New York Yankees: Robinson Cano
Jeter has 2,924,686 votes compared to Ramirez's 2,325,527. Jeter, 40, entered Monday hitting .275 with two homers and 19 RBIs. Ramirez, 32, is hitting .298 with nine homers and 38 RBIs.
No other Yankee is in position to win the vote at their position. Jeter could be teamed with Robinson Cano in the middle of the AL infield. Cano is up nearly 900,000 votes on Detroit's Ian Kinsler.
Masahiro Tanaka is expected to be named to the team, though he likely won't start the game because he will be on the mound in the Yankees' first half finale at Baltimore on July 15. Dellin Betances and David Robertson could make the team out of the bullpen.
His .330 batting average is third-best in the American League, and his on-base percentage (.381) is seventh-best in the AL. His team is five games over .500 going into tonight's game against the Yankees, and Cano is the leading vote-getter among American League second basemen for the All-Star Game.
But there is one Cano stat that jumps out for its sheer incongruity: Home runs, of which he has two.
That is a very un-Cano-like number for a player who had averaged 28 HRs a season for the previous five years.
But Cano said tonight that was more a product of the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium than of his own long-ball prowess.
"I know I’m not a home run guy," he said. "I just took advantage that I was playing on a short field. We know what kind of field it is."
Cano also said his lack of power numbers is a result of how he is being pitched this year. "Everything is middle-away, and I just have to go with it,'' he said. "I’m not trying to do too much. I’m not going to try to do too much, either.”
Cano also admitted that spacious Safeco Field could be having a detrimental effect on his ability to hit the ball out of the park -- both of his home runs this season have come on the road.
“It’s a park where you have to hit a liner to go out," he said. "But that’s not an excuse. We don’t play every game here.”
Unfortunately, he doesn't play 81 at Yankee Stadium anymore, either.
Now, the 31-31 Yankees arrive at Safeco after losing two of three in Kansas City. They haven't scored more than four runs in any of the past 10 games. So the Mariners, who have been pitching lights-out, have a chance to make this road trip ugly for the Yankees. After Seattle, the Yankees go to Oakland to face the first-place A's.
Cano is not having a great individual year. He has not hit for power, bidding adieu to that right-field porch in the Bronx and moving to Safeco Field, a pitcher’s park. He has just two homers. Still, he is hitting for average and taking his walks. His .330 batting average is the third-best in the American League. His on-base percentage of .381 is sixth-best in the AL.
What Cano’s signing has likely brought to Seattle is a belief that the franchise wants to win. When a struggling organization makes such a bold move, it can change the expectations around the club.
As far as shelling out 10 years and $240 million, the Yankees were right not to lock themselves into a deal that will last through 2023.
In the long run, not signing Cano was probably the right decision. In 2014, with an offense that is struggling, the Yankees miss Cano badly; especially with his replacements not doing enough.
Pitching matchups: Here are your updated pitching matchups for the Seattle series:
Tuesday: Vidal Nuno (1-2, 5.33) vs. Hisashi Iwakuma (4-2, 2.66)
Wednesday: Masahiro Tanaka (9-1, 2.02) vs. Chris Young (5-3, 3.42)
Thursday: Chase Whitley (1-0, 2.42) vs. Roenis Elias (5-4, 3.64)
Dustin Pedroia over Robinson Cano? Let's take a look at the facts:
• The highest OPS Pedroia has produced in a season is .869. Cano has bettered that number six times.
• Cano has won the Silver Slugger award five times, which goes to the best offensive player at a particular position. Pedroia has one.
• In the past seven seasons, Cano has played in an average of 160 games. Pedroia has appeared in 141 per season in the same span. Pedroia won the MVP in 2007, while Cano's best showing was fourth in 2012.
• Pedroia crushes Cano in grass stains.
When you add it up, Mariano Rivera's take on the Cano-Pedroia competition -- an item designed to sell his book, "The Closer" -- is wrong. Cano is a better player than Pedroia. If you had one game, you would rather have Cano than Pedroia. Plus, there is a better chance Cano would be available to play.
