Joba Chamberlain doesn’t get it.
I don’t want to make it seem as if he spat on Lou Gehrig’s plaque in Monument Park, but by the way he scolded Mariano Rivera on Saturday for “shushing” him illustrates very clearly that he is not Yankee material.
Even when he had the chance to do a little damage control before Sunday’s game and publicly avoid coming off as a rock-headed blowhard with no respect for even the most highly-regarded men in baseball, he had to get in his own way.
“I wouldn’t change it,” Chamberlain told reporters regarding his handling of the incident. “I wouldn’t change anything I do in life.”
And that’s why the team should do what it could never bring itself to do throughout Chamberlain’s descent from prized starting pitching prospect to underachieving, oft-injured reliever: give him the boot.
At this point, with Chamberlain yet again stuck on the disabled list and poised to hit the free agent market after the season, a willing trade partner is pretty unrealistic.
That reality is a far cry from the blockbuster deal rumors Chamberlain’s name used to be attached to. His name used to be mentioned — along with other young Yankees — in the same trade scenarios as Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Mark Buehrle, Dan Haren and Jose Bautista. It’s not as if all those names are still top-flight players, but all have produced more than Chamberlain ever has since bursting onto the scene six years ago as a 21-year-old with incredible stuff and eye popping numbers (2-0, 0.38 ERA, 34 Ks in 24 innings).
Since then, he washed out as a starter (4.18 ERA, 1.48 WHIP in 43 starts), appears to be far down the pecking order of pitchers who would take over the closer role if Rivera is hurt again, pleaded guilty to drunken driving stemming from a 2008 arrest and now has had this very public blowup at a clubhouse leader.
For his part, Rivera took the high road and said Chamberlain had apologized to him.
“I’m the oldest here. I have to be the brother that has to keep cool and say what I need to say,” Rivera said. “But it’s good. We are good.”
There was a time when some thought Chamberlain could be the successor to Rivera — baseball’s greatest closer. Maybe that’s why he thinks it’s OK to chastise a Yankee legend. Maybe he still believes that when Mo retires after the season, the Yankees will beg him to stay on and lock up victories for years to come.
If Chamberlain thinks that, then he really doesn’t get it.
Scott Fontana, amNY’s sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.