In a lot of ways, I think Joe Girardi was right about the way Robinson Cano was greeted last night.
“I’ve always felt the people that are cheering for you are showing their respect for you,” Girardi said. “And the people that are booing you are really showing their respect for you, because they didn’t want you to leave.”
Or maybe Derek Jeter phrased it better.
“Some people probably booed because they wish he was here,” Jeter said. “Some people boo because they’re upset he left. And some people may have booed because the people next to them were booing.”
If Cano weren’t such a great player, there wouldn’t have been much reaction at all to his return on Tuesday night. But he was booed in every at-bat — booed even when he fielded a routine grounder — because Yankees fans are well aware of what was lost when he signed with Seattle.
Yes, there’s frustration that Cano didn’t take some sort of hometown discount, or perhaps there’s a sense fully appreciate the idea of being a lifelong Yankee — and seven years, $175 million certainly seems like more than enough money — but Cano’s hardly the first player to prefer taking the largest contract offer ahead of staying in a place that comfortable and successful. It means so much in this case because he’s one of the elite players in the game, and the Yankees know that as well as anyone.
“I knew he would be pretty sought-after and there would be clubs that would make some long-term deals,” Girardi said. “I’ve mentioned that I always thought Albert Pujols would be a Cardinal, and it didn’t happen. There are certain guys you envision their whole career, they’re going to play in a certain spot. Most of the times, it doesn’t happen.”
Monday’s bit on The Tonight Show was funny for that very reason. It’s easy to boo the idea of Cano — to boo the very notion of a player taking more money to play elsewhere — but faced with him in person, it’s hard to deny that the Yankees would be a better team with him at second base, hitting in the middle of the order. Boo the fact that he left, but acknowledge that most would welcome him back if at all possible.
Maybe a 10-year deal really was too much for the Yankees to give. Maybe another player would have been happy with the $175-million offer. Maybe in a different set of circumstances Cano would have been a lifelong Yankee, cheered in his first Bronx at-bat of every season from now until retirement. But that didn’t happen, and it matters this much — enough to boo the best Yankees player of the past half decade — because he is so very good.
“I’m just happy to be back,” Cano said. “(To) see guys that I played with for a long time, and guys that always were so kind and nice to me. Being able to say hi to them and in front of the New York crowd, (remembering) the way that they treated me when I was here.”