The real damning criticism is Rivera throwing his ex-teammate to the wolves, writing that Cano's commitment level is not one of an elite player.
"This guy has so much talent, I don't know where to start," Rivera writes of Cano. "There is no doubt that he is a Hall of Fame caliber [player]. It's just a question of whether he finds the drive you need to get there. I don't think Robby burns to be the best. ... You don't see that red-hot passion in him that you see in most elite players."
As a reporter we get to see a fair amount, but Rivera had a much better seat to judge Cano's commitment. While I saw the jogs to first and the seeming nonchalance at times, I also witnessed Cano taking extra BP more than any of the Yankees stars.
Still, I have to defer to Rivera's view on Cano's desire. Rivera has climbed to join the all-time elites in baseball, and he watched Cano nearly every day of Cano's major league career. So it tells you a lot that Rivera thought Cano could have tried harder.
Cano is gone. The Yankees thought enough of him to offer $175 million. In the rewriting of Cano's Yankees career, it seems like he was worth little to nothing. Even if you believe he was only going 80 percent, I'd take it over 100 percent of Pedroia in a big spot.
NEW YORK -- Robinson Cano's first trip back to Yankee Stadium ended the way it started.
He was booed, but his team won.
Cano was treated more like an enemy than an old friend by the fans here in the Bronx this week. But he got the last laugh, twice, after his Seattle Mariners won both games of a rain-shortened series.
The Mariners took the series finale Thursday 4-2, with Cano driving in two of Seattle’s four runs.
Cano did get some love earlier in the day here at the Stadium, when he emerged from the Seattle dugout for batting practice shortly after 5 p.m. Most of the Yankees’ regulars had already finished BP and headed back to the clubhouse. But a beaming Ichiro Suzuki raced over to give Cano a big hug, and bench coach Tony Pena shared a long embrace with Cano as well.
Once the game was underway, it didn’t take Cano very long to make an impact. With a runner on first base and one out in the top of the first inning, he slapped a 90-mph fastball from Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda into the right-field corner, driving home the first run of the night.
Cano knocked in the Mariners’ second run as well, on a groundout in the third inning. He also grounded out in the fifth and seventh innings, finishing 1-for-4.
He was booed each and every time he walked to the plate, as he was in the series opener on Tuesday, a 6-3 Mariners win. But when asked afterward what his favorite part of his homecoming was, Cano gave a somewhat surprising answer, given the treatment he received.
“I would say, if it was anything, to be able to see the fans,” Cano said. “If they boo me or not, just happy to be playing in front of them and see ex-teammates, the manager I played for ... it’s all about seeing them again.”
Cano could have played better here this week -- he went 1-for-5 on Tuesday, with an RBI. He’s off to a relatively modest start with Seattle, batting. 294 with just one home run and 14 RBIs through 26 games.
But Cano did extend his season-high hitting streak to nine games on Thursday. And his new manager was impressed by the way he handled the hoopla.
“Just like I thought he was [going to],” Lloyd McClendon said. “He’s a professional. He’s been in the spotlight, he’s dealt with the media, big media. He just went about his business, and played very professionally, and handled everything in a very professional manner. I thought he was very gracious.”
Thanks to Wednesday’s rainout, Cano will get to make a second trip back to the Bronx this season, for a makeup game on June 2. He’ll probably be booed once again, but Cano said that the booing this week did not disappoint him.
“Honestly, no,” Cano said. “You have to understand the fans. They’re the fans. Like I said the other day, that’s something that I can’t control. I can control myself, but not the fans. Like I said, I did have fun.”
And whether he is completely happy with his decision or not, Cano is very happy in Seattle at least two days a month -- the days when the Mariners cut his biweekly checks that at the end of a decade will add up to $240 million.
Cano and the Mariners beat the Yankees 6-3 Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium. But at 15-11, the Yankees are still playing the second-best ball in the American League and still lead the AL East by two games. So no one can say that the loss of Cano has made the Yankees a bad team.
