Two pieces in the Daily News earlier this week stirred up some drama very early into the Spring Training season. You didn’t think we’d heard the last about Robinson Cano and the New York Yankees just yet, did you?
John Harper interviewed Yankees pitching coach Kevin Long for a story which centered on the departed second baseman. As is generally the case, the one negative thing Long said amidst a plethora of positive comments became the focus.
Among the great things Long said were the following: He is likely closer with Cano than any other player he’s worked with. Cano has outstanding character, he has worked exceptionally hard and grown over the years, and he is just generally a delightful person and great ballplayer.
One thing he also said, likely in response to a direct question on the topic, was that Cano consistently refused to hustle down the first base line during his time with the Yankees. This isn’t news. Anyone who has ever watched a Yankee game or two could tell you that. The controversy here lies in Long’s choice to talk about the subject as well as Lloyd McClendon’s response.
McClendon is in his first year as the manager for Cano’s new team, the Seattle Mariners. Lloyd came to his player’s defense rather aggressively saying: “One of the messages I’m trying to send to my players is, we don’t have to take a back seat to anybody. That includes the New York Yankees or anyone else. We’re the Seattle Mariners. And my concern is my players, and the family atmosphere that we build here. And any time anybody attacks one of my players, then I’m going to defend him, and if you don’t like it, tough s—.”
I understand a manager defending his player, but again, there’s no disputing that Cano had a hustle issue from home to first. He often cited fatigue or reserving energy as a reason for not gunning it down the line. McClendon’s reaction seemed too defensive and rather antagonistic toward the entire Yankee organization.
McClendon was also a bit contradictory, stating: “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 p—– off, and I’m sure Joe (Girardi) feels the same way.”
Interesting that in the same breath as pointing out that Long is not the spokesperson for the Yankees, McClendon also purported to know how the Yankees manager feels about a situation. His comments were passionate, but they were not well-thought-out. While Long simply answered some questions honestly, McClendon took things personally and escalated the situation to an unnecessary place.
Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik’s reaction to Long’s comments was more reserved and politically correct. He simply expressed that Long’s comments weren’t something he would’ve chosen to say. Zduriencik’s was a more expected and appropriate response – a calm reaction to calm comments.
At the end of the day, this is how things work with the media. Reporters ask questions phrased in a particular way such as to incite an interesting response. That’s the job. Perhaps Long should have declined to comment on that particular question, but ultimately he didn’t say anything untrue or with malicious intent.
McClendon reacted too harshly and in the process caused even more distraction for his team. The Mariners visit the Yankees in late April, and hopefully the bad blood of this situation doesn’t spill into Cano’s first experience as a visitor in Yankee Stadium.