I mean, the poor schmo had to be thinking that life was good. Cervelli was heading into his third season as the backup catcher. Austin Romine made it easy by hurting his back so there were no contenders unless you count a non-Molina Molina. So Cervelli was mentally packing his suitcase and making his checklists and looking forward to the season and suddenly someone was tapping him on the shoulder and telling him the skip wanted to see him. The next thing he knew, he was heading to Triple-A as one of the last cuts on the last day of Spring Training. Ouch. There is no way he could have seen that one coming. Yes, Cervelli has made over $850,000 in his two year run and lived the high life. But this had to rip his heart out.
And who took his job? Chris Stewart. Chris Stewart!? Cervelli knows him! The two played together in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2009. Cervelli had out-survived Stewart after Stewart was one of those players to be named later and sent packing to the White Sox later that same 2009 season. Stewart hit well for the Yankees’ Triple-A team and he was great defensively. So perhaps Cervelli knows he was replaced by a better catcher. Except Cervelli has out-hit Stewart in the big leagues. Stewart hasn’t hit at all in the big leagues. But gosh, Cervelli had to know that Stewart can catch. Stewart’s 39 percent rate in throwing out attempted base steals is close to his 45 percent minor league average. Cervelli sat at 27 percent and was never going to improve on that end.
One of the things writers do is put ourselves in other people’s shoes. Francisco Cervelli’s shoes have to contain a deflated baseball player right now. But baseball is a business and a team has to put what they think are the best assets on the 25-man roster. Cervelli simply got caught in that business cross hair.
So why is there guilt over Raul Ibanez? I have been bad-mouthing him all spring. I bad-mouthed him before Spring Training when he was signed. His stats last year and his age didn’t make this move seem rational or correct. His terrible spring only shored up my bravado and seemed to cement my position on him as DH. So why do I feel guilty? I feel guilty because I broke my own rules. I am the first to state and argue that spring stats mean nothing. So Nova got bombed the other day. No big deal. It is meaningless. C.C. Sabathia has looked very easy to hit this spring. No big deal. He is just getting his work in. Do not sweat such details until it happens during the season.
But I broke those rules with Ibanez and let his spring results confirm my argument made when he was signed. And that is not right. The guy is perhaps over the hill. Perhaps he cannot catch up to a fastball like he could before. But should not he at least be given the benefit of the doubt once the season starts to see what happens then? After all, his spot on the roster was never in question. He never had to earn his position. Why did I act like he did? Plus, it is not Ibanez’s fault the Yankees made this deal. If I am going to rage at anyone, it should be the team and not the player. He’s just trying to hang on one more season and collect one more payday.
So, yes. I feel bad about Francisco Cervelli and about Raul Ibanez. For Cervelli, it is a tough break, kid. You were blindsided. I wish you the best. As for Raul Ibanez, I refuse to offer any further judgement until a good hunk of the season is behind us. He’s just another lug trying to do a job. If he was not the right guy, we will all find out soon enough and the Yankees will go to another option. But until then, I am not saying another word.