CLEVELAND -- There, I said it.
Robinson Cano is not a No. 2 hitter, not in any way, shape or form, and not on anyone's lineup card in baseball. Except, of course, for Joe Girardi's.
Cano finally brought his bat to the party Monday in Cleveland, jumping on two first-pitches for solo home runs in the fifth and sixth innings of the Yankees' 11-6 victory over the Indians. He also added a double and walk, and scored four times. He had the kind of day he had not had in the first six games of the new season, but the kind you knew was coming. It was just a matter of time before Cano reminded all of us just how dangerous his bat is in the middle of the Yankees' lineup.
Yet it isn't in the middle of the lineup, it's at the top, right behind Brett Gardner. I respect Girardi's knowledge of the game and recognize how deeply he thinks through decisions like who to bat where, but I still don't get taking the best hitter in your order and wasting him as a table-setter.
"When you have injuries you have to make adjustments," Girardi said. "And we've had to make some adjustments."
This adjustment, however, does not add up. In addition to all the home runs the Yankees lost to free agency, the injuries to Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira took two bats that accounted for 67 home runs last season out of the lineup. So instead of installing Cano, who hit 33 HRs last year, in the middle of the lineup where he belongs, Girardi moves him up.
And why? Because the manager has an almost pathological fear of "stacking" his lefties. He likes to alternate right-left, right-left the way your mom used to alternate boy-girl, boy-girl at kiddie birthday parties.
But the reality is, using Cano in the two-hole stacks the lefties at the top of the order anyway. The way the roster currently stands, Brett Gardner, a lefty, leads off, and Cano, a lefty, hits second. Then Girardi goes into his R-L-R-L-R-L-R arrangement with Kevin Youkilis (R), Travis Hafner (L), Vernon Wells (R), Ichiro Suzuki (L), Eduardo Nunez (R), Lyle Overbay (L) and the catchers, both of whom are right-handed hitters.
But wouldn't it make more sense to flip-flop Cano and Youkilis, who is a good on-base percentage guy, or to insert Ichiro into the two-hole, where with Gardner they'd would form a nearly impossible-to-double-up tandem? If Girardi is that against stacking the lefties, he could go Gardner-Ichiro-Youkilil with Cano hitting cleanup, where he had great career numbers.
In any case, hitting Cano second seems like the weakest of all possible options.
"He’s not used to it, I know that," Girardi said. "He’s been mostly a fifth hitter since I been here, and he’s moved around a little bit to third and fourth. But right now it’s what we feel we need to do. We needed him to hit there to get these guys as many at-bats as they can get."
It would seem more important to get Cano up in key RBI situations than to merely get him more at-bats.
And now that his bat appears to be coming around (Was there any real doubt that it would?) it seems like a good time to move that bat to where it could do the most damage.
QUESTION: Agree that Cano should be hitting third or fourth in the Yankees lineup? Disagree? Let us know, along with your reasons, in the comments section.