Archive for the ‘ Dailies ’ Category

March 22 – Happy Birthday Cory Lidle

Lidle’s Yankee career began with promise, quickly grew muddled in controversy and ended in shocking tragedy. He came to New York in the Bobby Abreu trade from Philly during the 2006 season. He won his first Yankee start against Toronto and then beat Boston for his second win and I remember at that point liking what I was seeing from this right-hander. He ended up going 4-3 in his nine Yankee starts that year but then got shelled by Detroit in the ALDS-clinching Game 4 loss to Detroit. He was then quoted as saying the Tigers were more ready to play that postseason series than the Yankees, which did not sit well with Yankee fans or his Yankee teammates. It also brought back memories of the derogatory comments Lidle had made about his Philadelphia teammates after getting traded to New York and caused me to conclude that this guy maybe had a screw loose. But then he flew that plane into a New York City apartment building and suddenly those controversial comments meant nothing at all. Lidle was 34 years old when that crash took place and he left behind a wife and young son.

This former Yankee relief pitcher and bullpen coachthis one-time Yankee home-run machine and this one-time Yankee catcher were also born on March 22.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2006 NYY 4 3 .571 5.16 10 9 0 0 0 0 45.1 49 26 26 11 19 32 1.500
9 Yrs 82 72 .532 4.57 277 199 26 11 5 2 1322.2 1400 738 671 159 356 838 1.328
PHI (3 yrs) 26 20 .565 4.50 62 62 0 3 2 0 372.1 396 207 186 40 96 252 1.321
TBD (2 yrs) 5 6 .455 5.13 36 12 6 0 0 0 101.2 122 65 58 13 31 66 1.505
OAK (2 yrs) 21 16 .568 3.74 60 59 0 3 2 0 380.0 361 174 158 40 86 229 1.176
NYM (1 yr) 7 2 .778 3.53 54 2 20 0 0 2 81.2 86 38 32 7 20 54 1.298
CIN (1 yr) 7 10 .412 5.32 24 24 0 3 1 0 149.0 170 95 88 24 44 93 1.436
NYY (1 yr) 4 3 .571 5.16 10 9 0 0 0 0 45.1 49 26 26 11 19 32 1.500
TOR (1 yr) 12 15 .444 5.75 31 31 0 2 0 0 192.2 216 133 123 24 60 112 1.433
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/13/2014.

March 20 – Happy Birthday Paul Mirabella

After the 1978 season, the New York front office decided the Yankee bullpen wasn’t big enough for both Goose Gossage and Sparky Lyle so they traded “The Count” to Texas in a nine player deal. The key acquisition for New York was supposed to be outfielder Juan Beniquez, but he lasted just one season in the Bronx. The real gem in that deal for the Yankees was a young pitcher named Dave Righetti. Paul Mirabella, today’s birthday celebrant quietly accompanied “Ragu” and Beniquez to New York as part of that transaction.

A word of advice to those of you who have children you hope one day will win baseball scholarships to college or get drafted by an MLB team. If they are right-handed groom them to be catchers and if they throw with their left-hands teach them how to pitch. Why? If you study the history of Major League Baseball  you will find a large number of catchers in every era who were able to put together lengthy big league careers even though they can’t hit worth a lick. You’ll also discover that there’s always room on a big league roster for a pitcher who can throw from the left side.

Mirabella is a classic example. He had come up with Texas in 1978.  After going 0-4 in pinstripes during the 1979 season, he was sent to Toronto with Chris Chambliss in the deal that brought Rick Cerone to New York. He remained in the big leagues for the next eleven seasons even though his ERA as a reliever was 4.45, his record was 19-29 and he saved an average of just one game per season during his 13 years in the Majors. How? Because at least once every season since Major League Baseball was introduced to our culture, the manager of every big league team that has ever played has told the owner or general manager of that team that he needs a left hander who can come into a game and get a left-handed hitter on the opposing team out. That’s why and how Mirabella’s career lasted for thirteen seasons on six different teams.

