Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Adam Warren story: Unless you have a big, bloated contract or faerie godfather at the top, you'll never be good enough

Now and then, some poor sap rises up from the Yankees muck farms with an "X" scrawled onto his back, signifying where the top brass intends to put the ice pick. From our cheap seats, we fans never get to know what the guy did wrong: Did he not flush the toilet, or use the right fork for lobster? Whatever the reason, the Yankees never value him.

Whatever he does, it's never enough.

Melky Cabrera was such a player. He was the 24-year-old starting CF on our last World Championship team. (Johnny Damon played in LF.) Melky hit .274 with 13 HRs, with a great arm, and he seemed poised for a fine career. So Cashman dealt him (with Mike Dunn and Arodys Vizcaino for Boone Logan and Javier Vazquez, Version II.) You can crunch numbers and create alternative universes until Danny Tartabull deserves a CF plaque, but a soggy deal is a soggy deal. Melky has had a nice career. Was he too close to Cano? Was it the PEDs? Or did he just use the wrong fork? I dunno. But the Yankees couldn't wait to ditch him. Cashman was chasing Curtis Granderson. Melky was in the way. And there was that "X" on his back.

Another such player is Francisco Cervelli, currently one of the best catchers in the NL. Not a week goes by without some writer extolling Frankie's virtues (the Pirates "quiet MVP," according to Sports Illustrated.) You'd think the Yankees would have loved him. Twice, he went to a hospital in an ambulance, still wearing his Yankee uniform. He always seemed to hit in the clutch. Numerous pitchers cited his ability to run a game. But in the last day of 2011 spring training, the Yankees made one of the cruelest moves in modern memory: Frankie was in line to be the back-up catcher (to Russell Martin), but they traded for Chris Stewart and dropped Cervelli to Scranton. It was the year when Scranton played home games on the NY State Thruway. It nearly broke him. Cervelli got off to a terrible start. He thought of quitting. Somehow, he came back. Last season, he hit .301 - the highest average on the Yankees. But he couldn't erase that "X." The Yankees traded him for Justin Wilson, a serviceable bullpen lefty. And the fans knew we had done a favor, fostering his escape from the Yankee Dannemora Prison. He is now hitting .303.

Now comes Adam Warren, a longtime farm system lugnut, whose 3.59 ERA is the best among Yankee starters. The team announced yesterday that Nathan Eovaldi (4.81 ERA) will start Wednesday, bumping Warren to the bullpen. The YES team will spin this by saying Warren is a valuable long man - the pitcher that Esmil Rodgers and Chris Capuano (two Cashman projects) have failed to become. Thus, Warren takes one for the team.

It's the typical Yankee move. Year after year, it's the reason why this team cannot unstick its head from its butt.

Warren's crime was rising through a system that the Yankees simply do not feel invested in. Nobody at the top traded for him, or signed him to a bloated deal - and that means he can never be appreciated and will always be expendable. He doesn't have Sabathia's contract. He doesn't have Cashmnan on the block for a big trade. He's just another Melky or Frankie. If he blows out his shoulder from pitching every other day - well - no loss. Come winter, some team will be happy to take him off our hands.

Oh well, that's the Yankees way. We owe Sabathia $50 million over the next two seasons. Need anything else be said?

1 comment:

John M said...

Exactly. All my favorite players are playing for other teams with the exception of Reddi Kilowatt, the lightbulb-headed oddity known as Mr. Gardner.

After about 50 years of fandom, I can't remember that situation ever being the case before. But then, I can't remember a lot of things from the past 50 years, so it may have been a regular thing.

Q: What do you do with your arguably best starter?

a) Give him a big fat raise
b) Shower him with beautiful women and the finest champagne
c) Send him to the bullpen

Me pick c. Bizarro rules.