"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

News of the Day – 6/29/09

  • Today’s news is powered by baseball bloopers . . . :

[My take: But what would the Yanks be able to get from the Phils, even if they wanted to deal Wang?]

  • Jon Heyman lists CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira as the 5th and 7th-best free agent signings respectively so far this season.
  • Doubts about Austin Jackson?:

At 22 years old, Jackson is among the International League leaders in hits, batting average and on-base percentage, but his season seems to have created as many doubters as believers.

His detractors say Jackson hasn’t hit for enough power, has struck out too often and has a batting average on balls in play that is too high, a statistic that suggests he’s been lucky as much as good. . . .

. . . The backup catcher, who strained his left quad on May 7, ran the bases before Sunday’s game against the Mets and said afterward he felt no pain. He will try to run the bases again on Tuesday and could be behind the plate for New York within a couple of weeks.

“I could play today,” Molina said. “I don’t know how it would be, but I feel like I could play.” . . .

Because of inclement weather expected in Florida this week, Molina will remain with the Yankees in New York for a few more days. If things go well on Tuesday when he again tries to run, there is a good chance he will begin playing Minor League rehab games later in the week. From there, it is only a matter of time before he is activated off the DL.

[My take: But . . . but . . . we like Cervelli!]

  • Richard Sandomir talks with Marty Appel, who has a new biography on Thurman Munson coming out, decades after helping pen Munson’s autobiography:

The biography describes Munson’s love-starved family life in Canton with a difficult, sometimes cruel father, Darrell, and Thurman’s eager embrace by his teenage years of the family of his childhood sweetheart and future wife, Diana.

Munson only hinted in the memoir about the turmoil at home that helped form his grumpy adult persona. But Appel’s interviews with Munson’s brother, Duane, and sister Darla describe the dysfunctional family life that turned him so inward.

“I didn’t fully appreciate what was out there until I connected with his brother and sister,” Appel said. “They were the key to the book. They were the missing family.”

  • On this date in 1950, Whitey Ford is called up by the Yankees from Kansas City (AA).
  • On this date in 1966, at Fenway Park, Mickey Mantle opens the scoring in the first inning with a 3-run shot, then sandwiches a homer between round trippers by Bobby Richardson and Joe Pepitone in the 3rd inning in New York’s 6 – 5 win.  Mantle’s two homers today, his 37th and 38th at Fenway, will be his last in Boston, and ties him with Babe Ruth for most homers by a Sox opponent.
  • On this date in 1987, eight homers are hit in Toronto as the Yankees outlast the Blue Jays, 15 – 14. Don Mattingly Dave Winfield leads the power outage with a pair (Mattingly adds a grand slam, one of his record six for the year) and Dave Righetti gets the win.
  • On this date in 2000, after trying to get Juan Gonzalez and Sammy Sosa to bolster their failing offense, the Yankees acquire David Justice from the Indians for Ricky Ledee and two players to be named later.

Categories:  Diane Firstman  News of the Day

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1 a.O   ~  Jun 29, 2009 9:42 am

Wang and Molina to the Phils for ... whatever they'll give us. There is no room on the roster for Molina, that's for sure. You would have to be *insane* to send down Frankie Brains. Insane.

2 Rich   ~  Jun 29, 2009 9:48 am

You can't trade Wang while Pettitte is struggling this much.

Heyman is high. Oh wait, that's an excuse for his mediocy.

It's a little ironic that AJack hit a HR yesterday.

His SLG was .421 before yesterday. That's a result of his SLG against RH pitching (.396) His .435 BABIP is something worth monitoring. His LD% is 23%, so his BABIP should be .350.

[0] Ditto on Cervelli.

Thurman was my favorite player as a kid.

3 williamnyy23   ~  Jun 29, 2009 10:14 am

[1] You just want to give away Wang?

Cervelli has an OPS+ of 66, which is pretty much Jose Molina's career average. In other words, Cervelli has been no better than Molina. I also enjoy Cervelli's attitude and energy, but he hasn't been better than Molina in any aspect except base running, so whatever decision the Yankees make won't be a big deal.

4 Diane Firstman   ~  Jun 29, 2009 10:17 am


Cervelli is cheaper.
Cervelli is younger (which means he will most likely be on the uptick of his career).

