On Tuesday night, Robinson Cano will return to Yankee Stadium for the first time since he spurned the Yankees offer of $175 million over seven years to take $240 million from the Seattle Mariners. His reception is expected to be icy. There will be some cheers when he comes to bat in the top of the first inning, but the boos will likely drown them out. And all the boos will be completely Cano’s fault.
Robinson Cano spent the first nine years of his stellar career in pinstripes. He won a World Series and made five All-Star teams. He won five Silver Slugger Awards but he never won an MVP or a batting title. He was the best second baseman in baseball for the past few seasons but his career has been overshadowed by his teammates. Before last season, no one said the Yankees were Cano’s team. They were Derek Jeter‘s team or Alex Rodrieguez’s team or CC Sabathia‘s or Mark Teixeira‘s or Jorge Posada‘s or Andy Pettitte‘s or Mariano Rivera‘s. They were never Cano’s.
Cano played in the postseason seven times with the Yankees and yet never had that signature moment. He never had Jeter’s flip play. He never hit a memorable home run like Tino Martinez or Scott Brosius did in ninth inning of the 2001 World Series or Aaron Boone did in the 2003 ALCS. He didn’t steal two bases at once like Johnny Damon in 2009 World Series. He didn’t have a otherworldly hitting series like Hideki Matsui or Alex Rodriguez had. He was very good but he shared all the moments with others.
Cano’s career has put him on pace to be remembered as one of the greats. If his next seven season were as good as his last seven, he would be a on Hall of Fame track. Had he stayed in New York he could have looked forward to a chance every season at making a postseason memory. He might have been able to go down as the greatest second baseman in Yankee history. He might have had a plaque to immortalize him in Monument Park. He would have been cheered at Old Timer’s Day games until the day he died.
Instead he traded that goodwill and those future cheers for money, a lot of money. This was not a case of player leaving becuase the organization did not want them back. The Yankees were going to make him the highest paid second baseman in the game and one of the highest paid in the entire sport. This was not about a player going to a team that had better chance to win. The Yankees have made the playoffs in 17 of the past 19 seasons; the Mariners have sported a winning record just twice in the last decade. This was a clear cut case of a player taking the most money regardless of who offered it and without regard for any of the consequences of such an action. This is why he will be booed.