He was born in Belleville, NJ in 1954. In the above baseball card, Mirabella does bear a slight resemblance to comedy actor, Sacha Baron Cohen, no? He also shares his March 20th birthday with the first pitcher in the history of the Yankee franchise to win 20 games in a season and the first one to lose 20 games in a season.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1979 NYY 0 4 .000 8.79 10 1 0 0 0 0 14.1 16 15 14 3 10 4 1.814
13 Yrs 19 29 .396 4.45 298 33 86 3 1 13 499.2 526 284 247 43 239 258 1.531
MIL (4 yrs) 8 5 .615 3.63 124 2 39 0 0 6 163.2 158 78 66 13 71 81 1.399
SEA (3 yrs) 2 5 .286 4.19 70 1 21 0 0 3 88.0 96 50 41 7 39 55 1.534
TEX (2 yrs) 4 3 .571 5.15 50 4 22 0 0 4 78.2 76 46 45 6 39 52 1.462
TOR (2 yrs) 5 12 .294 4.64 41 23 3 3 1 0 145.1 171 89 75 13 73 62 1.679
NYY (1 yr) 0 4 .000 8.79 10 1 0 0 0 0 14.1 16 15 14 3 10 4 1.814
BAL (1 yr) 0 0 5.59 3 2 1 0 0 0 9.2 9 6 6 1 7 4 1.655
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/13/2014.

March 19 – Happy Birthday Fritz Brickell

brick.jpgYou’d have to be close to my age to remember a shortstop by the name of Freddie Patek, who started for the very good Kansas City Royal teams of the 1970s. Patek’s nickname was “the Flea” because he was tiny, just 5’5″ tall and also a real pest for Royal opponents to deal with. He had good speed, was a heck of a bunter and every time you looked up he was moving a runner into scoring position, beating out a slow grounder or stealing a base. Patek was the guy I thought about as I completed my research on today’s pretty obscure Pinstripe Birthday celebrant named Fritz Brickell. Like Patek, Brickell was a 5’5″ shortstop. But unlike Freddie, Fritzie never became a real pest for Yankee opponents at the big league level.

Brickell’s dad, also named Fred, had been a Major League outfielder back in the twenties who played against the Yankees in the 1927 World Series. In addition to being short, Brickell had the additional misfortune of being a middle infielder in a Yankee organization during the fifties that was loaded with great middle infielders. Nevertheless, when Fritzie took over for Tony Kubek as starting shortstop for the Yankee’s AAA team in Denver in 1957, he banged 170 hits and averaged .295. That performance convinced the Yankees he deserved some look-sees at the Major League level. The 1959 Yankee club was one of the most disappointing teams in the franchise’s history. They finished in third place in the AL that season with a 79-75 record. They were playing .500 baseball in June when Brickell was called up. Manager Casey Stengel played him in 18 games during the next six weeks and Fritz hit his one and only big league career home run off of Detroit’s Tom Morgan. Unfortunately, given his small strike zone, Brickell did not like to walk. Kubek’s job was safe.

The Yankees sent Fritz back down to Denver at the end of July. The next time he played in Yankee Stadium was 1961 and he was wearing the uniform of the Los Angeles Angels. The Yankees had traded him to LA in April of that year to reacquire Duke Maas. Maas had been a valuable member of the Yankee pitching staff during the previous three seasons but when New York left him unprotected in the AL Expansion Draft of 1960, the Angels snatched him. Brickell was the Angels’ first ever Opening Day starting shortstop but after 21 games he was hitting just .122 and was released. Four years later he was dead, a victim of cancer, at the age of 30.

Fritz was born in Wichita, Kansas on March 19, 1935. Only a small handful of Yankees were born in the home state of the Wizard of Oz. The three most notable are Johnny Damon (Ft. Riley) Ralph Houk (Lawrence) and Mike Torrez (Topeka.)

Brickell shares his birthday with this long-ago starting outfielder for the New York Highlanders.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP
1958 NYY 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
1959 NYY 18 41 39 4 10 1 0 1 4 0 1 10 .256 .275
3 Yrs 41 96 88 7 16 1 0 1 7 0 7 19 .182 .242
NYY (2 yrs) 20 41 39 4 10 1 0 1 4 0 1 10 .256 .275
LAA (1 yr) 21 55 49 3 6 0 0 0 3 0 6 9 .122 .218
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/13/2014.

