Where Have You Gone, Robinson Cano: A Reflection
By Patrick Gunn
Robinson Cano had the smoothest swing in the Bronx. He could turn a double play, make a diving grab, and a grab in the hole. And he’d make every play look easy. And Cano had a smile that lit up the Bronx even on the darkest, coldest nights. Cano was a superstar, and he was my baseball idol for several years.
Then came the first positive test. That lowered him down several notches, but it was exciting to see him return to New York, albeit with the Mets on a terrible trade.
Now, he’s lost pretty much any chance to regain his prior image. Robinson Cano’s legacy in MLB is tarnished. As Ken Rosenthal articulated, his Hall of Fame case is one not even the best lawyers would take. If I’m Steve Cohen and Sandy Alderson, I would consider finding a way to release him to remove him from the culture I’m building.
That last phrase is something I never imagined writing back in 2013. I remember so clearly being crushed when the Yankees gave Jacoby Ellsbury his massive contract but then got outbid by the Mariners of all teams for Cano. I dare say that I was heartbroken because I felt that the Yankees were giving up their best second baseman since Willie Randolph.
Now, Cashman looks even more justified for letting him go. Not just for his declining skills, but for his leadership skills and for boneheaded decisions like this. Remember when the biggest issue surrounding Cano was that he never hustled out grounders? Now, that fits into a larger picture questioning Cano’s character.
This is frustrating because Cano never needed performance enhancers to be an amazing player – I think. Even with Seattle, he was still at an OPS+ of 114 in his worst year in 2017, still 14 points better than the league average.
The rest of his career, however, may have to come with an asterisk. How much of the time was he playing with PEDs? Was he cheating during his glory days with the Yankees?
And finally: how can we look at Cano’s career as a whole going forward. His place amongst all-time second basemen is clearly in question, as is his place amongst Yankees. Looking back, it’s hard for me to completely reject the positive memories he brought to the Bronx.
Also, there is still some room for him to correct his image at least. Look at Alex Rodriguez. He looked like he was done with baseball after the Biogenesis Scandal in 2013. He not only had one last solid season as a Designated Hitter in 2015, but he also has rebuilt his image as a broadcaster for ESPN and FOX.
With that said, Rodriguez is a massive star, his image is something that can be corrected quite easily. Cano was never the same type of figure off the field or in the public eye. He’ll need to put in massive work if he wants to correct his image in the public eye.
For me, I will never forget the fantastic memories or plays Cano made in the Bronx during his nine Yankees years, but his image is tarnished for now. Would I invite him back to the Bronx for, say, an Old Timer’s Game or a 2009 reunion event? Most likely, in time. Again, if A-Rod were to be invited back, it’s hard to justify barring Cano as well.
Today, however, Cano is at rock bottom, a place where even his smile can’t lighten the mood.