It takes a leader to act as an emissary. Last week, it was announced that Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano would be headlining a team of MLB All-Stars traveling to Taiwan next month to take on the Chinese Taipei national team in the 2011 Taiwan All-Star series.
The choice of Granderson and Cano were telling. Both players represent the next generation of the Yankees, but especially Cano, who is a product of the Yankee farm system. As the Core Four has dwindled down to the Dynamic Duo with the retirement of Andy Pettitte last year and the likelihood the Yankees will not re-sign Jorge Posada this offseason, it’s time to start thinking about who will emerge as the new (and younger) face of the pinstripes.
Now, of course, until Derek Jeter retires, no one is taking the captainship out of his cold dead mitt, but Cano certainly has the cred to eventually be the clubhouse leader:
- He has no problem representing the Bombers and representing them well. This past All-Star Game, while Jeter was recovering from his calf injury and the chase for hit number 3,000, and Mariano Rivera was nursing a triceps injury, Cano happily answered the call to not only play in the Mid-Summer Classic, but also participate in (and win in dramatic fashion) the Home Run Derby. He even had a Jeter-esque response when asked about his missing teammates: “I was sad when I heard they were not coming, because you always like when your teammates are here, because you feel like you’re in the clubhouse,” he said. “But I know they have their reasons and I hope fans understand that it’s not that they don’t want to come. There was a reason and I know nobody else wants to be here more than them.”
- Cano is a homegrown talent who signed with New York as an amateur free agent in 2001. It shouldn’t make a difference, but it does. Not since the aforementioned Core Four has a product of the Yankee farm system performed so well on the field. Plus, let’s face it: Fans love nothing more than watching one of their own emerge as an elite player and team leader right before their very eyes.
- He is the elite player at his position. You can make a case for Boston’s Dustin Pedroia as one of the tops at second base, but Cano’s approach to the game is the complete opposite of gritty, gutsy little Dusty. He is almost balletic in his fielding and throwing prowess. He makes crushing the ball out of the park look effortless. The baseball gods have truly smiled on him. (Remind you of someone else?)
- He is a leader both on and off the field. He has led the Yankees in most of the major statistical categories in August and September over the past six years. He answered the call last season in the clean up position when Alex Rodriguez went down with a hip injury for most of the season. He also took Melky Cabrera under his wing helping him adjust to both life in the big leagues and the bright lights of the big city.
While Cano got a bit of a rep early in his career for being lackadaisical, much of that impression stems from his easy style of play and cool demeanor. And isn’t that what is required of leaders like the captain of the New York Yankees — being cool and collected under pressure both on and off the field.