What Went Right: The Kids Are Alright


Over the next week or so, we’ll again break down what went wrong and what went right for the 2009 Yankees. The series this year will be much more enjoyable than the last.

Ramiro Pena & Frankie Cervelli

The Yankees lost a major piece of their team before the season even started, as Alex Rodriguez went down with a torn hip labrum that would keep him out for well over a month. Some people (who shall remain nameless) actually thought the team would be better off without him, but after a three week stretch of seeing Cody Ransom hit .180-.226-.320, everyone was singing a different tune. But I digress.

Ransom, slated to begin the year as the backup infielder, was pushed into every day duty, and taking Ransom’s place as the utility infielder was young Ramiro Pena. The Yankees could have gone with the easy move and taken the veteran Angel Berroa out of Spring Training, but Pena made a strong impression in camp thanks to all the extra playing time he received while Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano were away at the World Baseball Classic.

The then 24-year-old infielder had hit just .266-.330-.357 with Double-A Trenton in 2008, but his outstanding glove work meant he could still contribute something positive to the team. Ransom went down with a quad injury in late April, which meant Pena would have to hold down the fort at third base until A-Rod returned. The kid from Monterrey went on to hit .333-.375-.367 in nearly two weeks of playing time, and put up a crazy good +12.5 UZR/150 at the hot corner. Against the Angels on May 1st, Pena’s two run single in the eighth helped the Yanks overcome a five run deficit with just five outs remaining.

Unfortunately, A-Rod wasn’t the only prominent Yankee to miss time with injury in 2009. Jorge Posada missed most of May with a hamstring injury, and if that wasn’t bad enough, backup catcher Jose Molina also missed most of the month with a similar injury. The Yankees were forced to turn to the unproven Francisco Cervelli, who at the time was hitting just .190-.266-.310 in Double-A. Cervelli hit .286-.302-.310 in Posada’s and Molina’s stead, flashing some serious defensive skills behind the plate.

With the Yanks’ lineup struggling immensely in mid-June (13 runs in their previous six games), Cervelli hit the first homer of his career in Atlanta, tying the game and helping wake up the dormant offensive monster. The Yanks were just 38-32 at that point, but after Cervelli’s jack helped get the offense back in order, they went 65-27 the rest of the way.

Both Pena and Cervelli started the year as the third best option at their respective positions, but both performed when the team needed them most. Cervelli gunned down 10 of 13 potential basestealers, and Pena gobbled up everything hit within shouting range of him at three infield positions. Their youthful energy was a joy to watch and also a welcome addition to a team that can be a little uptight at times.

Photo Credits: AP and AP

Categories : Analysis


  1. JM says:

    Err…. I regret that statement way back in February about Alex Rodriguez. I deserve all ridicule. Fire away, I guess. I was dumb, stupid, idiotic, etc. I know it and, again, regret ever bashing him. I apologize to Yankee fans everywhere and to the man himself.

  2. Reggie C. says:

    CC is already on the record giving Cervelli’s game-calling 2 thumbs up. that bodes well for Cerv backing Posada in 2010. i hope he gets marginally better with the bat, but I think he’ll produce at least on par with what Molina provided.

    ramiro pena could use further plate development in trple A. Gotta keep Hairston around till then.

  3. larryf says:

    10 out of 13 thrown out? No more Ryan Howard SB’s with Cervelli catching….

    or down by 4 runs in the late innings SB’s

  4. David Robertson sheds a single tear for not being included in the “kids” category…

    BTW, Fun Fact:

    Joba Chamberlain is two full months younger than Ramiro Peña. And Phil Hughes is three full months younger than Francisco Cervelli.

    Your mind, it is blown.

  5. Forget the remaining nameless. O’Connor should be called out for his moronic statement.

    Anyway, Pena and Cervelli filled in admirably. Cervelli, as of now, definitely has the inside track to the back-up catcher’s job.

  6. Mike HC says:

    I agree. I really enjoyed when Cervelli was on the team, even when he was just in the dugout all game. Just a really fun guy to watch and really entertaining.

  7. Rose says:

    I think the fact that our aging franchise players (Jeter, Posada, Pettitte, Rivera) are still playing so well is more impressive than some of the younger professional baseball players coming through in certain situations…

    But either way…I’ll take it all…

    • larryf says:

      The more young guys we can mix in these next few years the better-to take advantage of everything the core-4 and others can teach them. We need to get younger quickly….

      • pete says:

        eh, we don’t need to get younger quickly. We need to get younger gradually, without sacrificing too much quality.

      • Getting younger for the sake of getting younger isn’t smart. The Yankees need to be smart about it. There aren’t may places in which they can get young right now because there aren’t many (if any) ML ready position players in the system at this point.

      • We need to get younger quickly…

        I agree.

        Step 1) Don’t sign John Lackey or trade for Roy Halladay; instead, give the 4th and 5th rotation spots to Joba and Hughes, like we planned all along, and make Ian Kennedy the 6th starter in Scranton
        Step 2) Sign a few OLDER GUYS to one-year contracts, like, say, oh, I don’t know, maybe Andy Pettitte, Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, and Mike Cameron, so that our youngsters like Kennedy, Nova, McAllister, Austin Jackson, and Jesus Montero don’t get their paths to the majors blocked by long-term contracts to other non-youngster ML veterans.

        That’s how you get younger: by not signing/trading for guys in their early 30′s, but instead by signing guys in their LATE 30s so that they’re on short-term contracts that can be dumped the moment your youngsters on the farm are ready.

        Creative strategic planning FTW.

    • Mike HC says:


      That argument you had last thread must have worn you down.

      Why so negative? Nobody was comparing the youngsters to the best players in baseball, ha

      just messing around with ya

    • Why must you always put up a straw man to take down? Why?

      • At least he’s not mryankee, lurking and waiting for a Roy Halladay mention so he can have his moment to shine…

        • Riddering says:

          Well, now you’ve invoked him. Shit!

        • Goddammit, now you’ve set off his radar.

        • No, he’s not, but no one mentioned anything about Cervelli and Pena being more important than the core of the team. So why even make that statement, in such a dismissive manner?

          • Rose says:

            So why even make that statement, in such a dismissive manner?

            is more impressive

            But either way…I’ll take it all…

            Dismissive manner? I was only curious as to why a “What Went Right” talk about the older guys continuing their age defying ways hadn’t been talked about before this. They’re both valid reasons…I just felt the older guys defying age decline was more important. It wasn’t meant to argue and “dismiss” the fact that the younger guys contributed too.

            • But it did. We’ve been running these things since the World Series ended. We’re talking about what went right and what went wrong, not what went more right and what went more wrong. It’s not a reason. It’s a discussion of what worked and what didn’t. And I don’t think it could be any more clear in its intent.

              • Rose says:

                Usually the order in in which these come out…are seemingly the order in which they are thought of due to importance or relevance. No, it doesn’t necessary mean that there is any particular order…I was only questioning it.

                “Better leave this argument behind with the kids, they’re alright…”

                • There has been no order whatsoever to these posts.

                • I was only curious as to why a “What Went Right” talk about the older guys continuing their age defying ways hadn’t been talked about before this… Usually the order in in which these come out…are seemingly the order in which they are thought of due to importance or relevance.

                  Here’s your order, so far. Emphasis is mine.

                  Nov 09: What Went Right: The seventh inning on
                  Nov 10: What Went Wrong: Chien-Ming Wang
                  Nov 11: What Went Right: Gardbrera
                  Nov 12: What Went Right: The Bullpen Makeover
                  Nov 13: What Went Wrong: Robbie Cano with RISP
                  Nov 16: What Went Right: The Offseason Pickups
                  Nov 17: What Went Wrong: The Joba Rules
                  Nov 17: What Went Right: Injury Bouncebacks
                  Nov 18: What Went Right: The Midseason Pickups
                  Nov 19: What Went Right: The Kids Are Alright

                  There was a post specifically talking about two of the old guys bouncing back from injury, namely HazMat, Posada. It may not be the “all the old guys performing” post you were looking for, but it’s something. And, it came before the post on the kids.

                  But no, I don’t see any type of order there. Nor did they ever say there would be an order of any sort.

                  Just food for thought.

            • Think about it this way:

              Your comment was made in the immediate wake of a protracted discussion about WAR in the preceding post, where you went on at length about your skepticism that Hideki Matsui (one of our “aging franchise players who is still playing so well”) was only worth two wins more than guys like Peña and Cervelli. Statements that you then either amended or rephrased once you gained a better understanding of what the two wins stat truly conveyed.

              On the heels of that, your total non-sequitur comment here (nobody was talking about aging vets) about the relative value of vets vs. youngsters seems like you belaboring a separate point and setting up a strawman.

              • Rose says:

                I guess. Oh well. If wondering where a post about the older players age defying consistent performances during a post about less significant younger players sporatic blips of positive performances through out the year is setting up a strawman then I guess it’s setting up a strawman. It wasn’t necessarily to take away the accomplishments of the kids…but more of a “younger kids? look what the older guys are doing!” type of a comment. And it wasn’t to go off on a tangent…I would have been totally content with people viewing as rhetorical…which is essentially what it was meant as.

  8. pete says:

    10 of 13? Wow i had no idea. SSS of course, but that’s still effing sick, especially considering that generally only good basestealers attempt to steal off catchers with good defensive/throwing reputations. It is nice to know that we have 3 supremely talented defenders (cervelli, pena, and gardner) on the bench next year all making around league minimum. If we can get/keep one strong bat (hinske for the bench, plus the versatiliy/major league average everythingness of melky (i’m optimistically assuming we get cameron, damon, and matsui), it will be a huge asset next year. You never want to take a bat like jeter’s/a-rod’s/cano’s/jorge’s/damon’s out of the lineup, but it’s nice to know that at least you’ll be replacing him with an elite defender.

  9. Riddering says:

    The realization that the Yanks were actually doing well with both Posada and Molina down made May so damn special this season. Sign me up for the Cervelli-as-backup posse.

