Talent needs execution like you and I need air to live and thrive. That’s perhaps an extreme analogy but oh so true.

Joba Chamberlain knows this deep within himself.

This uniquely gifted man, lifted up by expectation that now slides down toward a thoroughly middling career because he can’t quite get a handle on “great” and his grip on “good” is slipping.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. A rock star before his foot went from warning track gravel to the outfield grass on his way in from the bullpen; “Joba” was the one-named flame-thrower who defined hype.

A hype that seemed more than justified in those first two months as Chamberlain struck out 34 and allowed only one earned run in his first 24 major league innings.

The rest is perhaps a cautionary tale.

Dazzled by his early dominance, the Yankees pushed Chamberlain into the starting rotation with caution and delicacy. Inconsistency from the pitcher and from the team with regard to his role followed and by 2010 Chamberlain would return to the bullpen with decidedly mixed results.

Chamberlain doesn’t really have a role on the Yankees staff now. The incredibly gluttonous signing of Rafael Soriano supplanted him from the eighth-inning role, and middle relief is a waste bin.

Some have said the Yankees might look to trade him, but Chamberlain’s value has likely never been lower.

You’d think the team might roll the dice one last time and give Chamberlain a chance to best the unimpressive Sergio Mitre in a fight for the fifth spot in the rotation but as of now you’d seemingly be wrong.

Whether frightened by his inconsistency or perhaps the long-term durability of his shoulder the Yankees contend that Chamberlain’s skill set plays better in the ‘pen.

This is of course there prerogative.

The Yankees have given Chamberlain more opportunities to live up to his heady potential than they are used to and though they earned much of the blame for the lackluster results you can’t blame them entirely.

Whether it’s the first or the ninth inning, amidst screams of adulation or derision it’s been on Chamberlain to live up to our limitless hopes while forsaking our ineffable fears. That he has failed to do exactly that puts his career on the cusp of something seemingly unimaginable three years ago.

Moments of truth are forecast too often in the realm of sports but few demand that trite imagery more than Joba does in 2011. A year filled with waning opportunity, definition and either the strange rise or typical fall of Joba Chamberlain.

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