But neither has the addition of Cano made the Mariners a great team, nor is it likely to any time soon. They've got some good young players, but a heck of a long way to go before they can be considered a team to reckon with in the tough AL West. (I am pretty sure they will, however, finish ahead of the Houston Astros).
The 2014 Yankees are certainly a better team than the 2013 Yankees were, in just about every area.
With the notable exception of second base.
This is not a knock on Brian Roberts, who did not have a good game Tuesday, but a mere restating of the obvious: Replacing Cano with Roberts was a serious downgrade for the Yankees, even if they limited him to just one infield hit -- on a broken-bat liner Cano himself easily would have handled -- in five at-bats.
The plain truth is, the Yankees lineup would be a whole lot better with Cano in it, and vice versa.
Everyone seems to know it, including the sparse crowd that turned out at a cold, rainy Yankee Stadium for the express purpose of booing Cano in his first visit to the Bronx as an opposing player.
Manager Joe Girardi characterized the booing as evidence that Yankees fans did not want Cano to leave, and I couldn't agree more.
Frankly, there's no other rational reason for adults to begrudge a player for taking not just a little bit more money, but a whole bunch more -- $65 million, to be exact -- to do the same job he was doing here. Of course, we've all gotten used to the irrational thought processes of many fans, who believe for reasons which defy logic that athletes are obligated to do what's best for their employers rather than for themselves.
Certainly it would have been beneficial for the Yankees had Cano taken their seven-year, $175 million contract offer and spurned the extra three years and $65 million the Mariners were dangling. But it would have been a dumb move by Cano, and there's not one person who was in Yankee Stadium on Tuesday or sitting in front of their television sets who would have done differently.
Cano did what he thought was right for him. The Yankees did what they said was right for them. I can understand both sides of the argument. But honestly, if the Yankees' reason for not giving Cano what he wanted was to keep their payroll under $189 million, they failed dismally. They wound up blowing past their self-imposed salary cap anyway, but without Cano.
So now they have Roberts at second base, for as long as his oft-injured 36-year-old body holds out, hitting ninth in their batting order.
And Cano finds himself surrounded by kids in a lineup that offers him even less protection than last year's Yankees lineup did -- and, for 81 games, hitting in a park a lot less friendly than Yankee Stadium.
Right now it might not be making much of a difference, but if the Yankees make it to October this year, there will be times in a playoff game when you will wish it was Cano coming to the plate and not Roberts. (Yes, I know Cano's last playoff series was miserable and his career average in October, .222, is nearly 90 points below his regular-season average. Still, he would be a better option than most anyone in the Yankees' infield.)
That's why you have to wonder if, in spite of all the smiles at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday -- Derek Jeter even playfully stroked Cano's beard before the game -- there isn't at least a little bit of regret on both sides.
I get that no team wants to give a 31-year-old player a 10-year deal -- especially a team like the Yankees, which has been burned by those before and is in the process of being burned by a couple more as we speak. But for a win-now organization like the Yanks -- which prints money, incidentally -- those concerns are for another time. Cano still has a few good, and maybe even great, years left in him. And what ever happened to the Yankees' philosophy of fielding the game's best player, or close to it, at every position?
Cano certainly still qualifies as that.
Last year, with absolutely no one to protect him in the lineup and no legitimate reason for an opposing pitcher to give him anything to hit, Cano still managed to bat .314, hit 27 homers and knock in 107 runs.
This year he's hitting only .296, with 12 RBIs and twice as many stolen bases (two) as home runs (one). He says he is happy in Seattle, but it's not too off-base to suspect he misses not only the bright lights of New York, but the legitimate chance of going back to the playoffs and maybe even the World Series -- a prospect that seems a few years away, at least, in Seattle.
Afterward, Cano said he was happy to see his old teammates, and happy to beat them. He did not seem all that disappointed when a Mariners PR representative cut off his postgame interview barely two minutes into it, saying, "Robbie has to go somewhere."
Five minutes later, Cano was nowhere but sitting in the visiting manager's office, staring glumly into his cellphone.
It was impossible to read his thoughts, of course, but would it be too off-base to guess that maybe he was wondering why he was on this side of the building, and not the other side?
The Yankees, too, might have been wondering the same thing.
Back in December, as great a pair as they had been, a Yankees-Cano divorce seemed inevitable, and maybe even necessary.
Now, seeing them apart, it is fair to wonder whether it really needed to happen at all.
"It's New York," Sabathia said.
Sabathia (3-3) took the loss Tuesday night, falling for the first time to the Mariners after eight straight wins. He pitched five innings and allowed four earned runs on nine hits.
"He left to make a better decision for him and his family," Sabathia said. "He got a 10-year contract. It is what it is. People are going to be mad either way. I know, for him, he is just going out, trying to play. For us, it is not that surprising."
When Jacoby Ellsbury returned to Fenway Park earlier this month, the Red Sox fans booed him. However, they did cheer Ellsbury after a highlight reel was shown.
"We didn't do a video," Sabathia said.
Should you have? "It is out of my control," Sabathia said. "You have to ask somebody else that has control of that."
Meanwhile, Derek Jeter said he didn't think about what type of reaction Cano would receive.
"Am I surprised? No, because I didn't really go into it with any expectation," Jeter said. "Some people cheered, most people booed. Unless you go and ask everyone why they did it, [you don't know]. Some people probably booed because they wished he were here. Some people probably because they were upset he left. Some people might've booed because the people next to him were booing."
Mark Teixeira noticed how loud the sparse crowd became on this cold night.
“Considering the place was half-full, they brought out their best boos, but that’s exactly what’s expected," Teixeira said. "If you guys watched Jimmy Fallon last night, you see what happens when he’s really on the streets. The fans are supposed to boo him when he’s in here, but Robbie’s a great guy. He played his heart out when he was here, and that’s baseball. That’s sports. He’s going to get booed.”
The Yankees feel they have not done video tributes in the past when players like David Cone, Tino Martinez, Jason Giambi or David Wells have returned, the official said. In those cases, they let the fans salute the former Yankees in the fashion they saw fit. That is the Yankees' plan for tonight as well.
In Boston last week, the Red Sox played a video tribute for Jacoby Ellsbury upon his return. The negotiation between Ellsbury and the Red Sox were very different from the one between the Yankees and Cano.
The Red Sox and Ellsbury basically had little to no negotiation before Ellsbury signed with the Yankees. The Yankees tried hard to retain Cano, but he turned down their seven-year, $175 million offer in favor of Seattle's 10-year, $240 million contract.
Question: Should the Yankees have a video tribute for Cano?
A standing ovation might be tough to muster. What Cano did produce, however, was a very entertaining man-on-the-street bit, which shows how fans might not always respond the way they say they will.
Cano left New York after signing a 10-year, $240 million contract with Seattle. He will be one of Fallon’s guests on the Monday night show, which airs at 11:30 p.m.
This would suggest he was one of the most irreplaceable players in the game. And one the Yankees rarely had to think about actually replacing, as he appeared in 159 or more games in each of his final seven seasons.
On Tuesday night, he will return to Yankee Stadium for the first time as a Seattle Mariner. A star player fleeing the Bronx for more money elsewhere is a rare occurrence in the Yankee Universe. It has ignited a vast array of opinions and emotions.
Most of all, Cano left behind an interesting pair of questions: What was his Yankees legacy? And will you boo him upon his Yankee Stadium return?
The Captain’s view: Surrounded by reporters late on Sunday afternoon, Derek Jeter had a question.
@AndrewMarchand cheer - he was a great player while here and helped win a championship. He made a business decision— Matt Elias (@maelias33) April 28, 2014
"Who do you write for?" Jeter asked an unfamiliar face.
"The Star-Ledger," the reporter said.
Jeter then explained: "If the Post offered you twice as much, I'm sure you would be at the Post. You know what I'm saying? It is a business. Sometimes people lose sight of that. It is not too often that guys get an opportunity in any sport to play with one team their entire careers. It is a business. It is a business on both sides. It is not just the players' side; it is also the organization side. So as much as people would like to see guys stay with one particular team, it doesn't always happen."
The Yankees’ best contract offer to Cano was $175 million over seven years. He ultimately signed with the Mainers for 10 years and $240 million.
"I think he will get a good reaction," Jeter said. "One thing with Yankee fans, they remember guys' history. Especially guys who have won championships, they always seem to be remembered as heroes here in New York. That's what it seems like."
@AndrewMarchand baby A-RodRunning to first base: Cano did not always run hard to first base. When he made a play in the field, he would often throw the ball in a manner that seemed nonchalant, but he was almost always accurate.
— Jordan (@HeirJordan213) April 23, 2014
During the 2008 season -- Cano’s worst in the majors -- Joe Girardi pulled him from a meaningless September game, saying you have to “play hard.” From then on, the Yankees publicly defended Cano until near the end.
GM Brian Cashman repeatedly said he never had a problem with Cano's effort going to first. Girardi would excuse Cano until the final day of the 2013 season, on the eve of free agency no less, when the manager, going against his policy of revealing private conversations, said he had spoken to Cano about not hustling.
The optics of Cano’s perceived lack of hustle were awful, but no one could actually point to a game where it cost the Yankees a win. While Dustin Pedroia’s all-out, dirty-uniform style is often presented as the antithesis of Cano's, Pedroia has averaged 141 games over the past seven seasons compared to Cano's 160.
"I often have said the one thing that was maybe overlooked was his toughness," Girardi has said. "You saw plenty of times where he would get hit by a pitch and wouldn't think he would play the next day and he would. That was Robbie."
@AndrewMarchand Lazy, egotistical money-grubberEarly BP: Four or five hours before first pitch, hitting coach Kevin Long throws extra batting practice on many days during the season. Of all the stars on the Yankees, Cano was the only one regularly getting in extra swings.
— nick (@BrahNick) April 23, 2014
He and Long perfected a special drill. In it, a protective screen was placed in front of home plate to help hone Cano's swing such that the balls he pulled would stay in fair territory.
"I have nothing but respect for how he played here," Long said. "He left a legacy here and deservedly so. He played his butt off."
Long made some noise in spring training, however, when he used the word "dog" to describe Cano's effort.
"If somebody told me I was a dog, I'd have to fix that," Long told the Daily News. "When you choose not to, you leave yourself open to taking heat, and that's your fault. For whatever reason, Robbie chose not to."
Cano and Long talked shortly after. Long explained he was not trying to offend Cano. Cano forgave him, according to Long, saying the two should "move on."
Long has had a lot of successes as the Yankees hitting coach, such as reinventing Curtis Granderson in 2010 and helping lesser players like Lyle Overbay. But Cano’s talent was enhanced by the work he and Long did together.
"I'm hoping [the fans] appreciate what he did here and how he played," Long said.
His moment: Cano never had a singular, signature Yankees moment. He was part of the 2009 world championship, fielding the final out. But he hit .193 during the title run.
@AndrewMarchand I will boo him! He was never a real Yankee!— Neil Cramer (@nkcramer) April 28, 2014
He never hit much in the playoffs. In 51 games, he sported a .222 average with eight homers and 33 RBIs. His OPS was .686. However, he wasn't without his hot streaks, maybe most memorably at the end of 2012 when he dominated September, treating the majors like Little League, including batting .615 over his last nine games.
He won a Home Run Derby and had some big hits, but none that really stuck out. Still, he is probably the greatest second baseman the franchise has ever had.
@AndrewMarchand Arguably their best 2B of all-time. Very close between him, Lazzeri, Gordon & Randolph. At his best, better than all of 'em.Not a Jordan: Cano was always a Scottie Pippen to Jeter's or Alex Rodriguez's Michael Jordan -- an excellent second banana but never the star of the Yankees. Now, united with Jay Z, he is the main man in Seattle. Including a Monday appearance on "The Tonight Show," he seems to have set himself up for much of what he always wanted, except for maybe the winning.
— Pinstripe Alley (@pinstripealley) April 23, 2014
The season has begun basically how everyone predicted: Cano is hitting .301 with a homer and 11 RBIs, while the Mariners are fourth in the AL West at 10-14.
Unfinished business: There is no neat way to tie Cano's Yankee legacy together.
@AndrewMarchand Playing for SEA is punishment enough - Enjoy obscurity— Joe Schmoe (@Joes_Eat) April 28, 2014
RT @AndrewMarchand: Serious question: What is Cano's Yankee legacy? <-- #incomplete
— Sean Cawley (@Cawley5) April 23, 2014
It is incomplete. Right now, the departure seems greater than what he accomplished in pinstripes. He was the Yankees' most productive player the past seven years, but the divorce has overshadowed the good times.
On Tuesday night, he will return where he accomplished so much and not enough. He is back for a class reunion and will find out how his exes truly feel about him.
Cano will be on "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon" on Monday. On Tuesday, he will return to Yankee Stadium for a three-game series. His Seattle Mariners are currently 10-14, in fourth place in the AL West. Cano is hitting .301 with one home run and 11 RBIs.
He will be the center of attention all week long. We will have a big feature about Cano's legacy, and whether he will be booed or not in the Bronx. Look for that a little later on Monday. We will have plenty on Cano's return to New York.
TAMPA, Fla. -- Yankee catcher John Ryan Murphy had the best seat in Tampa for Masahiro Tanaka's second bullpen session. Crouching behind home plate, Murphy thought Tanaka's 35 pitcher were "very impressive."
“What surprised me was the effort level looked minimal and it was coming out really good,” Murphy said.
Tanaka throws six pitches (fastball, splitter, slider, curveball, cutter and change) so Murphy, Joe Girardi and an interpreter discussed how to have signal for all of them.
"You need a lot of fingers," Girardi said.
With the media surrounding Tanaka's every move once again, Murphy -- who used to be known as J.R. and is trying to win the backup catcher's job -- enjoyed the experience.
“All the hype, obviously, with him coming over here," Murphy said. "It was a neat experience. It was fun.”
The same for Tanaka, he was quizzed on what he has enjoyed most so far as a Yankee. He said it was his bullpens. "Because I love to throw.” Tanaka said.
"I did a shoot for Nike the other day, they sent down the official jersey and pants," Ellsbury said. "First time putting all that on a couple days ago. It felt good. Obviously looks a little different, but that’s something I was looking forward to. Something I was excited about. This team has a great chance to win and play deep into October."
As for the reception from Red Sox and Yankees fans, it has been fine.
"It’s been really good," Ellsbury said. "At different sporting events, Red Sox fans come up to me and thank me for the time in Boston. It’s really been all positive. And New York fans are very excited for me to be here, Went to a deli, Red Sox fan gave me a free breakfast this morning, down here in Tampa, so there’s still the love there. It’s nice to see. I'm excited to start this second chapter."
TEX GOES TO BAT FOR LONG: On with Michael Kay and Don La Greca on ESPN New York 98.7 FM, Mark Teixeira said he noticed that Robinson Cano didn't always run hard to first, but it was nothing shocking.
"No one is perfect," Teixeira said. "There is not a perfect player out there. We noticed it and we noticed the fans noticing it. Robbie did a lot of amazing things. That was one thing that Kevin talked about. I think what Kevin's point was and, listen, we all love Kevin. Kevin stands up for us as much as anybody, but Kevin's point was, 'Don't let them talk about that.' That is something easy."
Teixeira added, "It wasn't a huge deal in the clubhouse, but we did notice it."
Long reacted to McClendon's reaction, in which the Mariners' manger mocked Long for acting like a "hitting guru" in his book, "Cage Rat" and for being something of a Yankees spokesman.
"That's too bad," Long said. "I don't consider myself the spokesman for the Yankees. If you look at all the good things that were written about Robinson you would understand there was no malicious meaning behind any of it. If he wants to speak publicly like that, that is up to him. That is the way he interpreted it. I'm not going to get in a media war with Lloyd McClendon, he'd probably win that anyway.
"There were so many good parts, but it basically was, if anyone looks at it they are going to see that Robinson doesn't sprint down to first. I think if anyone puts a clock on him [they] would realize that. That's it. Other than, this guy is a tremendous human being, tremendous character guy."
When he read McClendon's comments about Long, Yankees GM Brian Cashman laughed. Cashman said he has no plans to talk to Long about his comments, but he was a little taken aback by them.
"I was surprised," Cashman said.
Cashman said he never had an issue with Cano.
TAMPA, Fla. -- There’s an expression for what the Yankees appear to be trying to do to Robinson Cano now that he has left them for the more lucrative expanses of Seattle: That dog won’t hunt.
For the better part of nine years, no one connected to the Yankees, from the manager to the GM to any of his teammates, expressed any displeasure with Cano’s rather leisurely pace from home to first.
The positives about Cano’s game, his wicked flash of a left-handed swing, his effortless grace in the field, his sunny demeanor in the clubhouse and, mostly, his daunting offensive numbers always seemed to outweigh this one rather trivial, if slightly annoying, negative.
I and others asked manager Joe Girardi and GM Brian Cashman, repeatedly, whether they had any problem with Cano not running full speed to first base, if only because of the perception in the minds of some that the Yankees’ best player was giving less than his best effort.
Until the final game of last season, when, with the playoffs already gone and Cano likely going, Girardi acknowledged that he had, in fact, spoken to his second baseman about his refusal to get out of first gear.
Soon afterward came a story from an anonymous source that Cano was “demanding" $300 million from the Yankees, a demand that the Cano camp strongly denied was ever made and one that, if it had been made, was clearly not a very firm demand because Cano wound up “settling" for a mere $240 million from the Mariners.
So it seemed a little gratuitous, to say the least, for Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long to volunteer the opinion to John Harper of the New York Daily News that Cano was, to borrow his word, a “dog" on the basepaths.
“If somebody told me I was a dog," Long told Harper, “I’d have to fix that. When you choose not to, you leave yourself open to taking heat, and that’s your fault. For whatever reason, Robbie chose not to."
Long -- who spent many hours working like a dog in the cage with Cano before games, often before any other Yankees were in the ballpark -- went on to mention Cano “taking plays off" and “giv[ing] away at-bats in RBI situations," which must not have happened very often, because Cano averaged 107 RBIs over each of his last four seasons with the Yankees.
You would hate to think the storied Yankees were orchestrating a campaign of disinformation to tarnish Cano’s image in the hopes of justifying their decision to let him go basically without a fight.
Because their stated reason for letting Cano go was solid enough: Between having been burned by the disaster-movie of a contract given to Alex Rodriguez, seeing the Angels' 10-year deal with Albert Pujols going up in flames, and holding their breath over their own long-term deals with CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira, the Yankees simply didn’t think it wise to commit that many years and dollars to a player already in his 30s, even one as gifted as Cano.
That should have sufficed.
But now, a couple of months later and with the full glare of the Florida spring training sun exposing the holes in their infield without Cano, perhaps the Yankees think they will need some more ammunition, er, information, to mollify their fan base.
Because the truth is, they are going to miss Cano a heck of a lot this season.
Already, Girardi has acknowledged, more than once, that his roster has no one bat to build a lineup around, no one hitter who will strike fear into the heart of an opposing pitcher, no one player who will have his counterpart in the other dugout telling his team, “Don’t let that guy beat us."
