Saturday, June 27, 2009

Francisco Cervelli Has Earned His Spot on the Yankees' Roster

Last year at this time, Francisco Cervelli was working his way back from a severe wrist injury. The young catcher, who has been a highly touted minor league prospect for the last couple of years, turned a lot of heads in spring training in 2008.

He ended up missing most of the season while his broken wrist recovered, and with Jose Molina acting as the steady back up for Jorge Posada, there was no reason for Cervelli to think he wouldn't be with Double-A for the rest of the season. 

At the start of 2009, Cervelli was in Double-A. Jorge Posada's surgically repaired shoulder seemed to be responding well, and Jose Molina was taking his turn probably three times a week, leaving no room for Cervelli. 

On May 5, Posada was place on the DL with a strained hamstring, and Kevin Cash was called up to back up Molina. However, just two days later, Molina was placed on the DL with a quadriceps injury. 

Cervelli got a call that he most definitely wasn't expecting, but had been waiting and hoping for. The Yankees wanted him with the big league club to help while their starting catcher and back up were healing, and Cervelli was more than ready to prove himself. 

Cervelli was likable from the start.

He wasted no time getting to know the pitchers on the Yankees' staff so that at a moment's notice they would feel comfortable with each other. While Cervelli has always been known for his stellar defense, his bat had been relatively non-existent in the minors. He came to the majors hitting under .250, but was eager to have hitting instructor Kevin Long fix whatever was effecting his swing. 

Cervelli made a seamless transition to the majors. Pitchers like A.J. Burnett, CC Sabathia, and Joba Chamberlain couldn't say enough about Cervelli's work behind the plate and his ability to call a good game. 

He was even contributing with his bat, something that the Yankees weren't expecting, but were more than happy to take. For a guy who couldn't hit over .250 in Double-A, Cervelli was hitting well over .300, and even higher with runners in scoring position. 

Posada returned from the DL in the end of May, while Molina was farther away from making a return. The Yankees decided to keep Cervelli around as Posada's backup, and the backstop is still performing at a high level. 

During the second game of the series in Atlanta on Wednesday night, there was talk on the broadcast that Jose Molina was nearing his return from the DL. It is unlikely that the Yankees would want to carry three catchers for the duration of the season, and since Molina is getting paid two million dollars this year, Cervelli would be the likely casualty. 

That night, Cervelli hit his first big league home run. As the rookie rounded the bases, his smile and genuine excitement could be seen easily, and that is exactly the type of energy the Yankees want to stay around their team.

Jose Molina is getting closer and closer to making his return, and the Yankees are going to be faced with a tough decision. Do they send Cervelli down and lose all that he's established in his time in the majors, or do they keep him and possibly try and drop Molina? 

Molina is a great defensive catcher, and he did great filling in for Jorge Posada for most of last year, but Cervelli is clearly the future catcher in the Yankees' organization. 

The Yankees need to find a way to unload Molina and keep Cervelli around the big league club for the long haul. Cervelli has certainly earned his right to stay, and if the Yankees were smart, they would keep him right where he is, and start shopping Jose Molina before the July 31 trade deadline. 

Friday, June 26, 2009

HBO Gives Joe Buck His Own Show: He's No Bob Costas

Bob Costas has been one of the most notable voices in sports broadcasting for a long time. Costas has transformed himself from being just an every day sports broadcaster into a spectacular interviewer and host of shows such as "Costas Now". 

From 2004-2008, Costas hosted "Costas Now" on HBO, which he wrote and produced. It featured segments with some of the top people in sports like Tiger Woods, Michael Phelps, Hank Aaron, and many others.

He asked questions that maybe brought out a side of athletes that fans couldn't see on an every day basis, good or bad. He consulted with a group of sports panelists about a variety of topics, and they always seemed like a group of friends sitting around talking about the happenings in sports, rather than people forced to sit together and converse. 

Costas had a way of establishing a good rapport with his guests, whether he knew them or just met them backstage. Bob was always that relatable guy who could make even the most up tight of athletes crack a smile while still sounding eloquent. 

HBO recently gave Joe Buck his own show called "Joe Buck Live". The show is filmed on the same stage where "Costas Now" was shot, with a similar format. There is a severe flaw in the design, however. 

The first episode aired last night. Buck opened the show doing a type of monologue as if he were Jay Leno or Conan O'Brien. There's nothing wrong with introducing the new show, but having Buck look through a telescope into "Bob Costas' house" to see Bob wearing a Hawaiian shirt and reading a book with his dog in a matching Hawaiian shirt is just plain stupid. Any attempt at humor was pretty much a waste, and Buck looked more like a fish out of water than anything else.

Buck's interview segments were the most tolerable part of the show. Considering he covers the NFL and MLB, where he is knowledgeable about the players and what goes on around the leagues.