March 18 – Happy Birthday Brian Fisher

I remember thinking when I first watched him pitch that Brian Fisher would be a good Yankee starter for a number of years. That was back in 1986 and the Yankees had missed the playoffs for five consecutive seasons at that point, mostly because they lacked good starting pitching. Ron Guidry had just turned 35 years old and his best days were behind him. Dennis Rasmussen had come from nowhere to lead that ’86 Yankee staff with 18 wins but I thought the team’s future rested on the arms of young studs like Fisher, Doug Drabek and Bob Tewksbury. George Steinbrenner didn’t agree with me. After the 86 season, when Fisher went 9-6 out of the Yankee bullpen, this big right hander and Drabek were sent to the Pirates for veteran starter Rick Rhoden and Tewksbury was dealt to the Cubs for Steve Trout. Of the three, Fisher had the best year in 1987, going 11-9 for Pittsburgh but both Tewksbury and especially Drabek went on to even better big league careers. Fisher was out of baseball by 1992. He’s one of only two Yankee players to be born in Hawaii. Can you name the other? It was a utility infielder named Lenny Sakata.

Lot’s of very good pitchers but not so many great position players have worn the uniforms of both the Yankees and Pirates during their big league careers. Here’s my all-time lineup of Yankee/Pirates:

1b Dale Long
2b Willie Randolph
3b Tim Foli
ss Gene Michael
c Russell Martin
of Matty Alou
of Omar Moreno
of Xavier Nady
dh Mike Easler
sp Jack Chesbro
sp Waite Hoyt
sp Doug Drabek
sp John Candelaria
p Rick Rhoden
p Doc Medich
p Dock Ellis
p AJ Burnett
cl Goose Gossage
cl Luis Arroyo
mgr Casey Stengel

Here are Brian Fishers’ Yankee and career stats:

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1985 NYY 4 4 .500 2.38 55 0 23 0 0 14 98.1 77 32 26 4 29 85 1.078
1986 NYY 9 5 .643 4.93 62 0 26 0 0 6 96.2 105 61 53 14 37 67 1.469
7 Yrs 36 34 .514 4.39 222 65 61 7 4 23 640.0 638 341 312 70 252 370 1.391
PIT (3 yrs) 19 22 .463 4.72 79 51 7 7 4 2 348.2 367 194 183 42 139 191 1.451
NYY (2 yrs) 13 9 .591 3.65 117 0 49 0 0 20 195.0 182 93 79 18 66 152 1.272
SEA (1 yr) 4 3 .571 4.53 22 14 2 0 0 1 91.1 80 49 46 9 47 26 1.391
HOU (1 yr) 0 0 7.20 4 0 3 0 0 0 5.0 9 5 4 1 0 1 1.800
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/9/2014.

March 14 – Happy Birthday Kevin Brown

I do remember getting pretty excited when New York acquired this veteran right-hander from the Dodgers after their 2003 World Series defeat to the Marlins. They had to give up Jeff Weaver to get him but Weaver had been unimpressive in pinstripes. New York also had to pay Brown’s salary of $15 million per year but the Yankees had the cash.

Brown’s initial season as a Yankee was filled with disappointments. First, his chronically sore back prevented him from pitching well over an extended string of starts. Next, a frustrated Brown injured his hand punching a concrete wall, angering his teammates. Finally, Brown pitched terribly in the seventh and deciding game of the disastrous 2004 ALCS against the Red Sox, sealing his reputation as a disappointment with Yankee fans. He then went 4-7 in 2005 and retired with a career record of 211-144.

