"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

News of the Day – 5/21/09

Hi there gang!  I’m back, and thus … today’s news is powered by the return of someone a bit more (in)famous:

With veteran backstops Jorge Posada and Jose Molina both on the disabled list, the Yankees wanted to see (Frankie) Cervelli save runs behind the plate with his strong throwing arm. Whatever else he could provide would be wonderful, but not necessary.

The 23-year-old may be exceeding all expectations. He raised his average to .370 entering Wednesday’s play and his voice has become a trusted one on the bench. It’s becoming a reliable recipe: Cervelli calls the pitches he wants, and the Yankees’ starters succeed.

“I feel very lucky right now to be the everyday catcher with these guys,” Cervelli said. “They give me confidence and let me do the same things I was doing in the Minor Leagues. When I feel something and I want to call one pitch, they let me do that. That’s exciting for me.”. . .

“I like what I see just when you talk to him,” (Andy) Pettitte said. “The look in his eyes is very confident. If he’s confident in what he’s doing, no matter how much experience I have out there or any of these other guys, it helps you. It’s what you want to do. I’ll ask his advice. He’s really paying a lot of attention and doing a great job, that’s for sure.”

Yankees manager Joe Girardi, a former big league backstop himself, has raved about Cervelli’s abilities.

“This young man can catch, throw and block and do a lot of things, and offensively he’s been a big contributor for us,” Girardi said. “He’s played very, very well.”

The whipped cream pie to the face is not the only current fad among the Yankees. The shaved head is also becoming popular, particularly in the bullpen. The most recently shorn dome belongs to Phil Coke.

He showed up bald and proud of it on Tuesday at Yankee Stadium. “I’ve shaved my head before, it’s not a big deal,” Coke said. “But nobody around here has seen me with a shaved head. It’s just hair. It grows back. It’s fun, man. We’re having a good time.” . . .

Until Tuesday, Coke had sandy blond hair of moderate length and full sideburns. His locker is next Brian Bruney’s, another reliever with a recently shaved head. The computer monitor in Bruney’s locker shows a skull and crossbones. . . .

When Reggie Jackson, the Hall of Fame slugger, strolled over, Coke hugged him and took off his cap to show his head. Jackson, wearing a beret, kept it on his clean scalp.

“So far, it’s me, Veras, Bruney and Alfredo Aceves,” Coke said of the bullpen baldies. Coke said Jonathan Albaladejo “is thinking about it; he’s on the fence now. He’s not sure.”

A court date for a professional athlete is rarely a good thing. Wednesday was an exception.

All of the Yankees, coaches, staff and Manager Joe Girardi, were required to report to a Kangaroo Court hearing at 3:15 p.m. in a room off the clubhouse. Anyone late was fined $100 by Judge Mariano Rivera and his jury of Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon and A.J. Burnett.

“It was a lot of fun,” said Xavier Nady, who was the official stenographer. “It brings guys together. It’s just entertaining how people plead their case. I’m sure it’ll get better, too, the longer we have it.”

The mock court has been a staple of clubhouse culture in baseball for decades, but according to Andy Pettitte, the Yankees have not had one since 1995, when Wade Boggs was the judge. The idea came from Burnett and Nady.

It is another example of the looser locker room the Yankees have cultivated recently.

There was a subtle change at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday that spruced up the background behind the outfield walls. The stark gray, concrete wall in the bullpens was painted dark blue, consistent with the color of the outfield wall and the seats.

  • Sterling’s silver-tongued days a distant memory (did he ever have them)?  Phil Mushnick chimes in (hat tip to Cliff for the link):

John Sterling, the radio Voice of the Yankees and a man who has always cherished the sound of his own voice while placing strained self-promotion over good-faith play-by-play, has created and cemented a dilemma: Every game played by the Yankees is a doubleheader — the game that’s played and the game Sterling calls.

This weekend, the games Sterling described did not exist. Some examples:

In the eighth inning Saturday, Sterling called a game-tying home run by Hideki Matsui — Sterling gave it his, “It is high … !” routine, culminating with, “It is gone!” But the ball, as Sterling several seconds later acknowledged, didn’t even reach the wall on the fly; it bounced over it.

And radio-reliant Yankees fans again were led to believe that a Yankees batter had performed the ultimate — had hit a home run — when he hadn’t.

In the fourth inning of Saturday’s game, Sterling and Suzyn Waldman fabricated a story. Johnny Damon lost sight of a pop fly as he approached the stands along the left-field line. Damon missed the ball, plain and simple as that.

But on the Yankees’ radio network, Sterling claimed the ball fell from Damon’s glove. Nonsense. Then Waldman added, “He had to fight a fan with a glove.” But there was no fan with a glove, no fan hindrance at all.

