It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
Cano’s Yankees debut in 2005 was for two reasons: part service time manipulation and part Tony Womack wasn’t working out at second base. Five years and a World Series ring later, fans were already crowning him as a future lifelong Yankee great. The second coming of Rod Carew, but with a better power stroke. A spot in Monument Park and a retired number were not matters of if, but when.
Milestone after milestone. Accomplishment after accomplishment. Championship after championship, and all in pinstripes, right?
You all know how the rest of the story goes. Cano was so successful that he let everyone know it when he hit free agency after the 2013 season. Instead of taking a perfectly reasonable seven-year deal from the Yankees, he insisted on a 10-year pact with the Seattle Mariners.
We can now safely say this proved Cano’s undoing, even if he made three All-Star teams with the Mariners. Any success he had with Seattle or the Mets is now tarnished by two PED suspensions, the second of which cost him all of last season. He hit just .195 in 12 games this year, yet some think he could still latch on with a team at age 39.
How the mighty have fallen. Why did Cano ever leave New York and the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium? He hit .309 as a Yankee. Cano still hit a respectable .291 at home in Seattle but, again, the PEDs call the actual number into question.
Here’s why. Cano hit .314 his first year in Seattle, but saw his home runs dip to 14 playing in a bigger ballpark. Two years later, he suddenly mashed a career high 39 at age 33. Two years and a suspension later, his career loses some credibility.
But another few years and another suspension later, we can say something even more bold: Cano left the Yankees and subsequently tanked his career. He could have stayed in the Bronx and been the man, the myth, the legend. He and Derek Jeter could have been a tandem worthy of Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker, except both would be Hall of Famers.
Instead, Cano did what many a free agent had done before him, and simply took the money. Suddenly being unable to hit home runs with as much ease must have proved a cost too great for him. Even as he stands to collect $39 million in remaining salary, would he give it all back just to jump in the DeLorean and re-sign with the Yankees all those years ago?
The sad truth is Cano simply doesn’t have a place in baseball anymore. Even if he gets another job, how much playing time will he actually get? His once crafty bat seems to have abandoned him. He’s competent enough in the field, but far from elite.
Cano took his big break with the New York Yankees and broke it in two. He needed Yankee Stadium and the Yankees more than they needed him and Brian Cashman knew it. A player once destined for Cooperstown can now retire unceremoniously.
The saddest part? It wasn’t supposed to be this way.