Joba Chamberlain is the itsy-bitsy spider of the Yankees. Just when you think he is ready to reach the height of his potential, something happens to drag him back down. This time, the culprit was a trampoline, which, considering the ups and downs in his brief career, seems rather apropos.
That Chamberlain was injured playing with his son also seems appropriate. Despite his inconsistent performance, Joba remains a fan favorite because of the affable personality he portrays. While most athletes like to maintain their distance, Chamberlain has always had an open demeanor. From his interaction with fans at the Stadium to his active presence on Twitter, the right hander has had a knack for connecting with his fans.
Although most people will probably be willing to cut Chamberlain some slack, others have decided that his latest set back is worthy of scorn and blame. “Dumb”, “irresponsible”, and “foolish” have been some of the words used to condemn Chamberlain’s decision to jump on a trampoline with his son, but such indictments serve no purpose. Are trampolines dangerous? Sure. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there are approximately 100,000 trampoline injuries a year, so maybe Chamberlain should have known better. However, that’s easy to say after the fact, but perhaps not as much when staring into the eyes of admiring child.
By all accounts, Chamberlain was progressing quite nicely in his rehab from last year’s Tommy John surgery. Not only was the right hander on schedule for a return to the team by the early summer, but according to many reports, the Yankees were expecting him to make a big impact. And, who knows, if Chamberlain’s return had been a success, he could have once again become the heir apparent to Mariano Rivera. However, the real loss isn’t the Yankees. Rather, the injury is a personal blow to Chamberlain, who has had to overcome many obstacles on the road to the major leagues, and now will be presented with yet another hurdle.
A dislocated ankle is a serious injury. Brian Cashman admitted as much. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Chamberlain doesn’t step atop a mound again until next Spring Training, which, needless to say, would set his career back significantly. After bursting onto the scene as a 21-year old flame thrower, Chamberlain is now facing the prospect of almost two full years without throwing a pitch and the corresponding doubts that come along with it. And, those doubts won’t be his alone.
In 2013, Chamberlain will still only be 27, so by no means does this injury have to be a career ender. If the right hander can summon the fortitude to endure another long and difficult rehab, he could make it back. However, Chamberlain isn’t the only one who needs to preserve. Even though the Yankees may be frustrated by the right hander’s reoccurring injuries, it would be counterproductive to either take an adversarial position regarding how the pitcher was injured or simply give up on him altogether. The Yankees have invested so much time and energy trying to develop Chamberlain’s career, so there’s no point in backing out now. Only then would the word “dumb” become appropriate.