5 ny2ca2dc   ~  Jun 29, 2009 10:22 am

Watching the game I for the first time noticed the absurd citifield visiting bullpen. Fans right thru a chain link fence abutting the pen, and an serpentine caged walkway/maze to the field?! That park is a joke, the outfield walls are just trying way too hard. BUT, if the Mets can get away with having a visiting Bull-Cave, then I say they Yankees should appropriate the visiting BP at the stadium to expand and 'open up' Monument Cave. Then just tuck the visiting bullpen under the walkways or something. (Certainly expensive, of course).

Also, Cervelli has upside left, he should be playing every day in the minors. (Of course, if Molina can be traded for a middle reliever of any worth, ya do it).

6 Rich   ~  Jun 29, 2009 10:22 am

I actually think that Cervelli's athleticism and quickness make him better defensively.

7 williamnyy23   ~  Jun 29, 2009 10:23 am

[4] Cervelli isn't cheaper because he doesn't have a major league deal. Molina is already a sunk cost, so having Cervelli in the majors means the Yankees have to pay him the pro-rated portion of the minimum instead of his $65,000 minor league salary.

We aren't talking long-term either, so age doesn't matter. The question is who can be better over the next three months, and I think Molina has just as good a chance as Cervelli.

8 williamnyy23   ~  Jun 29, 2009 10:32 am

[5] I've been to Citifield and think it is a pretty good ballpark on the whole, even though there are some flaws like the lack of Met history being represented, several unfinished areas and very poor outfield seats in the upper section. What I really don't like, however, are the contrived outfield walls. It's one thing to have a Green Monster because the confines of your location dictate it, but CitiFields maze of outfield walls looks silly.

9 The Hawk   ~  Jun 29, 2009 10:37 am

I would not **** with the pitching staff right now, everything's going really well. Anyway, Wang has shown steady, if incremental improvement. As I noted on the game thread, he did not have his A game yesterday, even his post-injury A game, and he still did a decent enough job; I haven't seen Wang grind one out before, so maybe that's progress of a different kind. Credit to that grump Jorge too - that's something I doubt Cervelli would have helped pull off.

I don't think the Yankees can afford to trade Molina. I get the feeling that Jorge could go down again any day. They may need to send Cervelli down but possibly not for long.

10 Shaun P.   ~  Jun 29, 2009 10:41 am

[5] "Also, Cervelli has upside left, he should be playing every day in the minors."

I'll say!

Cervelli in the minors: career .374 OBP, 74:133 BB:K (746 PA)
Cervelli in the majors: career .270 OBP, 2:14 BB:K (78 PA)

Hype about his energy and defense and youth aside, a .270 OBP is horrible (though standard for many a backup catcher). The kid still has work to be done - he's never played at AAA - so he'll be better in the future. For all the reasons william mentions, Molina will be fine as a backup the rest of the way.

[0] Mattingly? Home runs? 1987? Was that game part of his streak? Or did that happen in July, not June? Hard to believe that was 22 years ago!

11 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Jun 29, 2009 11:01 am

I'm with william et al on this (he gets top billing because he posted it first at #3) ... it is short-sighted of us to go ga-ga over Frankie C just because he's a sweet new face and ... er, plucky. I have NO quarrel with the idea that he has upside and that'll be more likely fulfilled with everyday hitting and good coaching (can we hope?). Molina is just about dead even for Cervelli, though the aesthetics ain't close. (This all takes me back to the Ichiro debate awhile ago, the sense that we value players more or less because of how they look while playing.) For this season, we need both, as JoPo Insurance though both are a LONG way down offensively from Jorge.

I'd get Molina in there as soon as he can play. I'd give Cervelli many pats on the back (top of the head from Jeter) and send him down to get four at-bats a night. And I have a suspicion (hope I'm wrong) he'll be back before September. As Shaun reminds everyone: he's never even played AAA!

There are often complaints here about short-sighted Yankee brass ... keeping Cervelli, who is no better now than an okay back-up, when we HAVE one of those, would be short-sighted.

Same, by me, with trading Wang. Staff has potential issues, I have a greater comfort zone with six guys who can start as we enter summer. Andy faded last year (it was injury-related, but ... injuries happen.) There will be chances to get Hughes some starts, I just hope it isn't due to a calamity.

12 williamnyy23   ~  Jun 29, 2009 11:31 am

[10] Mattingly's streak was in mid-to-late July. I can't believe I don't remember that 15-14 game.

13 Diane Firstman   ~  Jun 29, 2009 11:39 am

In the interest of full disclosure, I checked the boxscore for that game:

It turns out that Mattingly only homered once, while Winfield went deep twice.

