Joba Chamberlain is likely headed for Tommy John surgery after an MRI found a tear in his elbow ligament, apparently of mysterious origins because Chamberlain "has no idea when this happened" and yesterday said he thought his injury, classified a strained muscle, was not serious.
This obviously brings up a number of questions, not least of which is: Did the Yankees drive Joba to the DL with their handling of him? I think that's an unanswerable question. We do know that Joba was a starter, then he injured his arm, and after that the Yankees determined he was less of an injury risk in the bullpen, but obviously it didn't matter. Did the Joba Rules lead to that initial injury, or were they in place because Chamberlain was at high risk for injury? Some day, Brian Cashman will write that tell-all book…
My guess is Joba would have gotten hurt anyway. Throwing a baseball is an unnatural act, and when you have the nasty repertoire Chamberlain has/had, and the conditioning concerns he has/had, injury is simply more likely to occur, whether as a starter or reliever.
Of course, that won't stop the old guard from screaming about how this is a prime example of pitch counts ruining the game (cue Nick Cafardo on Twitter):
Joba Rules didn't prevent Chamberlain from needing TJ surgery. Time to re-evaluate the babying. Lots of pitchers getting hurt.
Pitchers get hurt. That's baseball. But I'm pretty sure we're all grateful that smart teams "baby" their pitchers to the extent that it's practical. There are too many Sandy Koufaxes, Tex Hughsons, Smoky Joe Woods, Kerry Woods, Mark Priors, Matt Clements and Boo Ferrises — all pitchers whose careers crashed and burned after criminal overwork — littering the game's history books to believe otherwise.
As a fan privileged enough to watch an all-time great with a fragile frame and a penchant for shoulder injuries unfurl the most dominant pitching we'll see in our lifetimes while never throwing more than 241 innings in a season or 140 pitches in a game, I can't say, nor can anyone else, that the Yankees erred in their handling of Chamberlain. The likelihood from the very beginning was that he would flame out. Because, after all, There Is No Such Thing As a Pitching Prospect.