Monday, April 9, 2012


He warmed up with the pitcher near the wall of the first base line and immediately you could tell it just wasn’t the same. His throws back were half-hearted and occasionally a pitch would slip by his glove, and he’d half-run, half-walk to retrieve it. During the game his tosses to the pitcher had a slow-pitch softball look to them as they arched lazily back to the hurler. At the plate we watched as – with a runner at first base - he grounded a ball near the middle of the field that the shortstop had to cross the second base bag to grab. The shortstop got to the ball and tossed it to the second baseman who turned the double play with plenty of time because our batter had run at slightly faster than a jog down to first.

This wasn’t the Francisco Cervelli I had become accustomed to seeing. Of course, this wasn’t the New York Yankees either. No, this was the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees – the Triple A farm club for the boys from the Bronx.

His spirit is broken. The Francisco Cervelli that I and thousands of other Yankee fans knew had endeared himself to us through his hustle, attitude and joy for the game. I loved watching his all-out style of play and “we can do it” spirit. I just knew that his youthful joy had to be uplifting in the often stuffy, professional clubhouse of my favorite team and it certainly was noticeable on the field. He, along with Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano, seemed to give my Yankees a heart.Now part of that heart has been ripped from the team. I don’t blame Cervelli. He’s a true competitor and perhaps his naivety to the business end of the game is what allowed him that carefree baseball-love that he exuded every time he stepped onto our hallowed grounds. It is only natural that with the loss of that naivety would come the sacrifice of his spirit.

Instead, I'd like to blame Brian Cashman. At the outcry from Yankee fans over the Cervelli demotion he explained how it was an unfortunate business, and that the player they acquired – Chris Stewart (lifetime .198 hitter who hit .204 last season with the San Francisco Giants and who has the same number of career home runs as CC Sabathia) – was out of options and had to be kept at the major league level. He went on to say how the deal was made because with Austin Romine’s injury, the catching ranks had thinned.

I, like Cervelli, find Cashman’s excuse to be inadequate. His reasoning tells me one of two things:
  • He and his subordinates did not do their homework and failed to realize that Stewart was out of options. Thereby telling us that he and his team are incompetent OR
  • He didn’t even attempt to trade for a MINOR LEAGUE CATCHER which would have enabled him to keep Cervelli at the major league level. This choice would tell me that he never intended to keep Cervelli on the big league club.
Either way, I feel that Cervelli’s demotion is a mistake that hurts the team.

I hope that Francisco Cervelli can rekindle the fire he had in his belly for baseball. Not only was his attitude good for my Yankees, it was good for baseball itself.

Right now, the player I saw play at Syracuse’s Alliance Bank Stadium the other night is only a shell of that spark plug who gave the Bombers some color, some flavor.

In the meantime, we Yankee fans are stuck with a backup catcher who is four years older than Cervelli and a far worse hitter. More importantly, our clubhouse has far less character and that is something that Brian Cashman needs to value a little more.

--Steve Skinner, BYB Guest Writer

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