Later, Sterling would repeat that “fan with the glove interference story” as fact, as the eyewitness testimony of the Voice of the Yankees. But it never happened, nothing even close.

[My take: Perhaps he is training to be a Navajo code-breaker, and is really sucking at it?]

(Swisher is) teaming up with the good folks at Foley’s NY Pub & Restaurant in Manhattan.

Today at noon, Swisher and Foley’s owner Shaun Clancy will announce the launch of a new item at the restaurant: The Swish & Chips (also known as battered fish and fries).

From now until the end of the season, Foley’s will donate $1 from every sale of the dish to Swisher’s charity, Swish’s Wishes, which benefits kids around the country.

  • Bobby Cox turns 68 today.  Cox was a marginal 3rd-sacker for the Bombers in ’68 and ’69, before injuries ended his playing career.  He’s had a pretty decent career as a manager though, needing 9 wins (prior to Wednesday) to amass 2,000 wins as the skipper of the Braves.
  • On this date in 1930, Babe Ruth hits three consecutive home runs in the first game of a doubleheader against the A’s, then batting against Jack Quinn in the 9th, Ruth decides to hit right handed. After two strikes, he switches to lefty but strikes out. This is the first of two career 3-homer games for the Babe.
  • On this date in 1947, Joe DiMaggio and five other Yankees are slapped with $100 fines for not fulfilling contractually-required promotional duties for the Bronx Bombers.
  • On this date in 1948, DiMaggio hits for the cycle as he delivers two home runs, a triple, double and single helping the Yankees beat the White Sox, 13-2.

[Trivia time: Besides Alex Rodriguez, name the most recent Yankee to amass 13 total bases in a single game (answer later)]

  • On this date in 1957, for his part in the Copacabana incident, Yankee OF Hank Bauer is arraigned. He is eventually cleared and threatens to sue the alleged victim, Edward Jones, who suffered a concussion and a broken jaw. In today’s game, Yogi Berra, Billy Martin and Whitey Ford are benched, while Bauer bats 8th. Mickey Mantle has a single, two walks, and a homer to back Bob Turley’s 4-hit, 3 – 0 shutout over the A’s. Turley helps his cause by starting a triple play.
  • On this date in 1970, Mel Stottlemyre hands out 11 walks to Washington in 8 and 1/3 innings, but the Senators are unable to score. Steve Hamilton gets the last two outs to preserve the 2 – 0 win. The 11 walks in a shutout ties Lefty Gomez, who did complete his 1941 shutout. Danny Cater’s 2-run homer in the 5th accounts for the scoring off Dick Such, making his first ML start.
  • On this date in 2004, in his return to Texas, Alex Rodriguez is roundly booed by fans at the Ballpark in Arlington. The fans continue to show their displeasure as the Yankees’ third baseman drives a 2-1 pitch over the fence during his first inning at-bat.
  • On this date in 2005, as Dae-Sung Koo stands in against the Bombers’ Randy Johnson, Mike Piazza confides to David Wright in the dugout, “If he gets a hit, I’ll donate a million dollars to charity.” The Korean reliever, batting lefty off the Yankee fire-balling southpaw, was afraid to stand in the batter box in a previous game, but promptly hits a 91-mph fastball to the wall in center for a double causing the Mets catcher to say he will be making a significant donation to a charity over the next 20 years.

[Trivia answer: Shane Spencer (two doubles, two homers, one single) in Yanks 14-2 win over KC in 2nd game of doubleheader, August 7, 1998.]

Categories:  Diane Firstman  News of the Day

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1 RIYank   ~  May 21, 2009 9:37 am

Welcome back -- how was N.O.?

I love Cervelli, but it makes me slightly nervous to hear that much enthusiasm from Girardi. I can't think of a way it would do any harm, though, so I guess I should be glad the morale is so high in the clubhouse.

2 Diane Firstman   ~  May 21, 2009 10:29 am

As much as we take Cashman to task, his counterpart in Queens seems to be flying under the radar, despite having few if any position players of note in the upper minors.

With the Delgado (and now Reyes, apparently) injuries, the lack of org. depth has been fully exposed, and Minaya's obsession with older players as subs (Juilo Franco, Marlon Anderson, etc.) is damning.

