I’m Going to Miss Robinson Cano

Three years ago, Cliff Lee ruined Christmas. On Dec. 13, 2010, Lee chose the “mystery” Phillies over the Yankees and left me only to envision what a rotation led by CC Sabathia and Lee could look like. I stayed up until 6 a.m. that night writing this eventual column, which was a borderline emotional and physical breakdown after losing out on Lee twice in four-plus months despite deals being on the 1-yard line.

This year, Robinson Cano has ruined Christmas. Or Brian Cashman and the Yankees have ruined Christmas. Or the combination of Jay-Z, Roc Nation and CAA have ruined Christmas. It depends on how you look at it. I blame Brian Cashman and the Yankees.

I opened that Cliff Lee column by saying:

I was thinking of sending in the lyrics to Pearl Jam’s “Black” instead of writing this since I am holding back tears and shaking, but I wasn’t sure if turning in Eddie Vedder’s work as my own counts as plagiarism since it’s a song.

But I’m not joking anymore. With Cano headed for the Pacifc Northwest and grunge and rain and Starbucks, I’m turning to Eddie’s magical voice to help me get through this one.

Hey… oooh…

Sheets of empty canvas, untouched sheets of clay
Were laid spread out before me as her body once did.
All five horizons revolved around her soul as the earth to the sun
Now the air I tasted and breathed has taken a turn

On Monday morning, while Brian Cashman was rappelling down a building in Stamford, Conn., a seemingly annual tradition for the general manager who broke his leg last offseason jumping out of an airplane with the Golden Knights, his free-agent second baseman (the player who was supposed to be the next face of the franchise and transition the Jeter-Rivera-Pettitte years into the next era of Yankees baseball) was in Seattle meeting with the Mariners.

The first news of the day I found out was that Cano and Jay-Z (or Jay-Z) turned down the Mariners’ offer and the deal was off after Cano’s team’s incredible demands. But then out of nowhere, while I sat back and waited for the Yankees to come in to save the day, a deal between Cano and the Mariners became imminent. There was no report of new talks or progression or anything. Out of nowhere, the Mariners had upped their offer to the Albert Pujols’ level of 10 years and $240 million. With A-Rod on the books until 2017 with his ill-advised 10-year deal, Mark Teixeira breaking down with three years years to go on his eight-year deal and Jacoby Ellsbury yet to start his new seven-year deal (which will mean I will be watching a 37-year-old Ellsbury in the Yankees outfield in 2020), I knew there was no way Cashman and the Yankees would counter the Mariners’ offer at the last minute. Robinson Cano was gone.

Ooh, and all I taught her was everything
Ooh, I know she gave me all that she wore

And now my bitter hands chafe beneath the clouds of what was everything.
Oh, the pictures have all been washed in black, tattooed everything…

Some Yankees fans are happy that Cano is gone because they are happy the Yankees aren’t locked into him for seven or more years for a high six-figure salary. They are happy because down the road, in say 2019 or beyond, Cano’s contract might have become a burden on the team and prevented them from making other moves. They think this because they think the Yankees work under some sort of budget.

For two years, maybe more, we have heard about the goal to stay under $189 million (a goal … not a mandate) for the 2014 season and avoid luxury tax penalties. But when the Yankees missed the playoffs for the second time since 1993, the Stadium attendance dropped and the upper deck looked as empty as it did in the ’80s and the team was a month into their offseason as their rival won the World Series for the third time in 10 seasons, the $189 million goal went out the window just like every budget the Yankees have ever suggested. And if something similar happens in four or five or six years or ever, the Yankees will spend that winter doing the same thing they did this winter and the same thing they did after the 2008 season when they gave $423.5 million to Sabathia, Teixeira and A.J. Burnett.

I take a walk outside, I’m surrounded by some kids at play
I can feel their laughter, so why do I sear?
Oh, and twisted thoughts that spin round my head, I’m spinning, oh,
I’m spinning, how quick the sun can drop away

There is a belief that Cano felt mistreated by the Yankees’ offer and he should feel that he was mistreated because he was. But he shouldn’t be surprised by the Yankees’ actions. The Yankees under Brian Cashman have proven they will lowball their own players and nickel and dime them in free agency, but will have no problem throwing money at other team’s players.

After the 1998 season, the Yankees tried to screw over Bernie Williams by offering him $60.5 million and Number 51 was ready to go to Boston for $90 million before the Yankees made literally a last-second call to Williams and offered $87.5 million, which was still a lowball offer from Boston’s, but Williams took it. Five years ago, the Yankees had no problem giving Burnett a fifth year after the 2008 season and $82.5 million, outbidding themselves in a sweepstakes against no one. Two years later, Cashman would publicly call out Derek Jeter, while the Yankees front office counted their pennies for the face of their franchise and the most important Yankee to the team’s finances for nearly two decades.

