA striking out 29 batters in 31.1 innings.  He eventually graduated from Northeast High school but did not go straight to college because he had to go to work to help his parents pay the bills. He , for a very short time, worked for the city of Lincoln Nebraska's maintenance department.

Over the summer of 2004 Joba played in American Legion Amateur baseball and went 4-4 with a 1,36 ERA striking out 137 batters and walked only 21 en route to all state honors. He also hit .505 with 11 home runs, 11 doubles, and 37 RBIs as a two way player. With impressive stats like that it makes you wonder why he never said anything about hitting or wanting to go to the National League to pursue being the next Babe Ruth. 

Joba started his college playing career at the University of Nebraska-Kearney before transferring to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He helped the Cornhuskers reach the 2005 College World Series and helped them win their first ever College World Series with a 10-2 record with a 2.81 ERA including 5 double digit strike out games. Tricep tendinitis slowed him down in 2006 but he still pitched to a 6-5 record with a 3.93 ERA and 102 K's in 89.1 IP and 14 games. 

Joba was drafted 41st overall by the New York Yankees in the 2006 MLB First Year Player draft when the Yanks received a compensation pick for Tom Gordon when he went to the Philadelphia Phillies. Going into the 2007 season, his first season in the Yankees system, he was ranked as the 4th best pitching prospect in the Yankees organization and 75th overall.  His fastball was easily named the best in the entire Yankees system, which was very pitching rich at the time.  He did not spend much time in the minors leagues in 2007, blowing through Single A Tampa, AA Trenton, AAA Scranton, and all the way to the majors in the same season. He also pitched in the US All Star Futures team that same season. 

When he was called up, and I hate to bring this up YET AGAIN, the "Joba Rules" were conceived to protect his arm from over use. The rules stipulated that he could not be used out of the bullpen on consecutive days and he also received an extra day of rest for every inning he pitched in the majors. Babying is what I call it but you're not here to hear my opinion you are here to learn about Joba ;). Joba made himself a special place in mine, and a lot of Yankees fans, heart when he threw over Kevin Youkilis' head twice in August of 2007 and was suspended and fined for it.... F Youk. How could we forget the swarm of bugs that attacked him in the 2007 playoffs against the Cleveland Indians? What a year for Joba Chamberlain... but it was only the beginning of a roller coaster ride. 

Joba, after coming back from a leave of absence to be with his father who fell in his Nebraska home, was made a starter in the 2008 season by the request of Hank Steinbrenner. Everything was going well, including out dueling Josh Beckett in a July start, until he landed on the DL with rotator cuff tendinitis while starting against the Texas Rangers. He was never the same that season after the injury and was never the same as a starter again, to date. In 2009 he continued to struggle as a starter and the Yankees brass even contemplated sending him down to the minor leagues and leaving him off the post season roster. Eventually they made the decision to put him in the bullpen as a set up man and he flourished in that post season en route to his first World Series ring behind the arms of CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, and Andy Pettitte. The 2010 season saw Joba move back to the bullpen and saw Joba struggle again with an ERA north of 5 before he finally turned it on in August of that season. 

2011 started yet another roller coaster ride for Joba as he ended up on the DL in June of that season and ended up needing Tommy John surgery. This was after he lost both his set up man position, to David Robertson, and then his 7th inning spot to recently signed Rafael Soriano.  Starting 2012 he was way ahead of schedule in his rehab for Tommy John surgery but severely injured his ankle jumping on a trampoline with his son, suspending any chance of him pitching in the majors indefinitely. The diagnosis was an open ankle dislocation and did not seem life threatening, contrary to original reports of massive blood loss. 

Joba has one son, Karter Chamberlain, and has done some television appearances so he should have plenty to keep him busy on his road back to the Yankees. He made an appearance in an episode of Man Vs. Food in which he was coaching Adam Richman through an eating challenge in Brooklyn New York. Unfortunately Joba has had an equal amount of roller coaster moments off the field as well, none worse then when he got arrested on suspension of DUI in October of 2008. He also had an open container in the vehicle with him when a Nebraska State Police Officer pulled him over. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to probation in 2009. The injuries, the poor performances, the family problems, the Joba rules, the mental games, all that and Joba still keeps a good character, a good demeanor, and still keeps that smile on his face. Best wishes to Joba and his family and here's to coming back to the Yankees as soon as possible. Cheers to you Joba, get better soon. 

Tune in tomorrow when we continue our Meet A Prospect special edition and we meet Yankees All Star 3B, the highest paid player in baseball, the man who could potentially pass Barry Bonds on the all time home run list, Mr. Alex Rodriguez.

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)