Robinson Cano has been an anchor at second base for the New York Yankees since 2005.
That he was named after Jackie Robinson, who also played the position for the Brooklyn Dodgers, is merely a coincidence.
The Yankees stand atop the American League East by six games over the surprising Baltimore Orioles, but were swept four games this past weekend by the surging and host Oakland Athletics.
In Thursday’s 4-3 loss, Cano had one hit, in Friday’s 3-2 setback, he collected two hits with a run batted in, scored a run, and extended his hitting streak to 23 games, in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat, he went hitless, and in Sunday’s 12-inning, 5-4 thriller, he managed two hits and is batting .318, fifth in the AL.
Watching Cano field his position is like viewing a master chef in the kitchen. Cano has committed only 81 errors in over 5,500 chances (.985 fielding percentage.)
Cano snatches the ball effortlessly, then nonchalantly guns it over to first base, and it sometimes appears as though he’s going through the motions, which he isn’t.
At the just-concluded All-Star Game, Tim McCarver, the longtime Fox analyst, who this past weekend was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, made a point of telling the viewers how Cano, a four-time All-Star, and three-time Silver Slugger winner, always has a smile on his face.
“Look at that smile,” said McCarver. “He’s like a little kid out there. In each of those shots, he’s got a big grin from ear-to-ear. It’s a pleasure watching him.”
Cano probably smiles because he likes to hit doubles. Five times he’s topped 40, and has a best of 48 in 2009, and 28 (third in theAL) this year.
Joe Torre managed Cano for three years, and said he compared favorably to Hall of Famer Rod Carew. Not one to ruffle feathers, Torre explained what he meant.
Rather he “reminded” him of Carew in terms of his build, presence at the plate, and smoothness in his swing.
Cano’s swing is sweet, and it’s produced a career .309 batting average, a .502 slugging percentage, and a .350 on-base percentage.
It’s said hitting homers takes time. In Cano’s case, this is true. Covering the first four seasons, he ripped 62 with a high of 19 in 2007 when he drove in 97.
Over the last four years, he’s drilled 104 with a best of 29 in 2010 and had 109 RBI. This season, Cano has 22 homers (10th in theAL).
It’s never guaranteed a team will make the playoffs, but in Cano’s tenure, the Yanks have qualified every season except 2008.
In the postseason, Cano’s batting .258, however, 19 of his 42 hits have been for extra-bases (eight doubles, three triples and eight homers) with 29 RBIs and 21 runs.
Cano, who had a personal-best 118 RBIs in 2011, and has scored 100 or more runs three times, paces the AL in extra-bases hits with 51, and is second in total bases with 214.
With an inflated payroll and 27 World Series titles, the bar has been set very high for the Yankees, but to expect a crown every season isn’t realistic.
As Cano, who placed second in the AL Rookie of the Year voting and a World Series champion in 2009, can attest, it’s never easy.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.