  10. Bob Stone says:

    It seems like the excellent performances of both Cervelli and Pena during the season were statistical anomlies. It was great to see young players coming up the the bigs and doing well.

    I don’t follow the minor leagues anywhere near as closely as others do here on the site. Do Pena and Cervelli have potential upside or are they just utility/minor league players that racked up outlier statistics in 2009? Does anyone have a read on their scouting reports or projected future performance?

    • pete says:

      from what i understand, both have the ability to put the ball in play (pena more than cervelli), but have virtually no power. Pena is fast and cervelli isn’t slow, but neither has ever had the kind of line-drive rate that would allow him to maintain any reasonable levels of offensive production in an extended sample. That said, they both appear to be (and are, according to scouting reports and statistics) defensive studs, more than capable of playing the backup roles and defensive replacements. The bench still needs one hitter w/ pop (Hinske?), but both should provide value wherever they play as defensively inclined bench players.

  11. mryankee says:

    Edited by RAB: Yeah, this wasn’t off topic at all…


      To keep it on track…

      Is Kevin Russo the next Ramiro Pena? Also, how long is it “safe” to bet that we get production out of Pena. The general consensus is that he was playing over his head at the plate this year.

      • pete says:

        kevin russo is closer to david eckstein than ramiro pena. The general consensus is that his defense is pretty weak, and while he has good contact abilities that may enable him to hit around .280 or better, he has almost no power and his OBP skills are not enough to overcome that. As a backup, he wouldn’t be an offensive black hole, but he lacks the kind of defense you want from a position like that.

        As far as “safe” betting on pena, he’ll likely be a very very good defender at SS/3B/2B for a while – good enough to be a solid bench option, but he’s unlikely to be as productive at the plate as he was this year, which wasn’t very productive at all. He has zero power and average at best contact ability. He’s unlikely to ever OBP or slug much better than .300 in his career.

        My darkhorse candidate to stick around would be Eduardo Nunez. Nunez is less sure-handed than Pena, but he has enough range and a strong enough arm to be a good defender, and his bat, while probably not good enough to make him a starter, at least not on the yankees (this year, in his best offensive season, he OPS’d .789), definitely has more life than Pena’s.

  12. mryankee says:

    Talking about a backup catcher and a possible down the line shortstop who is an ok hitter. What the hell is going on here? FA starts tomorrow why nonoews on Damon? Matsui? Pettite? I wont even start on Halladay.

  13. John NY says:

    Cervelli has been Tony Pena’s project all season. He works hard defensively and has a small upside offensively. What more do you want from a backup catcher? Molina is old. Maybe giving him a minor league deal to add depth if no one picks him up?

  14. larryf says:

    What is Cervelli’s native language? He is a Venezuelan Italian who doesa nota speaka gooda English…

    I’m betting it is Spanish-the better for Pena and our other spanish speakers…

  15. Rose says:

    Does Cervelli become AJ’s personal catcher next year or do they scrap the “personal catcher” thing all together and just give arbitrary rest to Posada when needed?

    • I think it’s a good idea to start with letting Posada and Burnett work together. Deliberately, even, at the beginning of the year. Then you can assess from there.

      • Bob Stone says:

        I think Burnett had less confidence in Posada’s ability to catch his powerful yet wild curveball than he did with Molina, despite what he kept saying to the press. I think that got into his head.

        I’d like to see AJ and JoPo start the season together.

        • pete says:

          I think that if any pro-molinagate argument is valid, it’s this. the “game calling” argument is ridiculous – a pitcher throws the pitches he wants to throw. But if your pitcher’s best weapon is a curveball that’s so sharp it’s hard to catch, and your starting catcher is unspectacular defensively, you go with the better defensive catcher. That said, I still think Frankie is a better defensive catcher now than Molina, so he should have been the one catching AJ, not molina.

          • the “game calling” argument is ridiculous – a pitcher throws the pitches he wants to throw. But if your pitcher’s best weapon is a curveball that’s so sharp it’s hard to catch, and your starting catcher is unspectacular defensively, you go with the better defensive catcher.

            Just wanted to emphasize that.

            • pete says:

              i will say, though, that I still think it was a judgement call on whether or not to start posada against AJ. Not necessarily agreeing with Girardi, but I trust his judgment more than my own. I would have gone with Cervelli, but starting your 22 year old, no-bat, 3rd catcher in a WS game might break some kind of law of physics, and start a chain reaction that destroys the fabric of the universe.

  16. Bob Stone says:

    I would peg over/under for Cervelli’s 2010 batting, as primary backup catcher as .247.

    Any opinions?

  17. Hey ZZ says:

    Interesting tidbit from Bob Nightengal and on MLB traderumors:

    The Yankees, ever so quietly, are letting teams know that RF Nick Swisher is available.

  18. Bo says:

    You need to be able to fill a spots with young players. Its better for the 3rd catcher to be a guy like Cervelli than Kevin Cash. Better for Pena than Berroa.

    This is what a farm system is all about.

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