But it WAS one of Donnie's six grand slams for the season.

(I'll correct the NOTD)

14 Diane Firstman   ~  Jun 29, 2009 11:46 am

RIP Fred Travelena ...

15 Rich   ~  Jun 29, 2009 11:48 am

[10] Hype about his energy and defense and youth aside, a .270 OBP is horrible (though standard for many a backup catcher).

Except Molina's career OBP is .278. Unlike Molina, Cervelli is almost certainly going to get better as he learns MLB pitchers.

So if .270 is horrible, I don't understand how, as you put it, "Molina will be fine as a backup the rest of the way."

As for your assessment that Cervelli's energy is "hype," at least he can score from 1B on less than three hits.

16 Shaun P.   ~  Jun 29, 2009 11:53 am

[12] Thanks, william. That '87 team sure had its moments.

If the current division breakdowns were in place back in the '80s, the Yanks would have made the playoffs from '84 to '87, each year as a wildcard - and they would have missed by one game in 1983. Not too shabby.

17 Shaun P.   ~  Jun 29, 2009 12:02 pm

[15] To borrow a horrible quote that started in the NFL: Molina "is what we thought he is". For a 34-year-old career MLB backup catcher, Molina's .278 career OBP is fine. That's right around what backup catchers hit. He has no chance at developing into anything beyond what he already is.

But Cervelli sure does. He's not 34-year-old with an established MLB track record - he's a 23-year-old with a .374 minor league OBP. So, when you consider the context, for Cervelli, a .270 OBP is horrible. The odds are high that, with enough regular plate appearances against high-level pitching, he can do an awful lot better than .270. But he can't get that regular work in the bigs, so the best place for him is AAA.

18 zack   ~  Jun 29, 2009 12:09 pm

Good Lord that Heyman article is stupid. really, Brad Penny is a better signing than CC? Wow, coulda fooled me. And how can ANYONE be better than Tiex thus far? Sure, there were cheaper signings, but those two players have been about as great a return on an investment as you could expect thus far.

As for the catcher situation, William and Shaun and Horace are spot on. Cervelli should be playing everyday in AA to actually refine his game, instead of every so often in the majors where the chances of him figuring things out are far slimmer. He can be the BUC next season .

19 williamnyy23   ~  Jun 29, 2009 12:09 pm

[16] The Yankees were the winningest team of the 1980s, which is something I think not many people remember or realize.

20 OldYanksFan   ~  Jun 29, 2009 12:39 pm

I think we all agree that future-wise, Brains has it way over Molina. But Williim makes a very good point. If you have tunnel vision looking at the rest of this season only, then it is a wash. The variables would be (1) Will Brains develop better here or in AAA (2) What do the pitchers say? I would ask. If they had a strong preference one way or the other, that's something to take into account.

While Wang's ERA was good yesterday, he actually had better stuff his previous 2 outings. Against a good hitting team, I think he would have been hit hard yesterday. I would NOT give up on him. However, if he can't keep the ball down, he will hurt this team. He will not get away with those UP pitches against a PS team.

The OF walls in Shea are nuts. Is this what architects call 'interesting'? Unique? Why not just dig a pit in the OF. That would make for some interesting plays. However, nothing is as bad as the Hill in CF in Houston, with a flagpole on the field no less. Were the designers trying to injure players? Baseball fields should not be laid out like pinball games. It's just nuts that these 'professio0n' architects can't make a field interesting without making it absurd.

What is 'league average' for a CFer? Is an .800 OPS with good defense above average? I don't believe AJax is the next Beltran, but if he is above average, he is an important part of this team. Because we have a number of overpaid/highly paid players, it is crucial to be able to fill in the gaps with kids who are at least average. We have almost $100m/yr into ARod, Tex, CC and Jeter alone. We pay for our impact players. Hopefully Highes and Joba will be studs or near studs. If AJax is better then MelkyGardy, I am looking forward to his arrival.

21 cult of basebaal   ~  Jun 29, 2009 12:40 pm

(This all takes me back to the Ichiro debate awhile ago, the sense that we value players more or less because of how they look while playing.)

No need to go all the way back to Ichiro when you just have to look at the reaction some have to Nick Swisher.