Yes, it was ridiculous that reports, whether true or not, came out that Cano was looking for $310 million as if he were looking for Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. And it’s ridiculous that the Mariners are willing to pay him $240 million over the next 10 years. But it’s really ridiculous that the Yankees were willing to give $153 million to an inferior player in Jacoby Ellsbury while maintaining their stance on their own Cano at $175 million. The Yankees didn’t and don’t need Ellsbury. They do need Cano. And without signing a luxury, not a necessity, in Ellsbury, they would have been able to up their seven-year, $175 million offer to Cano (even though they’re the Yankees and they could have upped it anyway).

And now my bitter hands cradle broken glass of what was everything
All the pictures have all been washed in black, tattooed everything…

All the love gone bad turned my world to black
Tattooed all I see, all that I am, all I’ll be… yeah…

In the last four seasons, Jacoby Ellsbury has played 384 of a possible 648 games. In 2011, he finished second in the AL MVP voting after hitting .321/.376/.552 with 32 home runs, 105 RBIs, 46 doubles, 119 runs and 39 stolen bases. But that was two years ago and was his only double-digit home run season in his six-plus year career. And those 32 home runs make up 49 percent of his career total (65) since entering the league in 2007.

In the last seven seasons, Robinson Cano has missed 14 games … total. He has never played fewer than 122 games in his nine-year career, is a career .309 hitter with four consecutive Silver Sluggers, two Gold Gloves and has finished in the Top 6 in MVP voting in the last four years. He has hit 25-plus home runs the last five years, has three seasons with 107-plus RBIs and seven seasons with 41-plus doubles. He is considered a Top 5 hitter in the game, the best all-around second baseman in baseball and a Hall of Fame candidate.

If the 30-year-old Ellsbury is worth $153 million on the open market then how are you going to tell your home-grown, soon-to-be 31-year-old second baseman and the best player on your team that he’s only worth $22 million more? I’m asking because I don’t know the answer.

Uh huh… uh huh… ooh…

I know someday you’ll have a beautiful life,
I know you’ll be a star in somebody else’s sky,
But why, why, why can’t it be, can’t it be mine?

The justification of losing Cano has turned into fans being happy that the Yankees didn’t end up getting him for a costly amount as if they were footing the bill. But for those who didn’t care about the money, they cite his lack of hustle as a reason to be fine with him no longer being a Yankee.

Cano’s seemingly care-free attitude was frustrating at times. In October 2012, with the trip to the World Series on the line, he watched the ALCS like he was on vacation at a resort in Aruba. How’s he going to watch a mathematically-eliminated Mariners team play out the string in August and September? Maybe flood the dugout and lay on a raft?

I have never been one to think Robinson Cano is lazy. Yes, he tries to be smooth and make plays look so smooth and easy, and he almost always successful in doing so, but there’s a reason Joe Girardi had to bench him in September 2008 for a lack of hustle on a fielding play. And there’s a reason why Larry Bowa was on his ass when Joe Torre was the manager. There were times when he could done a little more to make an important play like this non-diving attempt, which would have prevented a run against the Orioles in the 2012 ALDS.

And there were times when he just needed to get the ball out of the outfield or take a pitch and he wouldn’t or when he would swing at the first pitch in the late innings of a game in which the Yankees were trailing, which was a popular Cano move on getaway day. It’s not like these things happened all the time. The problem is they happened in New York, so it seems like they happened all the time.

But for all the negative remarks that will be made about Cano as fans try to justify to themselves that it’s not a big deal that he’s gone, they should remember him for being a part of the 2009 championship team, the way he tried to carry the offense in the 2005 ALDS and 2007 ALDS, his four home runs against the Rangers in the 2010 ALCS and his grand slam off Al Alburquerque in the 2011 ALDS. They shouldn’t remember the way he ended his Yankees’ postseason career, going 2-for-22 (.091) against the Orioles in the 2012 ALDS and 1-for-18 (.056) against the Tigers in the 2012 ALCS.

Aah… uuh..

Too doo doo too, too doo doo

No one thought Cano, a Dominican-born player, would leave the Yankees. No one thought he would give up an annual chance at a championship for the lowly Mariners, who have finished over .500 once in the last six years and have four postseason appearances to the Yankees’ 17 since 1995. No one thought Jay-Z, a Yankees fan himself who rode in the 2009 World Series parade with the team, would let his client leave the Bronx. Then again, no one thought Cano would get nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in state-tax free Washington.

If the Mariners were willing to give a 10-year, $240 million offer (which they obviously were) then the Yankees never had a chance. The New York City life, the big-market attention, the idea of being a lifetime Yankee, having Number 24 end up in Monument Park and a potential Cooperstown plaque with a Yankees hat meant more to those who analyze Cano than it ever meant to Cano.

Cano got his $240 million. I got Ellsbury, McCann and Carlos Beltran and the 2014 Yankees are already better than the 2013 Yankees were. But that doesn’t mean I won’t miss the swing, the smooth poses, the throws from the shortstop side of second and the over-the-shoulder-catches of Robinson Cano.