In the latest edition of "stories that aren't really news, yet the New York media will keep shoving them down our throats", Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera of the Yankees reportedly got into a brief war of words before the Yankees-Royals game on Saturday. David Waldstein of the New York Times has the story.
Rivera was conducting a dugout interview after he had finished meeting with local families that have endured hardships. During the interview, Chamberlain was standing on the railing of the dugout signing autographs and speaking loudly to be heard above the public address system to members of his family in the stands.
At one point Rivera called out, “Joba, suave,” and used a hand gesture for Chamberlain to keep the volume down. Rivera continued to speak with the reporters, but once the interview ended Chamberlain said to Rivera, “Don’t shush me.”
Rivera initially thought Chamberlain was joking, but Chamberlain reiterated the point twice more with a stern expression, saying: “I’m serious. Don’t ever shush me.”
Is this a truly a non-story, though? I think the issue here isn't "TROUBLE IN PARADISE", but instead "Joba continues to be a disappointment". Chamberlain was the #3 prospect in baseball before the 2008 season (ahead of Clay Buchholz, Clayton Kershaw, David Price among pitchers in the top ten) and the top prospect in the Yankees organization (ahead of players such as Austin Jackson, Ian Kennedy, and Brett Gardner, all of whom are solid major league regulars at the worst) thanks to a 2007 season that saw Chamberlain post a 2.45 ERA and 135 strikeouts in 88 1/3 minor league innings and a 0.38 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 24 major league innings.
But since that breakout 2007, Chamberlain has struggled tremendously in the majors. Once thought to have the ceiling of an elite starting pitcher, Chamberlain has made just 43 starts in his career, and none since 2009. His 2009 as a full-time starter was an unmitigated disaster after a 4.75 ERA in 157 1/3 innings, and he was thrust back into the bullpen in 2010. He's missed significant time over the last two seasons after Tommy John surgery in the summer of 2011, and is currently on the 15-day DL with the Yankees with a strained oblique. He's now 27 and will be hitting the free agent market after this season, with his role as Rivera's successor seemingly usurped by David Robertson.
I don't think the Yankees were in much of a rush to bring Chamberlain back with his injury history and lack of solid production over his Yankees career, and I think a public spat with Rivera is simply throwing even more fuel on the fire and affirming his likely departure from the club after the season.