Is it Robinson Cano’s turn to carry this team to a World Series?
The past week and a half surely erased any lingering doubt that he’s the Yankees best player and the heart of their offense. Derek Jeter is still the Captain, and CC Sabathia brings stability, but Cano is the difference maker.
“When he’s right, he’s the best hitter in the game,” Sabathia said.
And so it seems to be Cano’s turn. Alex Rodriguez has faded, Jorge Posada is long gone, and Jeter reaching base only matters if someone brings him home. There are plenty of good players on this team — great players, even — but Cano is different. It’s his lineup now, and in a year when the offense has disappeared through stretches of disappointment, it’s Cano who has to bring some consistency and lift this team if need be.
“I don’t want to put that kind of stuff in my mind,” Cano said. “They’re here. I want to learn from the guys that have been here for a long time, and that’s all you can do, just learn from them. When they leave and retire, you say now is my time. (While) they’re here, I’m just going to play next to a Hall of Famer and enjoy them.”
In Cano’s first three postseasons, the Yankees were knocked out in the first round. When they won it all in 2009, Cano struggled early and hit just .136 in the World Series. His postseason numbers were terrific the past two years, but the Yankees couldn’t advance beyond the ALCS.
But as the Cardinals showed last season, playoff baseball is often determined by which team gets hot at the right time. The Yankees won 16 of thier last 21, and Cano hit .615 with three home runs, seven doubles and 14 RBI in the final week and a half. He finished with the highest slugging percentage and second-highest on-base percentage of his career. He topped 30 home runs for the first time, batted .347 in the month of September and had the second-highest WAR in the American League behind Mike Trout and ahead of triple crown winner Miguel Cabrera.
“It reminded me of Matsui in ’09,” Rodriguez said. “As the guy hitting in front of him, you just don’t want to disturb him. You just want to keep the line moving. You want the bat in his hands as often as possible.”
In ’09, it was Hideki Matsui who hit .615 with three home runs and won World Series MVP. Cano is capable of that kind of series. He’s capable of being the player who leads this team to a championship.
“I’m the kind of guy that is always here early doing a lot of extra work,” Cano said. “You guys might not see me, but I’m the guy that worries about how we do in the game, how the season is going, how we play. It looks easy because, when you’re doing good, everything looks easy.”
Associated Press photo