Monday, April 1, 2013


Speaking of "trampling out the vintage"...
Now these sprightly-but-soon-to-be-soused young'uns don't seem all that interested in high-tailing it off Bourbon St., but some of these yokel locals who are practicing the art of mental liquidation will sometime soon take a left turn to Metairie, where the New Orleans Zephyrs (AAA franchise for the Miami Marlins) play their games. It's a pleasant place, filled with music and--most significantly, perhaps--a right-field beer pavilion.

For some folk, however, escaping Nawlins is part of a professional code. Three veteran players ripped it up for the Zephyrs in 2012--outfielder-third baseman Mike Cervenak (now 36); second baseman-shortstop Nick Green (now 34), and shortstop-second baseman Gil Velazquez (now 33).

Nick Green: possibly a favorite at the Little Gem Saloon...
Of the three, Green has had the most major-league exposure, with a bit more than a thousand plate appearances for eight teams in part of seven seasons. Even though he pummeled PCL pitching last year (.340, .996 OPS in 63 games), Nick is a marginal hitter at best against big leaguers.

Mike Cervenak: not quite the second coming of
Steve Ontiveros...
We'll never know what Cervenak might have done, for he spent the best part of his youth not in New Orleans but in Norwich, CT, where he didn't develop fast enough to be a serious prospect. By the time he made it to AAA with the Giants, he was 28 and even the bedraggled 2005 team, without Barry Bonds for most of the year, was unable to find room enough to give him a cup of coffee. That didn't happen until he'd bounced from the Giants to the Phillies via the Orioles (insert your favorite billiards shot description here).

Bereft of enough HR pop and just not as physically imposing as someone like David Freese--and always just shaky enough at third to cause some concern among baseball fundamentalists--Mike just couldn't get over the hump. He did some nice humpin' in Nawlins last year (344, 912 OPS) but the problem is that he's pretty much a first baseman now. He was let go, and didn't hook on with anyone.

Velazquez: New Orleans Miami...unreal.

Velazquez, big and rangy, was drafted higher (14th round) than either Green (32nd) or Cervenak (43rd). Drafted out of high school, he simply didn't hit a lick for the Mets, who gave up on him in 2004. He became another guy who was freely available in the minor league free agent pool. It wasn't till he got to Salt Lake City, a hitter's park, in 2011 that his bat showed any real signs of life--but the Angels weren't impressed, and cut him loose. He hit well at Nawlins (.312, but still no power), and the Fish brought him up in September, but he didn't impress with the bat and was released over the off-season.

All of these guys will be back in AAA, and probably all of them will have "escaped" New Orleans, despite having played extremely well there in 2012. (Green might be back: he was cut by the Fish but the engaging infielder, who does a passable Brandon McCarthy imitation now and again on his Twitter account, hasn't yet let it be known what he's going to do.) For most of us, such a Darwinian swirl could push us toward an assignation with Bourbon St., but these guys have just kept at it, fighting the odds, trying to turn back a ticking clock that is working inexorably against them. All you teenage tipplers still stumbling around down in the French Quarter (where spring break is almost as long as the baseball season...) should tip your glasses to these three, who deserve a toast for their tenacity.