This one-time Yankee catcher was also born on March 14th.
Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2004 NYY 10 6 .625 4.09 22 22 0 0 0 0 132.0 132 65 60 14 35 83 1.265
2005 NYY 4 7 .364 6.50 13 13 0 0 0 0 73.1 107 57 53 5 19 50 1.718
19 Yrs 211 144 .594 3.28 486 476 1 72 17 0 3256.1 3079 1357 1185 208 901 2397 1.222
TEX (8 yrs) 78 64 .549 3.81 187 186 1 40 6 0 1278.2 1322 629 541 85 428 742 1.369
LAD (5 yrs) 58 32 .644 2.83 137 129 0 11 2 0 872.2 737 319 274 68 223 784 1.100
NYY (2 yrs) 14 13 .519 4.95 35 35 0 0 0 0 205.1 239 122 113 19 54 133 1.427
FLA (2 yrs) 33 19 .635 2.30 65 65 0 11 5 0 470.1 401 137 120 18 99 364 1.063
SDP (1 yr) 18 7 .720 2.38 36 35 0 7 3 0 257.0 225 77 68 8 49 257 1.066
BAL (1 yr) 10 9 .526 3.60 26 26 0 3 1 0 172.1 155 73 69 10 48 117 1.178
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/7/2014.

March 13 – Happy Birthday Mariano Duncan

By the time the Yankees signed Mariano Duncan as a free agent in December of 1995, the Dominican middle infielder was already a 32-year-old, 11-year veteran of the big leagues. The Yankees expected to play their rookie, Derek Jeter at short in 1996 and were going to move switch-hitting Tony Fernandez from short to second. They wanted Duncan to serve as a backup for both positions. That plan fell apart when Fernandez got hurt in spring training and was shelved for the year. Manager Joe Torre gave Yankee rookie Andy Fox every chance to win the second base job but the youngster could not get his average up to .200. Then Torre gave Duncan a try. He responded with the best season of his career.

Mariano hit .340 in 109 games that year. He became a leader in that Yankee clubhouse and his popular pre-game pronouncement, “We play today, we win today…dassit” became the slogan of that amazing club. When the Yankees won the 1996 Pennant and World Series, I was pretty certain Duncan would be back to start at second again in 1997. But George Steinbrenner did not feel the same way. He did not think Duncan was good enough defensively and when the Boss’s feeling became public, Mariano was angry and demanded to be traded. The Yankees tried to grant him that wish by reaching a deal with the Padres that would send Duncan and pitcher Kenny Rogers to San Diego in return for slugger Greg Vaughn. When Vaughn failed his physical and the deal was voided, Duncan became even more vocal about his dislike for Steinbrenner. Finally, after the All Star break, the Yankees traded Duncan to Toronto. He played his final 39 big league games as a Blue Jay and then tried Japanese baseball for a year before retiring for good.

Yankee fans will always remember Mariano’s great year in 1996 and he has a ring on his finger to prove it. This former Yankee slugger shares a March 13 birthday with Mariano as does this former outfielder who was the last Yankee to wear uniform number 7 before Mickey Mantle made it famous.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1996 NYY 109 417 400 62 136 34 3 8 56 4 9 77 .340 .352 .500 .852
1997 NYY 50 179 172 16 42 8 0 1 13 2 6 39 .244 .270 .308 .578
12 Yrs 1279 4998 4677 619 1247 233 37 87 491 174 201 913 .267 .300 .388 .688
PHI (4 yrs) 406 1698 1613 208 442 100 9 30 194 40 46 311 .274 .298 .403 .701
LAD (4 yrs) 376 1439 1314 161 307 44 8 20 95 100 85 268 .234 .284 .325 .609
CIN (4 yrs) 299 1089 1011 152 282 41 17 28 121 24 49 179 .279 .316 .436 .752
NYY (2 yrs) 159 596 572 78 178 42 3 9 69 6 15 116 .311 .327 .442 .769
TOR (1 yr) 39 176 167 20 38 6 0 0 12 4 6 39 .228 .267 .263 .531
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/7/2014.

March 11 – Happy Birthday Bobby Abreu

Bobby Abreu gave the Yankees two and a half seasons of solid play as their starting right fielder. He averaged .295 while in pinstripes, stole more than 20 bases a season, was never hurt and he both scored and drove in over 100 runs in each of his two full years in New York. I was expecting him to be a better defensive outfielder than he showed as a Yankee but when you look at his overall performance, he did absolutely fine. Unfortunately, fine was just not good enough for a Yankee team that slowly but surely forgot how to win in October.

