Mailbag: Joba too pumped on mound?
Beat reporter Bryan Hoch answers Yankees fans' questions
What's your take on the fuss over Joba Chamberlain's celebrations on the mound? It seems that a lot of people are singling out Joba for fist pumps and yelling, but how is that different than what Jonathan Papelbon does with the Red Sox? And don't you want to see emotion from your players? -- Matt S., Paramus, N.J.
In full disclosure, I watched Chamberlain's eighth-inning strikeout of Frank Thomas on Opening Day and didn't even give it a second thought. Chamberlain whirled, he pumped his fist and he shouted, and my initial reaction was that this is something we've seen Chamberlain do on numerous occasions already in the 24 big league innings that preceded that strikeout. It was surprising when it became a hot-button issue over the next couple of days, particularly on the radio.
We can all appreciate the old-school guys who put their heads down, run out every ground ball and don't call extra attention to themselves. There's charm in that. But a lot of people don't want players to just be robots out there, either, and the fact that Thomas posed for a photo the next day with Chamberlain and his father, Harlan, indicates that there wasn't too much thought given to it in the Blue Jays clubhouse.
It was interesting to hear Thomas say how the game has changed, and that there was a point in his career where a gyrating pitcher like Chamberlain would have angered him, but not now. There's a good comparison to Papelbon, because in a way, their emotional displays and attitudes on the mound do seem to impact them. If you clamp down the reins on those guys, could it affect their performance? Is it worth the risk to find out?
Chamberlain has said that he wears his heart on his sleeve and if he doesn't behave that way, he feels as though he's cheating his teammates. He said to look back at the game tapes pitching in college at Nebraska and that he acted the exact same way. Joe Girardi said that he'll monitor the situation to see if it becomes a problem, but there doesn't seem to be much expectation of Chamberlain changing anytime soon -- unless he's expressly told to.
On Opening Day I had the great fortune to catch a foul ball Frank Thomas hit off Joba Chamberlain in the eighth inning. The ball has a depiction of Yankee Stadium -- will the Yankees use this ball the whole season? -- John R., Long Beach, N.Y.
Congratulations on your grab -- that should give you a nice story to tell for years to come. To answer your question, all baseballs used in the final 81 regular season home games at Yankee Stadium will have the logo of the ballpark's classic entrance, along with the markings of 1923-2008.
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Is anyone else worried about how Joe Girardi uses the kids? If you look at the pitchers he managed in Florida -- Josh Johnson, Anibal Sanchez, Ricky Nolasco and Sergio Mitre -- they all got hurt. Any worries this might happen in New York, too? -- Kevin W., Chicago
That's a topic that's been brought up a few times, not only with Girardi, but also general manager Brian Cashman and other persons in the Yankees front office. The general consensus seems to be that when the Yankees were considering Girardi for the managerial post, they performed their due diligence and spoke to people within the Marlins organization regarding the 2006 season.
Neither Cashman nor Girardi have wanted to go into specifics, but suffice to say that Cashman was "satisfied" with the explanations he received. The other part of this is that the Yankees would have had innings limits on the young hurlers anyway regardless of who was the manager, because they look at guys like Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Chamberlain as long-term investments. They want to protect those guys so they aren't the next version of the "Whatever happened to...?" storyline.
I think the Yankees have done a decent job over the years of acquiring proper talent. However, it appears Kei Igawa is not in that group. Do you think the Yankees took too much of a chance in trying to keep pace with Boston, or is it a case of Igawa not being able to adjust to the big league pitching style? -- Chris T., Basking Ridge, N.J.
Not putting too much stock into Igawa's six perfect innings on Opening Day for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, huh? There's no question that the Yankees would prefer to have their $46 million investment paying dividends at the big league level than in the International League, and thus far Igawa has been a disappointment. I keep thinking back to the day in January 2007 when Cashman stressed Igawa would be a long-term work in progress and that he shouldn't be compared to Daisuke Matsuzaka, but the timing of the two deals does invite that.
What Igawa should be learning is that the high strike he struck batters out with in Japan will hurt him in the Majors, and it's something they're working on. Things that he may get away with at Triple-A could even fall into that category. Like with all pitchers, consistency is the key. If Igawa can make the necessary adjustments, the Yankees will give him an opportunity to contribute.
Surely you've heard the Yankee Stadium fans aren't taking too kindly to someone wearing Paul O'Neill's number. If they had to give away O'Neill's No. 21, shouldn't they have given it to a player other than LaTroy Hawkins? -- David C., Cresskill, N.J.
Believe me, I completely understand why O'Neill is such a revered figure in the Yankees family, but it's amazing how long the debate over this uniform number has gone on. Booing Hawkins before he even threw one pitch for the club seemed ridiculous to me, though he had a bad outing against Tampa Bay not long after that.
Hawkins said he wasn't even aware O'Neill wore No. 21 in New York, which won't endear him to Yankees fans, but he had a better reason for wearing the number -- as a tribute to Roberto Clemente. Jorge Posada would understand; Posada displays a pin in his locker that urges Major League Baseball to universally retire No. 21 in Clemente's honor.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.