Note: This post was originally written for a special “Pinch Hit” series for the website The Greedy Pinstripes. It was originally posted on Wednesday, December 11, 2013
“No One Man is Above The Team” – Coach James DeBell Sr.
(A frequent quote by my high school baseball coach)
I knew it was coming eventually. Not the move to another team, not the way that it was done, not the money involved, not the turning his back on the city of New York and the Yankee fans and not the leaving behind a chance to be immortal in the garden that is Monument Park. It was that one question from my wife that I really needed days, not hours, to ponder… “How do you feel about Cano leaving the Yankees?” A question that was so raw and one that I never thought in a million years that I’d have to answer.
I met my wife Liz 3 years ago and though I’ve been a life-long fan of the Yankees, I’d never been to Yankee Stadium before. She’s not a fan of sports at all, but, my very first visit to the stadium was in the form of tickets for my birthday, thanks to her. We played the Blue Jays during Labor Day Weekend… Jeter had the day off due to a late night extra-inning game the night before, Bartolo Colon pitched good enough to keep us in it and Cano, true to form, had the biggest hit of the game… a two-run double to give us the lead and eventually the win. It was a great day and now my wife is as much a Yankee fan as I am, CC Sabathia is her favorite… and she named our puppy after my favorite player. The Yankees are a part of our everyday lives in some way, shape or form. You will always see the logo or some reminder of the team somewhere in our home. Baseball has and always will be a part of my life. I’ve played the game since I was able to hold a bat and swing it, it’s important to me and I love the “game”. Fans of other sports find us crazy because we sit and watch what they consider to be a “boring” sport, yet they have no idea just how smart you have to be to either play or understand this game that we love.
“I don’t know how I feel about it babe, I mean… I’ll miss him but we have to think about the team as a whole, we can’t afford bad deals anymore.”
I know that this really gets over-used but sports folks say it all the time, “There is no ‘I’ in team.” However, there is definitely an M & E in “Team” and that’s exactly what Robinson Cano was thinking with his demands for a record breaking contract. And to be frank, I personally couldn’t care less that he’s walking away from the Yankees and possible immortality when I really think about it. Robinson Cano is one of the most talented baseball players I’ve ever had a chance to watch grow into a major league player. The only flaw that I’ve ever seen is his game is him not feeling the need to hustle out some at-bats here and there but I personally think there’s a deeper reason behind it. I think the game is boring to him and he no longer finds any challenge in it, at least in New York with the Yankees. I saw it this season in his at-bats, in his fielding when flipping the ball to first after having to barely move to get it. Cano is so good at what he does that to the casual eye, he’s truly amazing (which he is) and what he’s doing is effortless, but, to the trained eye he’s just going through the motions and bored with being in that moment. Over the weekend it was mentioned that Cano wanted out of New York because he didn’t like playing for Joe Girardi and while I have no idea how much of that is true or not, nothing screams “selfish” like complaining about where your manager puts you in the line-up, especially publicly. Managers are paid to manage and players are paid to play and the saddest part about this, if it’s true, is that Joe bleeds Yankee blue and was tossed from 5 games this past season, mostly for defending his players. But, he’s a horrible guy to play for because he just can’t seem to put Cano right where he wants to be in the lineup… I get it. Whatever. I personally don’t think Cano is the “star” that he thinks he is or that his representation has convinced him that he is. While he was healthy for most of the season and other’s like Jeter, Texeira and Granderson were hurt, the Yankees reportedly lost $58 million in ticket sales. If Cano had $240 million star power, I personally think those figures would have been more ‘green’, seeing as how he spent most of his time on the field this past season.
When Cano first signed with Jay Z’s Roc Nation, I thought it was as bad a move for Jay Z as it was for him. Jay is the self-proclaimed “King of New York ” and could possibly be labeled as the single person who priced one of our most talented assets right out of the Bronx. He’s boasted on songs that he’s made the “Yankee hat more famous than a Yankees can”… too much bravado about an organization that he clearly knows little about. The Yankees were winning championships before the Great Depression and while I love Jay and some of his music, this isn’t the music business. Legends are made in this game called baseball… through hard work, dedication, patience and hustle. And while most can live with the lack of hustle from Cano, I can’t. Mainly because he wants to be paid like a super-star team leader, but, doesn’t want to act like one on the field during the final year of his current contract. I was taught from day one when learning the game of baseball that no matter what, you ran to first like you were ultimately going to be safe, you respected the game and the people that played it before you and you respected your coaches and the umpires even if you didn’t understand their decisions. The game of baseball is not easy to play, though the legends in the making who are playing in the majors today make it seem that way. Ted Williams once said something to the effect of players who fail 7 out of 10 times at the plate will end up being some of the greatest to ever play the game.
There is no organization on this planet like the New York Yankees. When you see the logo, you know who it is, if you see a picture of The Frieze, you know where it is and when you see the pinstripes, you know what they’re about. Winning. Pride. Loyalty. I’ve turned the page on my loyalty to Robinson Cano and as being one of his fans. When I look at the men who have played in Pinstripes before him and how most have humbled themselves for the betterment of the team, I’m grateful that Monument Park isn’t a part of his vision for his own career. I can’t cheer on someone who is okay with coming to the yard every day and making it about themselves instead of the team. I’ve heard free agent after free agent come to the podium over the years and say, “Being a Yankee has always been a life-long dream of mine, so this is one of the greatest days of my life!” They’ve come from every organization, even the Red Sox. So while I wish Robinson the best, I really won’t miss him or the fact that Jay Z thinks that he would have been the man to help “sell the Yankee brand”. The Yankees don’t need any player to sell what they have to offer. The proof lies in those free agents coming to the podium… this stuff that the Yankees have sells itself.