When Robinson Cano didn't bust to first base
FEB 18, 2014 3:45p ET
So here’s just a tremendously entertaining timeline:
2004 – Robinson Cano is promoted to the Yankees’ Triple-A farm club, where he works for the first time with hitting coach Kevin Long.
2007 – Long is promoted to the biggest job a hitting coach can have, with the New York Yankees.
2008 – Cano, already a big star, struggles during the regular season and the Yankees miss the playoffs.
2009 – Long spends a week of his offseason in the Dominican Republic, working with Cano ... who bounces back in a big way that season.
2011 – Long comes out with a book: "Cage Rat: Lessons from a Life in Baseball by the Yankees Hitting Coach." He gets a lot of help from ghostwriter Glen Waggoner, wife Marcey ... and superstar Cano, who contributes a brief afterword.
2013 – Cano does what most players do when they can, and auctions his services to the highest bidder; in this case, it’s the Seattle Mariners.
2014 – Long, when asked about his former pupil, says some wonderful things but also regrets that Cano never learned to hustle to first base every time.
2014 – Lloyd McClendon, Cano’s new manager, responds with venom: “Last time I checked, I didn't know that Kevin Long was the spokesman for the New York Yankees. That was a little surprising. I was a little pissed off, and I'm sure Joe [Girardi] feels the same way. He's concerned with his team and what they're doing, not what the Seattle Mariners players are doing.
“I'm a little surprised that Kevin Long is the spokesman for the New York Yankees. I wonder if he had any problems with Robbie when he wrote that book proclaiming himself as the guru of hitting.”
... and so that’s basically where we are now, and nobody’s looking great. Cano doesn’t look great, because we’re reminded once more that he does take some plays off. Long doesn’t look good, because he really should have chosen his words more carefully. However disappointed he might be.
McClendon doesn’t look good. Yes, he has to protect his players, and especially his players who are getting $240 million. But I’ve read most of Long’s book, and I’ve not yet found the part where he proclaims himself as the guru of hitting.
And I’m not sure the press corps looks so hot right now, either. Of course it was inevitable, but did someone really have to run to McClendon and ask for his opinion of Long? I don’t know. Maybe.
There’s a story here about Cano’s habits and his hustle and his leadership. But is C.J. Nitkowski right, when he says the end result here is that “coaches and players again discouraged from being honest with reporters?”
Well, sure. But reporters have been running back and forth and doing their best to create stories since ... well, since the 1960s, at least. And before that, they often just made up stories because all that ink had to get spilled somewhere. Why not the sporting pages?
We’ll never have as much honesty as we would like, but it will never disappear. Our best bet is to simply celebrate honesty and candor when we see it, in the however- vainglorious hope of encouraging more.
Also, Robinson Cano is a tremendous performer and plays in 160 games every season. Maybe it’s OK to cut him a little slack on the fake hustle thing. Everybody can’t be Pete Rose.