I liked Abreu’s game but I liked the game of the guy he replaced in right field for New York, even more. That would be Gary Sheffield, who was in my opinion one of the most intimidating hitters in the big leagues. Opposing pitchers respected Abreu but they feared Sheffield. So when the Yankees let Abreu walk after the 2008 season, I was not too upset. He signed with the Angels and had a typical very good Abreu year in 2009 before slumping significantly in 2010. Bobby was born in Venezuela on March 11, 1974.

This very flaky former Yankee pitcher and this long-ago outfielder were also born on March 11th.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2006 NYY 58 248 209 37 69 16 0 7 42 10 33 52 .330 .419 .507 .926
2007 NYY 158 699 605 123 171 40 5 16 101 25 84 115 .283 .369 .445 .814
2008 NYY 156 684 609 100 180 39 4 20 100 22 73 109 .296 .371 .471 .843
17 Yrs 2347 9926 8347 1441 2437 565 59 287 1349 399 1456 1819 .292 .396 .477 .873
PHI (9 yrs) 1353 5885 4857 891 1474 348 42 195 814 254 947 1078 .303 .416 .513 .928
LAA (4 yrs) 456 1946 1662 239 443 103 5 43 246 75 261 363 .267 .364 .412 .776
NYY (3 yrs) 372 1631 1423 260 420 95 9 43 243 57 190 276 .295 .378 .465 .843
HOU (2 yrs) 74 234 210 23 52 11 2 3 27 7 23 51 .248 .325 .362 .687
LAD (1 yr) 92 230 195 28 48 8 1 3 19 6 35 51 .246 .361 .344 .704
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/4/2014.

March 10 – Happy Birthday Steve Howe

howe.jpgI was never a big Steve Howe fan, but I remember reading an article about one of Howe’s seven suspensions for substance abuse in which Yankee Captain, Don Mattingly was quoted and suddenly feeling sorry for the one-time NL Rookie of the Year reliever. According to Mattingly, Howe was one of the hardest working members of the Yankee roster and an outstanding teammate.

For whatever reason, George Steinbrenner loved giving former big league star players with drug problems second chances. Howe was one of the Yankee owner’s first reclamation projects and in the strike shortened season of 1994, he repaid the Boss by once again becoming one of the most effective relief pitchers in baseball. He saved 15 games in that abbreviated year and posted an ERA of under two, helping the Yankees build a huge lead in their division only to have the work stoppage destroy their season.

In 2006, Howe was on a highway in California, driving home to Arizona in his pickup truck following a business meeting. Witnesses say the truck just drifted onto the medium and rolled over. The former pitcher was not wearing his seat belt at the time and he was ejected from the vehicle and killed instantly. He was only 48 years old at the time of his death. Tests later revealed that Howe had methamphetamine in his system at the time of the crash.

Having smoked cigarettes for 17 years of my life, I will never wonder why people cannot overcome their addictions to chemical substances that temporarily relax them and provide a buzz. When we are young, we think we are immortal, able to do anything we want without fear of hurting ourselves. When wiser elders warned me I would find it very difficult to quit cigarettes, I laughed them off. But within a few years of taking my first puff, I was so hooked that I would find myself lying to my family so I could sneak away and grab a smoke. The drug of choice first takes over your body and then controls your life. Those that don’t quit fail to reach a point at which they know their lives will be better without the drug until it is too late, or never at all. I’m glad I was able to do so but again, I will never wonder why stars and celebrities like Steve Howe could not.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1991 NYY 3 1 .750 1.68 37 0 10 0 0 3 48.1 39 12 9 1 7 34 0.952
1992 NYY 3 0 1.000 2.45 20 0 10 0 0 6 22.0 9 7 6 1 3 12 0.545
1993 NYY 3 5 .375 4.97 51 0 19 0 0 4 50.2 58 31 28 7 10 19 1.342
1994 NYY 3 0 1.000 1.80 40 0 25 0 0 15 40.0 28 8 8 2 7 18 0.875
1995 NYY 6 3 .667 4.96 56 0 20 0 0 2 49.0 66 29 27 7 17 28 1.694
1996 NYY 0 1 .000 6.35 25 0 4 0 0 1 17.0 19 12 12 1 6 5 1.471
12 Yrs 47 41 .534 3.03 497 0 257 0 0 91 606.0 586 239 204 32 139 328 1.196
NYY (6 yrs) 18 10 .643 3.57 229 0 88 0 0 31 227.0 219 99 90 19 50 116 1.185
LAD (5 yrs) 24 25 .490 2.35 231 0 149 0 0 59 328.2 306 109 86 10 74 183 1.156
MIN (1 yr) 2 3 .400 6.16 13 0 5 0 0 0 19.0 28 16 13 1 7 10 1.842
TEX (1 yr) 3 3 .500 4.31 24 0 15 0 0 1 31.1 33 15 15 2 8 19 1.309
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/4/2014.

