Thursday, November 13, 2014



It’s been five years since the Yankees last world championship, and now we are down to just five (pending the ultimate destination of David Robertson) players remaining from that 2009 roster.
Francisco Cervelli, to me, represented a spirit this team desperately needed. While he’s never been considered the best catcher in this organization, he’s certainly among the top in heart.  He genuinely loved putting on the pinstripes. 
With that strong love and passion came a bitter disappointment that I wrote about (here) when he was demoted on the last day of spring training in 2012.  His defense had become suspect (in 2011 he threw out runners at only an 11 percent rate) and while I didn’t agree with GM Brian Cashman stringing the catcher along until the final day, I understood the reasoning. 
I was at his first minor league game that season as the Scranton RailRiders faced the Syracuse Chiefs.   What I saw was a broken man, and wondered if I’d ever see him return to the Bronx.  He did.
What I found out later was that it took a visit from his parents to shake him from his doldrums.  He worked hard (raising his caught-stealing percentage to 50% in 2013), rekindled the flame inside, and found his way back to “the Show”.

Late in 2013 Cervelli suffered another setback when he was suspended 50 games for use of performance-enhancing drugs.  He accepted the penalty and admitted his poor decision in seeking a “quick fix” to recovery from a broken foot.
He returned in 2014 and once again radiated enthusiasm while hitting .301 – the best of his career – over 49 games as a backup to Brian McCann. It was refreshing to watch Cervelli celebrate a key strikeout while behind the plate or hustle a double into a triple on the base paths.
And now he’s gone. 
The Yankees, forever searching for left-handed pitchers like trick-or-treaters rummaging through a night’s rewards for that one special piece of candy, traded Cervelli to the Pirates for southpaw Justin Wilson.

Wilson is a 27-year-old, who over 136 games in relief in a three-year span, holds a 2.99 ERA.  In 2014 he appeared in 70 games for the Bucs and had a not-so-impressive 4.20 ERA.  His WHIP (walks + hits per inning pitched) was 1.317 and over his career is 1.229.  According to FanGraphs, Wilson throws his fastball roughly 73% of the time and it averages 95 mph. 
Given the depth the Yankees have at catcher, and that Wilson may not yet reached his potential, I understand the deal.  On paper it makes sense.
On paper.
What we don’t know yet is how Wilson will contribute to, or detract from, the team chemistry.  That’s something that can’t be quantified mathematically. Only time will tell us how the hurler will deal with pitching in baseball’s cathedral.

What we do know is that we’ve lost a player who proved he could come back from a challenge time and time again.  We lost a player that all of us who follow the Yankees related to.  Seeing the authentic love of the game Francisco Cervelli put on display in every Major League game he played gave us hope that money is not yet the only motivator in sport.
He wasn’t perfect by any means, but the way he could constantly bounce back made him ours.
I’m hoping this deal is a win-win.  Certainly I want Justin Wilson to succeed, but I’m also going to keep watching Francisco Cervelli as a Pirate.  I want him to be successful in Pittsburgh.  Some things go beyond a fan’s loyalty and one of them is the way you play the game.  
Good luck Francisco, we’re going to miss you.  We just don’t know how much yet.


--Steve Skinner, BYB Senior Writer
Twitter: @oswegos1


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