The Rise and Fall of Pitcher Joba Chamberlain

As a lifelong Yankee fan, I was very saddened today to hear about the serious injury pitcher Joba Chamberlain suffered while allegedly jumping on a trampoline with his son. His severe ankle dislocation is not only the latest set-back for him, the loss of blood initially was almost life-threatening, and reports are that he could be sidelined for the entire season -- worst case scenario might be that his baseball career could very well be over.

It's a shocking turn of events for a young guy who took the New York sports world by storm during his fairytale debut as a reliever with a fiery fastball and a personality to match. He was initially hyped to be an eventual replacement for legendary Yankees closer Mariano Rivera. History rarely writes itself the way we predict.

The Bronx Bombers' management played around with Chamberlain's role, going back and forth between experimenting with him as part of the starting rotation and using him out of the bullpen. They established controversial "Joba Rules," limiting his pitch count and appearance schedule. Off the field he had an unfortunate DUI incident, and then just when it seemed he was getting back on track again, he suffered an injury that required "Tommy John surgery." This was supposed to be the year of his comeback, and now it might be remembered instead as the year that all the king's horses and all the king's men finally couldn't put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

I mean no disrespect by that last sentence, but this news does not bode well, and he might likely become another footnote in Yankees history, added to the list of athletes who might have joined the long pantheon of Pinstriped Greats, only to have their hopes dashed before they could be realized. Some just don't live up to the early expectations.

How many of you are old enough to remember Kevin Maas, who seemed like a sure superstar when he came up from the minor leagues, bursting onto the scene with a quick string of homeruns, making it seem as if he would become the someday-successor of firstbaseman Don Mattingly, only to soon fade into obscurity?

Do you remember Hideki Irabu who tried to bring his celebrity status from Japan to the ballpark in the Bronx, only to disappoint (and sadly commit suicide last year)?

The worst are the ones whose careers crash because of injuries, such as one of my favorites Chien-Ming Wang who was arguably the Yankees ace pitcher for a few years until he hurt his foot running the bases during an interleague game against the Houston Astros, never fully able to recover his pitching mastery

Another example of "what might have been" is the sad tale of Brien Taylor, whom the Yankees acquired as their first-round draft pick in 1991 and who was touted by virtually everyone as a "can't miss" prospect who might hopefully mature to become a professional pitcher for the ages -- but he hurt his shoulder in an off-the-field fist fight and never pitched a single game in the major leagues.

I hope this doesn't spell the end of Chamberlain's career and I pray he has a speedy recovery. Yet, it's still hard not to dwell on what could have been.

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