Thursday, January 31, 2013

#254 Rick Cerone - New York Yankees

A cool action shot of Rick Cerone here on his 7th Topps card.  Look at the dirt kicking up from the torque on his back foot.
Player: Rick Cerone was the 7th overall pick of the Indians in 1975.  The young catcher reported to AAA and saw action with Cleveland before the season was over, with four hits in twelve at bats.  He spent all but seven games back at AAA in '76 and was traded with John Lowenstein to the expansion Blue Jays for Rico Carty.

Cerone was Toronto's opening day catcher in their first ever game, but he batted just 100 times on the year with a .200 average.  His playing time increased in '78 and he batted .223 in 282 at bats.  Cerone was the starter in '79 and posted a .239/.294/.358 line and showed a strong arm behind the plate.

The Yankees traded for Cerone and hoped he would help fill the void left by Thurman Munson's death.  At first, Cerone seemed up to the daunting task as he posted 3.9 WAR with 14 HR and 85 RBI.  He hit .277, gunned down over 50% of would be base stealers, and finished 7th in AL MVP voting.  Thumb injuries would limit Cerone's playing time and productivity the next two years as he hit just .244 and .227.

Cerone's production continued to slip as he batted .220 in '83 and ended up losing his job to Butch Wynegar.  After another poor year in '84 he was traded to the Braves.  His power was no where to be found as he slugged a meager .280 for Atlanta in '85.  Sent packing to the Brewers, Cerone had his best year in a long time as he batted .259/.304./.380 in 242 trips to the plate. 

Cerone, now a free-agent, returned to the Bronx in '87 and hit .243/.320/.335 in part time work.  He and Yankee manager Billy Martin didn't see eye to eye and he was released on opening day in '88.  He was picked up by the Red Sox where he spent the next two years and put up similar rate stats.

The last three years of Cerone's career would be fruitful but transient.  His days as a starter long gone, he returned to the Yankees in 1990 and batted 302/.324/.388 in 139 at bats.  He crossed town to the Mets in '91 and put up a .273/.360/.357 line.  Cerone finished his career with the Expos in '92, hitting .270 in 63 at bats.
Flipside:  Despite starting the '75 season playing for Seton Hall University, Cerone wasn't terribly over matched in 12 at bats in the majors later that year.  He did not strikeout in any of his 12 at bats and only K'd once in 16 more at bats the next year.
Oddball:  Rick Cerone recorded a song "A Long Run Home" in 1981 to benefit victims of an earthquake in Italy.  The song is about a ballplayer visiting a stadium during the middle of a snowstorm.  I kid you not.  I wish I could find an audio clip.
History:  Cerone had a long 18 year career but with just 6.0 career WAR.  He played in the postseason in 1980 and '81 with the Yankees.  He hit well in the '80 ALCS with 4 hits in 12 at bats and a homer.  In 1981 against the A's he went 6-18 with two doubles and a home run but had just five hits in the ALCS and World Series.  The Yankees lost to the Dodgers and that was as close as Cerone would get to a World Series title.

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