3 Horace Clarke Era   ~  May 21, 2009 10:41 am

I saw that too, about the Metskis. I think the issue here is that a lot of Yankee fans ONLY track the Yankees, and might not work towards a league-wide or an MLB-wide perspective. That's fair enough, we follow our team, we ONLY follow our team ... a reason why Cliff's lead-in posts when a series starts are so useful for many ... but Diane's right. If we are going to trash Cash or Joe G it helps to have comparison points. Ortiz has been #3 all year, and there was a LOT more reason to doubt him than Teixeira. The Cleveland bullpen has been horrific, having been judged a strength going in - and boy was Wood bad in barely getting a save last night (loaded bases, one out). Chicago has NO outfield. Scott Podsednik rode in as their big upgrade!

I guess my point is, Cash hasn't assembled such a bad club and I, for one, will be very happy to see Nady as one of the guys returning, if he can produce even adequately. Swisher's a bit exposed right now, and you can't play the hot hand when you only have one hand. (That sounds profound, doesn't it!)

4 Horace Clarke Era   ~  May 21, 2009 10:43 am

"The mock court has been a staple of clubhouse culture in baseball for decades, but according to Andy Pettitte, the Yankees have not had one since 1995, when Wade Boggs was the judge. The idea came from Burnett and Nady."

I love it. I think the tradition is to keep the proceedings secret (The Star Chamber Lives!) but it would be a ton of fun to know the charges and decisions. AJ is playing a role I did NOT expect, pie man, hanging judge ...

5 Shaun P.   ~  May 21, 2009 10:49 am

[2] Welcome "home", Diane! I think you're exactly right, and I'd add the manager's chair as well. For as much grief as Girardi has received from some quarters, look at how bad a job Manuel has done. That does not reflect well on Minaya either, since he hired Jerry after firing Willie. (So much for Randolph having been the problem with the Mets, huh Omar?)

Re: Delgado, and the lack of upper level position players, including Mike Carp in the Putz deal sure looks like a mistake now. The Santana trade was a coup for Omar - but outside of that, aaaaiiiiiieeee!

6 rbj   ~  May 21, 2009 10:55 am

re: Sterling & his messed up home run call. Scooter would do that all the time, but he'd admit his mistake right away. Part of Rizzuto's charm and why Sterling isn't half the game caller Scooter was.

7 JohnnyC   ~  May 21, 2009 11:12 am

[5] And even that "coup" was a direct result of Bill Smith's incompetence and need to save face after over-reaching in his negotiations with the Yanks and Sox. He traded Santana to the NL to minimize the damage and got zilch (Carlos Gomez is barely a major leaguer). What's even funnier is that Mets fans and the MSM actually think the team could be rebuilt from within if they called it a day on this season. Blissfully ignoring the dearth of talent in the mid and upper levels of their system (AAA Buffalo has won all of 10 games this season). Oh and Daniel Murphy does so remind everyone of Wade Boggs and Pete Rose (?!).

8 Raf   ~  May 21, 2009 11:16 am

[6] Rizzuto wasn't as pompous as Sterling is, which gives him a huge advantage.

9 williamnyy23   ~  May 21, 2009 11:27 am

I can't understand how Minaya escapes scrutiny, not only for his tenure with the Mets, but with Montreal before that.

Phil Mushnick's anti-Sterling rants are growing tiresome. While I agree that Sterling has become very inaccurate and extra pompous in his old age, I also have a feeling most Yankee fans really enjoy listening to him. As much as his missed calls can drive me nuts, I know I go out of my way to hear how he called a big homerun or play in the game. Considering all that is wrong with the Post, I've never be able to understand how Mushnick could be a media critic when there is so much to criticize in the pages around his column.

10 Diane Firstman   ~  May 21, 2009 11:27 am


re: Buffalo ... that is one sad-looking team, talent-wise

11 Raf   ~  May 21, 2009 11:34 am

[10] Appropriate, given that Buffalo's a sad-looking city :)

12 Rich   ~  May 21, 2009 11:41 am

Peavy to the White Sox?

13 Shaun P.   ~  May 21, 2009 11:49 am

[12] Yeah, I just saw thought. My first thought was, "Wow, a big steal for Kenny Williams!". My second thought was, Peavy is a flyball pitcher, going from a park that absolutely suppresses flyballs to one that does the opposite, and from the easier league to the harder one to boot! I'm wondering how he'll do in the Cell. He's had some years (2008, 2006 a bit, this year) where his home/road splits were vast, and others (2004, 2005, 2007) where he was equally awesome everywhere.

I think he'll adjust, but I expect there to be an adjustment period that, say, CC/Johan/Haren did not experience when they switched leagues.

[7] Excellent point about Smith. For all the Twins' savvy at drafting and developing players, their record of what they do in terms of trades (Garza for Young, not to mention Santana) (or, for that matter, don't do) and free agent signings (Livan Hernandez, Ramon Ortiz, and Craig Monroe, among countless others) is pretty bad the last few years. That's on both Smith and Ryan.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver