When Tony Womack was lumbering through his first and only season as a New York Yankee in 2005, GM Brian Cashman decided it was time to call up a 22 year-old Dominican kid from Triple A ball named Robinson Cano.
The report on Cano was that he had moderate speed, not too much power and could hit ball well. In other words, he was called up to be trade bait if the Yankees wanted to go after someone like Brian Roberts who was the flavor of the month at that point as far as second basemen go.
6 years later Cano is at a critical point of his career that has turned out to be more than what many people thought it ever would have been.
Cano has gone from a guy that could win a batting title, to, as my friends in Baltimore said “lucky he plays for the Yankees because he wouldn’t be this good anywhere else,” to the best second baseman in baseball, to possibly the next face of the New York Yankees.
No Yankee farm system product had had as much of an impact on this team like Cano has had since the inception of the “Core 4” in the mid-90’s. Cano has been a team leader in terms of batting average and run production since joining the team in 2005. Cano is money down the stretch as he has led the team in most major statistical categories in August and September in the last 6 years.
The best part about Cano is that whatever the Yankees ask him to do he does it. He changes his number from 22 to 24, moves from 6th to 5th in the lineup, he even took Melky Cabrera under his wing during his time in New York to get him acclimated to life in the majors and made him fit in with the team easier. He is a team player with leadership qualities that most teams would die to have.
Cano has become one of the team’s most popular players with his cool demeanor and smooth style of play. The game at time looks so easy to him with every nonchalant turn of a double play, the way he ranges to his left and throws across his body with ease and a swing that is as smooth and sweet since Ken Griffey Jr. in his early days in Seattle.
(Side note: I always bring up my hatred for everything related to the Baltimore Orioles because I lived in Maryland for so long that I’ve heard every ridiculous argument that has to do with the Yankees.
One night while watching the O’s-Yankees game Buck Martinez was crying a river about how Cano dropped a popup because he was so nonchalant about it. He called him lazy, aloof, and about every other adjective and his diatribe went on for about 6 minutes and he kept going back to the same drop.
Unfortunately he should’ve watched a little more of Robbie to understand that that’s how he is. He’s not lazy, not a sad sack, he’s just stoner calm.
Robbie doesn’t let anything get to him. He always seems in control of every situation that he’s involved in. He doesn’t panic under any type of pressure, he doesn’t hurry throws, he doesn’t chase bad pitches, he doesn’t whine to umps or slam his helmet down when he strikes out, he forever lets the game come to him.
So, I’m sorry that Buck Martinez didn’t get the memo or watch enough tape. Or that he was too busy slurping B-Rob who hasn’t been the same since his “B-12 injections.’)
Cano’s popularity reached another level last night after winning the home run derby in Arizona. Cano’s sweet swing, cool demeanor, and loveable character were all on display as he crushed baseballs all over Chase Field and captured all of America’s imagination.
It was a shock for me because Robbie’s not a homerun hitter. I thought Robbie wasn’t going to do well except for maybe 4 or 5 jacks. Then once balls started flying off Miller Lite bottle and second decks my thought process shifted.
All of America finally got to see Robbie in action when he’s not overshadowed by the mammoth figure of Derek Jeter, the ego of A-Rod, the girth of C.C. Sabathia and the headaches of A.J. Burnett. They saw a grown man with his own skill make his mark on baseball and put his name in the ring with his more well known mates.
There were two even cooler moments; one, was Joe Torre handing him his award years after he compared Robbie to Rod Carew (which of course drew criticism because lord forbid a young Yankee should get some sort of praise), and two the fact that his dad was pitching to him.
His father Jose Cano played for a brief time in the majors in 1989 and was there again this time feeding his son low fastballs that Robbie sent soaring into a warm desert night. Watching their interactions and Robbie jumping into his arms after he won the Derby was as cool as cool gets. It was a late father’s day gift for a dad who is watching his son take off in the prime of his career that could be getting a lot brighter.
With Jeter’s career coming to an end and Cano’s star coming into the spotlight, maybe we saw the future face of the franchise on display last night.
Maybe Robinson Cano will be the guy that players, fans and baseball purists identify with over the next 7-10 seasons in New York with the Yankees.
Maybe last night was the coronation of a future king who was originally thought of as just a short-term solution at second base.
If it is, I’m glad I got my Cano jersey four years ago and jumped on him early. Like Joe Torre, I saw that this was bound to happen.