So it was May of 20
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05 and Tony Womack was a woeful disappointment already. The
Yankees had just signed him in the offseason to make up for the patchwork that
second base had become. In February of 2004 the Yankees traded an unbelievable
offensive second basemen in Alfonso Soriano for Alex Rodriguez. Although
Soriano wasn’t the greatest of defenders, he didn’t throw the ball into the
stands as Knoblauch had the propensity to do late in his career. So Alfonso
Soriano was the man at second, even though Enrique Wilson
kept looking more and more like he was ready for a full time job.
I didn’t like trading away Soriano, since he had become a favorite player of
mine, and fan favorite as well. He had great numbers and seemed pretty clutch.
His home run in the eighth inning of Game Seven in the 2001 World Series gave
the Yankees a 3-2 lead and a seemingly unbelievable comeback in the series to
win their fourth straight championship. It was not meant to be, as we all know
what happened in the bottom of the ninth.
But if you’re going to trade away an Alfonso Soriano, you can’t really be too
mad in getting A-Rod in return. It gave the Yankees a legitimate power threat
at third that they didn’t have for a while. And it seemed natural that Enrique
would fill in at second base just fine. Well, it didn’t turn out that well at
all. Miguel Cairo ended up playing most of the year at second, and while he
defense was very decent, the offensive numbers just weren’t that great. The
Yankees wanted something more. Tony Womack looked like an ideal fit, until he
began the worst season of his career in 2005.
So up comes this kid name Robinson Cano. Ca-what? CAY-no? Cah-no? I had never
seen him play in the minors, only heard the name. I had been watching as many
Yankee games as possible starting in 2002, when I came back up to NY after four
years in FL. Now I could finally watch my team everyday! So I kept hearing
about this kid. Funny enough, the reason I kept hearing about him was that he
was always included in trades. He almost went to Texas for A-Rod. He almost
went to KC for Beltran. He almost went to Arizona for Randy Johnson. But they
kept rejecting him. And all I kept hearing was how great the kid could hit. I
just didn’t know how to say his name, since everyone was butchering it.
So up he comes to get a look. The Yankees had hoped he would be some sort of
improvement over Womack who eventually became a backup infielder/outfielder.
Along with Wang, who also came earlier in the week, and Aaron Small, and a few
other younger players named collectively ‘The Baby Bombers’, the Yankees would
eventually overcome their disappointing first half of the season and come all
the way back to win the division on the penultimate day of the season, in
Boston no less!
Cano never looked back after coming up. He hit .297 that year, impressing many
with his swing. He made a real case for Rookie of the Year, but lost out to
Huston Street. He had 14 home runs, but walked only 16 times. It was hit or
miss basically for Cano that year. And so the talk began about how impatient he
He hit .342 his second year, and finished third in batting average. This year
really put him on the scene, as there was no sophomore slump. People began to
notice his road batting average and his ability to hit to all fields. He missed
40 games due to injury, but still posted better numbers all around than his
rookie year. He even got selected to the All Star Game.
The next year was truly the sophomore slump. He was hitting poorly early on,
and the team wasn’t doing much either. The team looked like they wanted to
repeat 2005 until they started to turn it on a bit. This in part was due to
Robinson Cano and his buddy Melky Cabrera forcing each other to step up their
game. Robinson Cano posted career highs in all offensive categories, just
missing out on 200 hits and ending with a .306 average. The Yankees came all
the way back and ended up with the Wild Card.
By 2008, there were calls to trade Cano, even though he was a staple of the
Yankees lineup. He started off poorly once again. As did Melky after beginning
the season with an impressive 6 home runs in the first month. The calls to
trade him were from the outside though. Fans and media were impatient and
wanted someone more ‘consistent’. Or maybe get a pitcher out of the deal.
Thankfully cooler heads prevailed. Cano ended up having probably his worst year
statistically. A .271 average and other numbers comparable to his rookie year,
or worse. The Yankees themselves were inconsistent and wouldn’t make the
playoffs for the first time since 1993.
2009 saw a new approach from Cano, and a renewed dedication to the game. He
came back strong, posting a .320 average and finally reached the 200 hit
plateau. He had career highs in runs scored, doubles, hits, and home runs. The
one negative for the year was an issue driving in runners in scoring position.
His defense finally stood out to many and was considered a favorite for a Gold
Glove. In the end, he helped the Yankees win the World Series that year and cemented
his status as an elite second baseman with potential for more.
It sure does seem more has come in 2010. Robinson Cano is one of the favorites
for the 2010 AL MVP. He jumped out with a red-hot April, hitting over .400 for
the month and winning AL Player of the Month honors. With the loss of Hideki
Matsui, there was talk Cano wouldn’t be able to handle the pressure of hitting
behind A-Rod. The fear was he wouldn’t be able to drive runs in and wouldn’t
protect Alex in the lineup. His April silenced all the critics immediately.
No one assumed Cano would keep the torrid hitting up all through the season. He
went into a funk a few days before the end of April and saw his average drop
precipitously. After about three weeks, he found his stroke once more and lead
all of baseball with an average in the high .370’s. Shortly before the All Star
Game, he came back down to Earth and ended the first half with a .336 average.