22 51cq24   ~  Jun 29, 2009 1:00 pm

i'm firmly in the keep cervelli up camp. he's better than molina at everything. he doesn't clog the bases when he gets on, and he can even pinch run if needed. it's a tough situation because we don't know about posada's health, but i still think cervelli is more valuable than molina. i don't really see the point of sending him back to the minors so that he can be a backup next year. and as much as we may like him now, we don't actually expect him to ever be our starter since we have at least 2 better catching prospects. i say keep cervelli.

23 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Jun 29, 2009 1:19 pm

[21] Touché, though you need a WIDEbody definition of 'aesthetics' if it is gonna include El Swish!

[22] Well, this is one where people here are going to differ, and at least it isn't a BIG debate. At least agree that they are pretty close, or maybe explain why you think Cervelli is so obviously 'better at everything' ... as OYF says, we have no real framework for judging if he calls a game better (unlikely), guns down runners better (very unlikely) or hits better - stats say it is a wash. He runs better and looks cooler. And we like young.

I'm very unsure Cervelli will 'never be our starter' ... too many variables will kick in over next 12-24 months on that one. And if he gets to AAA and hits the way he did in AA and carries that forward and up, and not the way he does in the Show now (which is NOT good, you need to realize that!) he can start for me! He he not going to develop, period, with 8 at-bats a week from here on.

I'll tell Cashman.

24 a.O   ~  Jun 29, 2009 1:23 pm

All I can say to the people who say Molina-Cervelli is a wash is this: Stop worshipping at the Church of Statistics. Yes, they're important. But they're not the whole story, and in this situation, they're not even close. This one is a no-brainer. Pun intended. Brains stays.

As for Wang, he'll be out of the rotation and off the roster by the end of the season. He's done. Hanging on to the past like this only gives you a set of mediocre to poor starts, hampers the development of Phil Hughes, and delays the inevitable. As #20 points out, he would have been crushed by a real team yesterday. There ought to be a conversion factor for ER given up against the Mets. Each ER given up to the Mets ought to count as 2 given up against a healthy team.

25 Rich   ~  Jun 29, 2009 1:40 pm

[17]The superceding context is that there is no evidence that the mLs are the only place where a player can develop. To the contrary, the MLs are often a more fertile ground for a player to take a quantum leap in development because he gets better coaching and is afforded the benefit of the tutelage of the best players in the world, especially on a team like the Yankees.

Sorry, but to say that a .270 OBP is horrible for a player whose learning curve is still ascending, but not horrible for a veteran player who would fill the same role, is to embark on a slippery slope in terms of logical reasoning for a very simple reason: they are both being asked to do the same thing, which is to contribute to a team that according to most people is built to win now.

If that's true, then if Cervelli (and Pena for that matter) offer the best chance for them to reach that goal, then a balancing of the equities involved argues in favor of keeping both of them being on the ML roster.

If there is any real deficit in development, it can be remedied in winter ball.

26 51cq24   ~  Jun 29, 2009 1:43 pm

[23] why is it unlikely that he calls a better game than molina? my impression of molina's game-calling was that he hardly ever knew what he was doing.
but as you say, it's hard to judge these things. but if everything else is a wash but one guy can run and the other is the slowest player of all time, isn't just that enough to say that the fast guy is better?
i also think that the whole idea of developing in the minors is completely overblown. let him figure out major league pitching. he's here now and he isn't totally overmatched. he's going to get a decent amount of at bats behind posada.
why is it that we have this argument for cervelli but not pena? they're pretty similar- defensive players who can run but don't project to hit enough to be starters. both came straight from aa. but i think very few people would argue that pena should get more time to develop in the minors. because he's a backup, and he's been a good one, and if that's what he's going to be then he can develop as a backup in the majors.

27 JL25and3   ~  Jun 29, 2009 1:51 pm

[18] Hey, zack. Long time no see. Congratulations.

I liked when Heyman said that the best thing about the Teixeira signing wasn't his great hitting or spectacular fielding, it's "that the signing still gets under the skin of the Red Sox higherups." Um, no, Jon. It's the hitting and the fielding.

28 OldYanksFan   ~  Jun 29, 2009 2:12 pm

"Sure, there were cheaper signings, but those two players have been about as great a return on an investment as you could expect thus far."

I guess it depends on how you define 'Good'. If you do AAV/RCAA-RSAA, then Tex and CC won't be on top.They are prime rib but we paid above primate rate.

For instance, Dunn is getting 2/$20m, so Tex is paid 225% of Dunns salary. Will Tex have 2.25 times the RCAA? So bang-for-the-buck wise, my guess is the other players may be 'better' (I have NOT done the math).