Cano was that guy, and no one feared he was going to do it by beating out an infield hit.
He was going to do it by belting the ball out of the park, or by drawing a walk because you didn’t dare pitch to him, or by causing a pitcher to lay a fat one into the guy hitting in front of him hoping to get out of a jam before Cano came to the plate.
Or he was going to do it by plucking a hot shot headed for the hole between first and second, taking that little pause of his, then flipping the ball to first with that unique underhand delivery that ended so many threats.
This season, Cano will not be at second base for the 150-plus games he gave the Yankees for seven straight seasons.
Instead, his place will be taken by Brian Roberts, a 36-year-old whose last full season was in 2009. Since then, he has played in 59, 39, 17 and 77 games, in that order, all with the Baltimore Orioles, who did not even bother to offer him a contract this winter after 13 years of service.
Roberts will flip the ball to Teixeira, who missed all but 15 games last season with a wrist injury that required surgery, and he will form a new DP tandem with Derek Jeter, who at 40 will be the oldest starting shortstop in baseball and is coming off an injury-torn season in which he was limited to just 17 games.
To Roberts’ extreme right will be Kelly Johnson, another journeyman who is not only expected to replace A-Rod, at least against right-handed pitching, at third, but is also being relied upon by Girardi to back up at short, second and first. Johnson will be helped by Eduardo Nunez and Scott Sizemore.
What it adds up to is that the Yankees' infield, once the backbone of their offense and extremely reliable on defense, is being cobbled together out of a collection of backups.
It won’t take long before Yankees fans will grow nostalgic for the sight of Cano ambling to first base as though he were out on a Sunday stroll, because unlike most of the guys who will play in the Yankees' infield this season, he regularly made the entire circuit at that speed.
The fact that Cano never was in much of a hurry to get to first base didn’t seem to matter when he was also getting to home plate more often than just about any other Yankee for four years running, if I may use that word in connection with him.
Because if for nine years as the Yankees' best all-around player, Robinson Cano was a dog, he’s a dog the Yankees are going to miss dearly this season.
Even though the Yankees have the money and the desire, this isn't like the old days when they could automatically just outspend whomever they wanted.
There are several teams that could drive up the price on the Yankees or steal him away from them. The Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers are obvious teams that could go dollar-for-dollar with the Yankees.
But while all these three teams -- and dark-horse candidates, like the Arizona Diamondbacks -- could keep the 25-year-old Tanaka out of the Bronx, the team that is emerging as potentially the biggest threat is Robinson Cano's Seattle Mariners.
It's early on Tanaka watch. But constant theme from interested teams is: Watch out for #Mariners. Execs think they have one big move left— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) January 2, 2014
Dave Szymborski, in a recent Insider piece, went through why:
Seattle has a history of being a comfortable home for players from Nippon Professional Baseball and the wallet necessary to make the signing. And even more important, the Mariners have a pressing need for another top arm.
How bad was Seattle pitching last season? Despite starting with the No. 1 and No. 7 pitchers in the AL by Baseball Reference's WAR (Hisashi Iwakuma, Felix Hernandez), the team's ERA+ of 86 was the second-worst in the AL, just barely ahead of the Houston Astros. The Robinson Cano signing was huge, but outside of that, the team has only been able to engage in its yearly ritual of accumulating designated-hitter types.
Erasmo Ramirez may be the worst No. 3 starter in baseball, and while Taijuan Walker is a terrific prospect, he's still just 21 years old and has never topped 141 1/3 innings in a season
Ultimately, like nearly all of these transactions, it will come down to money and desire. The Yankees seem ready to fully abandon the $189 million goal, so there really doesn't seem to be any financial restraints.
It is somewhat pointless to say now who the favorite is because no one knows how far a team will go financially. In the Cano hunt, the Mariners were never the favorites until the final days when it was known they would go over $225 million and, ultimately, to $240 million.
So the winner will probably come down to who offers the most money. But if it's close, Cano's Mariners might force the Yankees to make another tough choice.