He made his second All Star Game, playing for the first time. He came through
with big hits almost every time he was needed. He carried the the time while
others were slumping. Jeter ended up with one of his worst years statistically.
A-Rod ended with an un-A-Rod like .270 average. Teixeira had a .256 average.
These guys are supposed to be the big stars on the team, yet Cano bested them
all. While hit batting average seemed to go down from the beginning of the
year, there’s no doubt his production stayed consistent throughout. 2010 was
without a doubt a career year. He hit a career high 29 home runs. He had a
career high 57 walks. He had a career high 109 rbi’s, cracking the 100 rbi
barrier for the first time. He also ended with another 200 hit season. Going
into the final weekend, Cano had 193 hits. All he did was muster up six hits on
one Saturday in a doubleheader, and came through with an rbi single in the
eighth inning of the final game to get that 200th hit. Very clutch.
All told, his numbers are barely eclipsed by anyone else. There is a case for
Miguel Cabrera, Josh Hamilton, Paul Konerko, and even Jose Bautista. The voters
will most likely write off Bautista and Konerko’s chances since their teams
didn’t make the playoffs. They had great years, but their teams didn’t do
The other two guys had unbelievable seasons. Miguel Cabrera was everything for
the Tigers, even though they didn’t get in. He lead the majors in RBI’s, had 39
home runs, and a .328 average. Josh Hamilton went for 32 home runs, 100 rbi’s,
and a .359 batting average. Even more impressive is that these were basically his
numbers up to September. He got hurt at the beginning of the month and didn’t
play until the final weekend.
The negatives are that Miguel’s team didn’t reach the postseason and Hamilton’s
team did, even though he missed the last month.
While Cabrera’s numbers are great, they’re only slightly better than Cano’s.
.319 versus .328 for Miguel. 29 homers versus 38 for Miguel. 109 rbi’s versus
126 for Miguel Cabrera. 41 doubles versus 45 for Miguel. So the numbers are
almost even. And even if you consider that all these numbers favor Cabrera, you
still have to mention the fact that Cano’s team is going to the playoffs, while
the Tigers were out of it for about a month. Plus there’s also the fact that
Cabrera is their cleanup hitter, having the table set for him every game. Cano
did all his damage primarily from the number 5 spot.
Hamilton’s numbers are even closer, or even surpassed by Cano. Only his .359
average is vastly superior to Cano’s. Hamilton didn’t beat Cano by much in
terms of home runs, and his RBI total will stand at 100, where Cano had 109.
Cano also more hits than Hamilton. It’s probably true though that if Hamilton
were healthy for the month of September, there wouldn’t be any debate at all.
Hamilton was on a roll. He probably would have ended the season with 40+ home
runs, his RBI total would probably best Cabrera’s, and more likely than not,
his average would have remained superior to all. The AL MVP would easily be
his, about as uncontested as Mauer’s in 2009. But then he had to miss most of
the last month of the season. While the Rangers had a nice lead over their next
opponent, it could have become a shaky one. The Oakland A’s were going on a
run, and they were still games to play with the Rangers. But it never came to
that. The Rangers plowed through, never really being tested. They clinched the
AL West easily enough, and did this without the help of Hamilton. They really
didn’t need him at all. Their division title was as uncontested as Hamilton’s
bid for the MVP would have been if he didn’t miss those games.
So now we come down to one of my favorite Yankee players…
What do you know? Robbie Cano!
Robinson Cano played pretty much the entire year. The first game he took off
was a few days before the All Star Game. His second day off was only about a
month ago. And that’s it for his ‘sick days’. He went to work the rest of the
season. He provided the protection everyone was looking for in the number 5
spot in the order. He helped keep pitchers honest in throwing strikes to A-Rod
ahead of him. He wasn’t the easy out people could exploit. He was patient at
the plate, earning a career high in walks, including 14 intentional walks. He
was truly a threat in the lineup. No longer relegated to just a number 7
hitter, and then a number 6 hitter, he flourished with the task given to him.
The average with runners in scoring position was a thing of the past. His
defense improved over an already improved defense, committing only 3 errors all
year. His accurate and strong arm are lauded across baseball. His power is only
starting to reach it potential, as evidenced this year.
And then I have to mention the fact that he filled in more than capably in the
cleanup role while Alex was out for an extended time. The team relied on him
when they needed him and he came through. What more is there to say except :
Robinson Cano is the American League Most Valuable Player in 2010.
Hopefully the voters can look past the fact that he is a Yankee, and is
probably the fourth best position player on the team. What truly matters is
that he has come through all year for his team, in a year where those same
players that are supposedly better than him needed someone else’s help. What
truly matters is that he played all year, and helped his team to the playoffs.
What truly matters is that this kid has finally matured and is now showing the
promise, and maybe even more, that we all hoped for over five years ago.
Soriano who? Exactly.
Now it’s time to give Cano his due recognition. And by the way, it’s Canó, like