March 7 – Happy Birthday Jimmie Hall

hall.jpgLong-time Yankee fans like me can remember the days prior to the onslaught of steroid use by MLB players, when hitting thirty home runs in the big leagues was considered something really special. If a rookie did it, the feat was considered near majestic. That’s why when today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant came up to the Twins during the 1963 season and set an American League record by belting 33 home runs in his first year, it was pretty special. He broke a record that had been set by none other than the great Ted Williams, who had hit 31 during his rookie season of 1939. That 1963 Twins team had one of the best homer-hitting starting outfields in baseball history. Harmon Killebrew was the left fielder and he led all of baseball with 45 circuit blasts. Bob Allison played center and he had 35. The entire 1963 Minnesota lineup had some power, leading the league with 225 home runs, 37 more than the second place Yankees hit that season.

Hall played four years in the Twin Cities, made two AL All Star teams and helped Minnesota win the 1965 AL Pennant. After his average dipped by fifty points in 1966, the Twins traded him to California with big Don Mincher for a very good starting pitcher named Dean Chance. Hall would never again be the hitter he was but I still member getting sort of excited when the Yankees picked him up during the 1969 season. Why? That year’s struggling Yankee team had Bill Robinson starting in the outfield even though he was averaging in the one-seventies. I was hoping Hall’s left-handed swing would be rejuvenated by Yankee Stadium’s short right-field porch. It wasn’t. Hall was traded to the Cubs right before the end of the 1969 season. 1970 was his last year in the bigs. He retired with 121 career home runs over eight seasons. He was born on March 7, 1938 in Mount Holly, NC and shares his birthday with this one-time Yankee reliever.

If you put together an all-time lineup of players who played for both the Yankees and Twins, it might look like the following:

1B Doug Mientkiewicz

2B Chuck Knoblauch

3B Graig Nettles

SS Roy Smalley

C Butch Wynegar

OF Dave Winfield

OF Jimmie Hall

OF Cesar Tovar

DH Gary Ward

P Jim Kaat

CL Ron Davis

Mgr Billy Martin

Jimmie Hall’s Yankee and career stats:

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1969 NYY 80 233 212 21 50 8 5 3 26 8 19 34 .236 .296 .363 .659
8 Yrs 963 3167 2848 387 724 100 24 121 391 38 287 529 .254 .321 .434 .755
MIN (4 yrs) 573 2102 1885 282 507 73 16 98 288 23 191 358 .269 .334 .481 .815
CHC (2 yrs) 39 61 56 3 8 2 0 0 2 0 5 17 .143 .213 .179 .392
CLE (2 yrs) 57 133 121 5 22 4 0 1 8 2 12 22 .182 .256 .240 .495
CAL (2 yrs) 175 589 527 69 127 11 3 17 63 5 58 84 .241 .315 .370 .685
ATL (1 yr) 39 49 47 7 10 2 0 2 4 0 2 14 .213 .245 .383 .628
NYY (1 yr) 80 233 212 21 50 8 5 3 26 8 19 34 .236 .296 .363 .659
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/31/2014.

