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Robinson Cano Deserved Better, Even if He Took the Money from the Mariners

Robinson Cano may have taken the money and ran but he deserved a better reaction from Yankee fans used to hoarding the league’s top free agents.

Robinson Cano Derek Jeter
Robinson Cano Derek Jeter

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday at rainy and frigid Yankee Stadium, the words of the night were “boo” and “you sold out”.

It was in reference to Robinson Cano, who apparently should not be absolved for doing what he feels is best for him, the same thing that players fought to attain in the 1970s.

Those legal challenges probably did not envision free agency reaching heights of 10 years and $240 million, which is what Cano decided to leave New York for. In the 25th game into that contract, Cano made his return to Yankee Stadium and said all the right things about it.

He spent Monday doing a skit for the “Tonight Show” where fans booed a cardboard cutout of him only to have Cano emerge from behind it to  cheers. In other words, it was showing what happens when fans come face-to-face with the person they’ve been booing from afar.

A night later, there was not a skit, it was the real thing, except that the jeers for Cano and chants of “You Sold Out” were comedic coming from fans of a team that consistently outbids all other teams for free agents. You have every right to jeer someone but that doesn’t mean it’s right.

Cano was a well-regarded Yankee, liked by all his teammates and liked by opponents. He was respected to the point where Jim Leyland in 2006 referred to the Yankee lineup as “Murderer’s Row and Cano”.

The worst thing is he did is that he didn’t run out of the box on routine ground outs. That was a big deal and seemed to overshadow some of the hard work that he put in, such as showing up four or five hours before games for batting practice with Kevin Long’s net drill.

All of that’s forgotten, at least in the estimation of those who decided to voice their opinion and it was noticeable, especially in a stadium noted for empty seats and lack of noise.

After thanking the fans on the “Tonight Show” and again in a 10-minute press conference, they didn’t appreciate him for things like for one six-week DL stint in 2006, or things like producing a high average or being a rare second baseman who can produce 25 to 30 home runs and 80 to 100 RBI.

Afterwards when Cano went 1-for-5 with a run scored, he spoke in his corner locker inside the visiting clubhouse and did his best to accept it. He basically shrugged it off because that’s how media trained athletes do things, but you can’t help but wonder what his true feelings are.

We didn’t get a glimpse into actual disappointment from the Yankees when discussing it, but there seemed to be clues coming from Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira.

 “Am I surprised?  No, because I didn’t really go into it with any expectations,” Jeter said.  “Some people cheered.  I saw some people cheer.  Most people booed.  Unless you go and ask everyone why they did it.  Some people probably booed because they wish he was here.  Some people booed because they’re upset he left and some people may have booed because the people next to them are booing.  It is what it is.  It’s not the first time that somebody’s come back and got booed.”
“Considering the place was half full, they brought out their best boos, but that’s exactly what’s expected,” Teixeira said. “If you guys watched Jimmy Fallon last night, you see what happens when he’s really on the streets. The fans are supposed to boo him when he’s in here, but Robbie’s a great guy. He played his heart out when he was here, and that’s baseball. That’s sports. He’s going to get booed.”
It is what it is seems to be a defense mechanism for shrugging off something publicly while feeling disappointed. People like Jeter and others are too poised to call out fans for their reaction, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to think there’s disappointment.

Especially for what Cano was while in New York, especially last year when he was the only threat in a injury-battered roster that managed to contend into September and win 85 games.

That was the final chapter in a Yankee career that saw him finish in the top six of AL MVP voting in the last four seasons. That was the final chapter in a tenure that saw him bat .300 and slug .500 for the last five seasons, something only Miguel Cabrera has achieved.

“That’s exactly what was expected” has set the bar low for fan expectations in these instances. It’s the same thing that happened to Jacoby Ellsbury and he won two of the three Red Sox championships in the last 95 years.

Eventually you’d like to think those who booed will remember how good Cano was. For the Yankees, they’re hoping it doesn’t happen this year because that means that the offense will have wound up missing the consistent power threat that Cano was.

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