But the Yanks weren't bargain shopping (although my guess is Swisher is a pretty good bag-for-the-buck). Cashman is not Billy Beane. We were shopping for guys to put us over the top. And in this, Cashman may have succeeded.

29 thelarmis   ~  Jun 29, 2009 2:19 pm

[27] and good to see you JL! : )

[0] Thurman was my first favorite player and idol. i'll never forget sitting on the apt floor in Far Rockaway at 5 yrs. old and watching the news. i can still see that horrible image of the plane crash in my minds eye. makes me cringe 30 years later.

it's probably why i have a genuine fear of flying. i've gotten better about it, esp since i've had to fly overseas for music tours and to NY soooo many times in recent months to visit my dying grandpa. one of my older students is an airplane pilot (captain).

i've got a cool Thurman plaque in my bedroom and another cool game photo of him at my studio directly behind my main drumkit! : )

30 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Jun 29, 2009 2:27 pm

51, I'd LOVE to let Pena have more time. If we had a signed, equivalent Molina-type at short, I'd happily send him back too! Hacvign said THAT, pena, because he is backing 2 1/2 positions (some 3rd?) is going to get more at-bats than Cervelli will.

I'm afraid I disagree about the virtues of at-bats and development. We see it too often, how a youngster needs seasoning and experience, baseball is a really, really hard game to play. He will not get more than 8 at-bats a week with the Yankees and can get 20+ a week in AAA. I think that matters. Add that the at-bats down there are learning ones, not in a pennant race. Add that we have a close equivalent vet signed, why NOT give the kid time? What's the downside? No first to third from Molina?

Basically I think you have defined Cervelli as a lifetime backup, at 23, and I'm not so quick to do that, I guess. The spread, pointed out above, between his minor league batting and his (bad) major league batting is some evidence, no? He may never hit MLB pitching better, but give the kid a chance to grow first?

Your perspective essentially dismisses all of AA/AAA as a waste of time for youngsters. I may be overstating that, but when you call the minors 'completely overblown' you suggest that, anyhow.

31 The Hawk   ~  Jun 29, 2009 2:33 pm

I always thought it was a mistake for Torre to reinsert a fresh-off-the-DL Matsui and Sheffield back in the lineup for the playoffs when "the kids" had really played a part in livening up the team. I totally understand it, but at the time I had a bad feeling about it and it ended up not working out. There's something to said for the presence of certain players at certain times. The argument can be made for Cervelli on that basis, but I still think he should probably be sent down.

32 Shaun P.   ~  Jun 29, 2009 3:01 pm

[24] I'm amused that you excoriate those of us who "worship at the Church of Statistics" when it comes to Cervelli - and then you turn to Wang and rely on stats to say he's done - even proposing a conversion factor for ER vs the Mets!

[25] Rich, you missed my point entirely.

In the abstract, you're right - players can and do develop in the bigs, and not just the minors. But again the context kills your argument in this particular situation. Cervelli, to develop, needs to play every day, or damn close to it. He can't do that in the bigs because Posada is the starter at C, and Matsui is the fulltime DH (unless you want that to change). The only place he can play everyday right now is AAA. Thus, Cervelli has to go to AAA.

And Cervelli is not being asked to do the same thing as Molina, or rather he shouldn't be. Both, of course, are being tasked at being backup catchers, with all that entails. But Molina is a fully-formed product; Cervelli is not. Cervelli should be told to work on developing his plate discipline and his eye and his approach. He should be in a situation where he can do that without consequence. That is, where he can go, say, 1 for 5 every day but see 20+ pitches in the 5 plate appearances, without that hurting the team. Again, that's not something he can do in the bigs, where the goal is not develop, but win.

For me, I think its far more important to let Pena and Cervelli go down and keep developing so that they can contribute in 2010 and beyond, and not be stunted one-year wonders. This team can still win with Molina at BUC and Ransom as the BUIF.

And thus, I think PeteAbe has it right again.

33 a.O   ~  Jun 29, 2009 9:47 pm

@ #32:

Glad I amused you. That was for your benefit. But you don't need any statistics to know that Wang is done. And it's a myth that Cervelli can't develop by playing every few days behind Jorge the way he could playing every day at Scranton. He can, has, and will continue to do so if he gets a chance.

34 cult of basebaal   ~  Jun 30, 2009 12:55 am

[33] I'm intrigued by your ideas and would subscribe to your newsletter!

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