On Tuesday night, the Seattle Mariners will travel to the Bronx to play the New York Yankees. It will be Robinson Cano’s first return to Yankee Stadium after signing a 10-year, $240 million contract with the Mariners in the offseason.
Judging by social media reactions after Cano’s deal became official, the second baseman will probably be booed mercilessly by Yankees fans every time he steps in the batter’s box or fields a ground ball. However, considering the Yankees’ history of signing big-name free agents and the age of baseball in which we live, to do so would not be fair to Cano – at least not before he receives one final thank you for all he did in pinstripes.
The Yankees invented the “big free agent acquisition” when they made Catfish Hunter the highest-paid player in baseball in 1974. Three years later, they brought in Reggie Jackson. The team has continued the strategy of signing the best players available ever since (ie. Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Masahiro Tanaka). In other words, a Yankees fan calling a player a traitor for taking the biggest deal available is the definition of the word hypocrite.
Plus, booing Cano might just give him added incentive to play better. Boston Red Sox fans tried to get in Jacoby Ellsbury’s head by booing him in his return to Fenway Park, but their jeers had the opposite effect. Ellsbury played with a chip on his shoulder and killed his former team in the series.
Cano spent nine years in New York. During that time, he was a five-time All-Star, five-time Silver Slugger, two-time Gold Glove winner, finished in the top six in MVP voting in each of the past four seasons and won a World Series in 2009. He also played in at least 159 games seven years in a row. If he wasn’t so phenomenal for the Yankees, fans wouldn’t be so upset about him leaving. It’s wrong to ignore that success because he hurt Yankees fans’ feelings by going to another team.
Yankees fans demand success and can be overly harsh at times. But we’re supposed to be the most loyal fans in baseball. In 2003, we gave Tino Martinez a standing ovation after he hit a two-run homer – against New York. We demanded a curtain call from a player on the St. Louis Cardinals. Cano doesn’t deserve that level of admiration, but he also doesn’t deserve to be called a traitor and a sell-out.
Going to Seattle wasn’t personal. Baseball is Cano’s profession and MLB is a business.
The first time he comes to the plate, Cane deserves one last ovation from the Bronx crowd for all he did with the Yankees. After nine years in pinstripes, he’s earned that. After that first at-bat, heckle him, yell at him, root against him – treat him like any other visiting player. But first, give him the thanks he deserves that fans never got to give him. I mean, it’s not like he signed with the Red Sox.