His first guest was Brett Favre. It was Favre's first big interview since undergoing knee surgery. The question of the hour was if Favre was going to retire for real this time or possibly play for the Minnesota Vikings. Naturally, Favre didn't give a direct answer on whether he's hanging it up or not, and quickly, his segment was over.

The next part featured Buck interviewing the Mets' David Wright. They showed them talking over lunch in a restaurant in New York City, and walking around the streets to get a little bit of a sense of what it's like for Wright on a daily basis. It was a solid interview, because Buck wasn't outside of his element.

When the show returned to the studio, Buck was seated with NFL Hall of Famer Michael Irvin and Chad Ochocinco. Buck kept harping on the point that Ochocinco craves the spotlight, to which he kept saying he has his own spotlight (whatever that means).

Buck is used to being on the air and not having the person he's talking to sitting next to him. If he wants to keep bringing up a particular point and beat it like a dead horse, the person is not usually there to contest him. In a short interview, the audience doesn't want to hear the same question asked, 
especially if it is likely to produce no answer or information from the first time it was asked.

The final segment was with actor Paul Rudd, Artie Lange (a.k.a. Howard Stern's side kick on his radio show), and comedian Jason Sudeikis. Rudd and Buck are apparently old friends so that explained the actor's appearance on the show. Lange is a comedian known for being somewhat brash, to put it mildly, which didn't sit well with Buck for most of the segment. Lange seemed to take over that portion of the show, and while he was getting laughs from the audience, Buck looked less than happy to take a back seat on his own show.

More than that, there really was no purpose for those three to be on the show. If the show is supposed to be centered on sports, I'm not exactly sure where they fit in, aside from being fans.

Three more shows of "Joe Buck Live" are supposed to air throughout the year, and hopefully, as time goes on, Buck will learn how to roll with what his guests say. If he continues to come off as annoyed as he was last night, he's going to be out of the studio and back in the broadcast booth before he can shake his head.

Some people simply can't make the transition from a sports commentator to the host of an hour-long show, where the guests are going to say unexpected things.

Bob Costas made it look easy for the four years that "Costas Now" was on the air. Even though "Joe Buck Live" is filmed on the same stage as "Costas Now", it is clear that Joe Buck is not even close to the kind of host Bob Costas is, and would be better off in the broadcast booth where at least there are commercial breaks.

An hour of Joe Buck is just painfully too long. HBO would've been better giving Michael Irvin his own show;
at least that would've been entertaining. 

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Why the Yankees Are Thanking the Baseball Gods for Luis Castillo


The Yankees were seconds away from losing the first game of the Subway Series and their fourth game in a row.

As Alex Rodriguez's threw down his bat in disgust after popping up a pitch from Francisco Rodriguez, the Mets' reliable closer, something unbelievable happened. 

The Mets' second baseman, Luis Castillo was attempting to settle under the pop up and as he was about to squeeze his glove on the ball, the ball dropped out of his glove, allowing Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira to score. 

The Yankees won 9-8 due to an error. A ball that should've been caught, that was almost caught, won them the game. 

After a lousy performance by Joba Chamberlain who only lasted four innings, the Yankee bullpen came unglued. Brett Tomko gave the Mets the lead in the fifth inning by giving up four runs. Dave Robertson came in to relieve him, and held his own, followed by Phil Coke who also did a solid job. 

The Yankees kept chipping away, and eventually the lead was cut to 6-5. The Yankees managed to tie the game at six, but with two outs in the eighth Mariano Rivera couldn't hold it there, and the Mets went up 8-6. 

With one out, Derek Jeter singled to keep the Yankees hopes alive in the ninth inning. Johnny Damon came off the bench and struck out against K-Rod. Teixeira was able to work a walk, and with two outs Alex Rodriguez stepped up to the plate. 

With all eyes on the slugger, he got jammed, and popped the ball up to Castillo. Castillo isn't a rookie; he's actually known for his skills with the glove, but for some reason he looked as if he was staggering under it and didn't have a good look at it. 

Jeter and Teixeira were both off at the crack of the bat luckily, and both crossed home plate as the ball dropped out of Castillo's glove. 

Rodriguez went from being the goat of the game to being the unlikely hero literally in seconds. Everyone was anticipating all of the Saturday Sports talk being about how A-Rod couldn't come through in the clutch again. 

However, on Saturday morning, the negative attention was not on Alex Rodriguez, it was on Luis Castillo. While the Yankees might not have expected to walk away with a win last night, they certainly weren't complaining about it. 

A win is a win no matter how pretty or ugly it is. The Yankees are thanking the Baseball Gods that Castillo dropped that ball, otherwise they would be three games out in the east, and the Red Sox don't need any more of a lead than they already have. 

On behalf of Yankee fans everywhere, we thank you Luis Castillo for dropping that ball. It might be just what the Yankees need to keep things going in the right direction.