March 6 – Happy Birthday Francisco Cervelli

This native Venezuelan emerged from the Yankee farm system when catchers Jorge Posada and Jose Molina both were hurt during the 2009 season. Cervelli did a surprisingly terrific job, hitting .298 in 42 games and earning the praise of the Yankee pitching staff for his work behind the plate. I use the word surprisingly because at the time, Cervelli seemed to handle big league pitching better than he did minor league stuff. That’s what I most liked about him. He seemed to step up when the pressure got more intense and that caused the expectations I had for the kid to rise up as the 2010 season approached.

Francisco got off to a rough start in 2010 when he was beaned on his birthday in spring training and suffered a concussion. When he returned he was wearing a new bulkier batting helmet that protected him better but also made it look like his head had shrunk. The new oversized lid also seemed to be making him a better hitter. When Posada got hurt early in the year, Cervelli took over as starter and had his batting average in the high .300′s well into May. I still remember blinking my eyes a couple of times when I checked a box score of a Yankee Red Sox game I missed that month and saw five RBI’s next to Cervelli’s name.

But the bat cooled off and more disappointingly, so did Francisco’s work behind the plate. The passed balls, errors and horrible throws started appearing in bunches and it convinced me that the kid was not yet ready to be a full-time catcher.

Give him credit though. Cervelli refused to give up on the notion that he and not Russell Martin, Jesus Montero or Austin Romine would be the next great Yankee behind home plate and he spent the winter of 2010 working like mad to get in the better physical shape he knew it would take to compete against that trio. But the injury bug hit him again during the 2011 exhibition season when a foul ball off his own bat fractured his foot. By the time he got back into action, Martin had not only solidified his hold on New York’s starting catching position, he proved to be an iron man back there and did not take many games off. As a result Cervelli played in just 43 games in 2011 and his season ended in early September when he suffered yet another concussion and missed the rest of the regular season and the Yankees’ two postseason series.

He arrived at New York’s 2012 spring camp knowing he was not going to push Martin out of his starting role and that he was going to have to compete with Austin Romine to keep his job as Martin’s backup. Everyone including Cervelli and me was shocked when Yankee GM Brian Cashman traded for San Francisco Giant back-up catcher, Chris Stewart just before Opening Day 2012 and Cervelli ended up getting sent back to Triple A for almost the entire regular season. Francisco actually broke into tears when Manager Joe Girardi gave him the news of his sudden demotion.

But Francisco hung in there. Even though he had a bad 2012 season down on the farm, he came to the 2013 Yankee spring training camp knowing Russell Martin was gone, Hal Steinbrenner was trying to cut the team’s payroll and he’d have his best opportunity ever to win New York’s starting catcher’s job. He actually did beat out Stewart and Romine for the position and was off to a decent regular season start, when a tipped foul ball broke his hand in a late-April game against the Blue Jays. Compounding his inability to stay injury free was his involvement in the now infamous Miami-based PEDs dispensing clinic investigation and subsequent 50-game suspension.

With New York’s off-season signing of Brian McCann emphatically disintegrating any shot Cervelli had of becoming the team’s starting catcher, the just-completed Yankee 2014 spring training season was most certainly his one-last opportunity to prove to New York’s management that he could play a valuable role as the ball club’s back-up catcher. He was certainly up to the challenge. Despite constant questioning about his role in the Biogenesis scandal and incessant rumors that the team had him on the trading block, Cervelli put together one of the best exhibition season performances of any of his teammates and started the regular season as McCann’s back-up.

Cervelli shares his birthday with this former Yankee outfielder.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2008 NYY 3 5 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000
2009 NYY 42 101 94 13 28 4 0 1 11 0 2 11 .298 .309 .372 .682
2010 NYY 93 317 266 27 72 11 3 0 38 1 33 42 .271 .359 .335 .694
2011 NYY 43 137 124 17 33 4 0 4 22 4 9 29 .266 .324 .395 .719
2012 NYY 3 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .500 .000 .500
2013 NYY 17 61 52 12 14 3 0 3 8 0 8 9 .269 .377 .500 .877
6 Yrs 201 623 542 70 147 22 3 8 79 5 53 94 .271 .343 .367 .710
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/31/2014.