Robinson Cano bats against the Kansas City Royals in the eighth inning at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City.

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Keidel: Cano Could Have Been An All-Time Yankees Great

Jason Keidel
May 17, 2018 - 10:01 am
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Years ago, I went to a Yankees game with Sweeny Murti, WFAN's stalwart beat reporter (and about the nicest human you'll ever meet). Beyond the plush press area from which we ate and then watched the game, we roamed the field and clubhouse before the game. 

The two kindest and most likable Yankees I talked to were Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano. Granderson has long had a reputation for being a gentleman. But there was a special charm to Cano. Beyond his wide white smile and easy demeanor, Cano engaged me as if I were the All-Star and he were the reporter, telling jokes and stories, and could disarm the most ardent critic or cynic in minutes. 

Yet I still begged the Yankees not to re-sign Cano to a $200 million contract. Not because he wasn't a great ballplayer or even greater guy. But because he was 30-years-old, played second base, and hence wasn't worth that kind of money over those sprawling years. Still, the Seattle Mariners stepped in and handed Cano $240 million over ten years. 

Now, at 35, with five more years left on his epic deal, Cano was just pinched by the PED cops of MLB, suspended 80 games for taking a banned substance. And for those of us who knew this contract wasn't worthwhile...you're welcome. 

There's nothing good or fun, rewarding or redeeming, about this. Cano is, or at least was, the most unaffected celebrity you'll ever know. He had the quickest, sweetest left-handed swing, born for Yankee Stadium's short porch in right field. He was on the straight path to Yankee immortality, which, with all due respect to the Mariners, carries a lot more historical heft than it does in Seattle. 

Cano likely acted on a natural impulse - a desire to stretch his halcyon years a little longer than nature intended - but acted on it in the wrong way. We'd all love to be 29 forever. But that's not the way people, stars or All-Stars are composed. 

Coincidentally, 35 is the same age when Barry Bonds morphed into Babe Ruth. A five-tool player who was never known to be a Herculean slugger, Bonds became so lethal at the plate that clubs walked him with the bases loaded. Yet despite all the logic and evidence to suggest he inhaled PEDs, some still blindly defend Bonds as someone who played the game clean. The only reason baseball doesn't have buckets of dirty urine from Bonds is the sport wasn't testing for PEDs at the time. 

Sadly, PEDs are baseball's Botox, the athletic makeup that makes an old man look, feel, and play younger. For his part, Cano said he took a supplement legally from a licensed physician in the Dominican Republic. But that's a movie long in syndication, and no matter how nice a man Cano may be, we can't simply assume his innocence.  Maybe Ryan Braun ruined it for everyone. Or maybe Cano knew he was cheating. Cano was batting .287, with 4 HR and 23 RBI in 39 games so far this season. You can decide if his malfeasance was working on the diamond. 

Most of the media is looking at this through a Hall-of-Fame lens, now doubting Cano's resume for Cooperstown. Maybe it's the New Yorker or Yankees fan in me, but this is sad because Cano should have been a Yankee all these years. Instead, he decided to follow the money all the way to the Pacific Northwest rather than taking a little less to retire in pinstripes and having his number beam from Monument Park. Today, it seems none of those things are in his future.

Robinson Cano is a good man that did a bad thing. Now no one can assume his legacy. Now there's no joy in Mudville, Seattle, or Gotham. 

Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel