The Most Important Player in Baseball

(Al Bello/Getty)

(Al Bello/Getty)

The blows just keep on coming. Yesterday afternoon the Yankees learned Mark Teixeira had strained his wrist while taking batting practice with Team USA in Arizona the day before, an injury that will sideline him for 8-10 weeks. That comes a little more than a week after Curtis Granderson‘s forearm was broken by a J.A. Happ pitch and about two weeks after Phil Hughes was sidelined by back trouble. Things have gotten so bad that Brian Cashman will spend eight weeks on crutches after breaking his leg skydiving for charity. The Yankees haven’t been bit by the injury bug, this is an infestation.

Those injuries, specifically the long-term-ish losses of Granderson and Teixeira, make Robinson Cano the most important position player in baseball. No other team that fancies itself a contender will rely as heavily on one player as the Yankees will rely on Cano early this season. He’s the clear focal point of the offense — the team’s best hitter for both average and power — and the hitter New York will need to plate every runner on-base and start rallies when the bases are empty. Guys like Kevin Youkilis and Travis Hafner will need to step up their game as complementary players, but neither is capable of providing the kind of impact the Yankees will need from Robbie.

The Yankees put themselves in this position, at least to a certain extent. Granderson’s injury was a fluke and Teixeira’s slightly less so, but the club did willfully downgrade in right field and behind home plate this offseason. They knew Derek Jeter was coming off ankle surgery and knew Alex Rodriguez needed hip surgery in early-December, yet their solution(s) was the injury-prone Youkilis and … Dan Johnson? They didn’t bring in any other legitimate depth players for the left side of the infield, possibly because they had a little too much faith in the injury-prone David Adams and error-prone Eduardo Nunez. Now the club is stuck scrambling for a first/third baseman and Jeter has yet to appear in a Spring Training game because of his rehab.

When the season begins in 25 days, there’s a decent chance the around-the-horn infield will be Youkilis, Nunez, Cano, and Johnson. On Opening Day. Think about that. Two-thirds of the outfield will feature slap-hitting speedsters, one of whom hasn’t reached base in more than 31% of his plate appearances since 2010. Things are pretty bad right now. The Yankees can’t afford to have Cano start the season slowly — remember that 90 wRC+ last April? — or worse, consistently bat with the bases empty. They need to protect him by getting runners on-base in front of him, not by sticking a big bat behind him. Trust me, there’s no one in the organization they could bat behind Robbie that will make the other team pitch to him in a big spot. They need to stack their on-base guys in front of him and let him do damage. It’s imperative he does, at least until some of the supporting cast gets healthy.

I honestly can’t remember the last time the Yankees looked this … weak? vulnerable? underwhelming? all of the above? … heading into the season. You’d have to go back to the early-1990s, which I don’t remember all too well. The club does have a strong rotation and bullpen, which is good because they’re really going to need it, but Cano is going to have to carry them on the position player side. They need him more right now than they’ve ever needed him before because there were always those strong supporting players in the lineup to pickup any slack. Now? Nothing. It’s Cano and hope some other guys exceed expectations around him.

Categories : Players


  1. Eddard the Great says:

    It’s like I said yesterday, Jeter’s still the captain but this is Robbie Cano’s team. But I think we’re going a little over the top on the significance of these injuries in March and April. Pitching is always ahead of hitting to start the year as the hitters get their timing down. Our pitching is top notch anyway and it is healthy.

    The offense is just going to be different is all. It will be based on speed, moving runners over, hitting for contact and we’ll have to win without hitting as many HRs.

    • WhittakerWalt says:

      “The offense is just going to be different is all. It will be based on speed, moving runners over, hitting for contact and we’ll have to win without hitting as many HRs.”

      1. That’s not winning baseball, especially in the AL East.
      2. This team can’t score runs that way, regardless. Even Gardner’s a shitty bunter.
      3. Sit back and enjoy “watching the kids play.” And prepare for massive disappointment.

  2. Robinson Tilapia says:

    2008, or last year’s Red Sox, frankly, with the biggest difference being our big guns are due back a lot before the Sox’s were last year.

    This isn’t the early 90′s. I repeat, this isn’t the early 90′s. There was nothing to look forward to in the early 90′s. There was no one coming off the DL. What you had was what you had. End of story. That was then and this is now.

    As for Robbie……important? Sure. Claiming over-reliance on a guy who can’t possibly carry this offense on his back is a bit silly. they’re going to struggle, and the healthy guys are going to have to bring their best-case-scenarios to the table. Like both RRR and I said yesterday, you try your best to stay with the pack until folks come back, and you hope they come back looking like they did before they left.

    Quick fixes? Nah. If I’m going to deal with this, it’ll go down a whole lot easier if the future isn’t mortgaged in the process.

    • dan2 says:

      If Jeter returns in fully health, he is still an inadequate shortstop. His only remaining value is with a bat in his hand.
      Instead of replacing position by position, why not just put the best team in the lineup. That is Jeter at DH and Nunez at short. Hafner can be a pinch hitter for the catchers and a DH when Jeter needs a rest or when we are going up against a tough right hander. Look at the team as a line up and not at field positions. Tex has set the April offensive bar so low that anyone with a glove can replace him at first and hit to his standards.

      • Robinson Tilapia says:

        I’m sure your suggestions would make a huge difference.


      • Barry says:

        Jeter just has bad range, he’s not inadequate he makes enough plays to start. Your scenario puts no power in the line-up and ever team would just pitch around Cano and Youk.. You sir are insane.

      • Scott says:

        You think the best lineup has Nunez instead of Hafner? That’s what you’re suggesting, and it’s a little crazy.

  3. Kingslayer says:

    Texiera is no longer a reliable player. He was probobly using PED’s. No other way to explain the rash of injuries he sustains year after year! Yanks need to do what Boston did last year – that is get rid of all these overpaid and over the hill turkeys.

  4. Murderers' Row Boat says:

    “Most important player in baseball” When did the Yankees get Miggy?

  5. Ca$hNinja189 says:

    Cano has to go! Refill and Reload. This season is a wash! I’d send off Phil, and eventually Grandy. Im sure the Dodgers will take them.

  6. austinmac says:

    This team will likely not be as good as the 2008 team. I do not hold my hopes for a double hip surgery AROD or a wrist impaired Teixiera being much help.

    After 2008 the team revamped for 2009. After 2013, the team will continue to be disassembled.

    How will the holes be filled? Cashman told us yesterday. They would await discards from other teams. I’m optimistic with that.

  7. CapitalT says:

    Last time they looked like this: 1980′s OF Griffey, Collins, Kemp.

    It took George getting banned from baseball to recover

  8. Vern Sneaker says:

    Way more talent on this team than the early 90s. We just can’t know what’s coming at this point. Cano, Granderson, Gardner, Ichiro, Youkilis, Jeter might all (or most) have good years. The pitching staff looks pretty good and might perform to expectations. Texeira is the most disturbing blow because of the nature of the injury — very unpredicatble recovery with these. Worried, sure, but doom and gloom is too extreme a reaction at this point,IMO. Let’s let it play out.

  9. rogue says:

    From a human standpoint, I hate to see anyone in pain, but on paper it wouldn’t bother me if Tex doesn’t play. Along with ARod, I’ve written him off as a hopeless albatross.

    I’m actually happy that the Yankees have done nothing this offseason. I just hope they don’t extend/re-sign Cano. If they do, it would be another albatross contract.

    • Colombo says:

      So what do you suggest the team do moving forard? Complete rebuild? Every contract has the risk of being an albatross. It’s Hal’s sudden desire to be fiscally responsible that has made these big contracts noteworthy.

      Also, how is Tex an albatross contract? While not worth every cent, he is more than valuable for the power and amazing defense.

    • Sam says:

      “it would be another albatross contract.”

      Good luck getting anyone to understand that truth.

  10. Eddard the Great says:

    test post so I can remove the mobile setting and view the posts.

  11. Robinson Tilapia says:

    The Yankees haven’t been this bad since they were the Baltimore Highlanders in 1887!

  12. TomH says:

    An honest (and well written) analysis of the mess a great organization can get itself into.

  13. Dr. Bosh's List says:

    so what should i make of this?

  14. CTRob says:

    Although Girardi said he was viewed as an outfielder yesterday, Rivera starting at first today.

  15. LarryM., Fl. says:

    Mike, you painted the picture perfectly. After reading the comments I agree with most about the season. Even though it has not started. Teams and their front office know about their ability to compete. The Blue Jays are loaded but can they gel. The Orioles are young. Will they improve on their 90+ win season. The Sox’s have much ground to make up. The Rays somehow, someway are always there. The Yanks needed a perfect storm of health, good fortune and great pitching. I see the the pitching doing its thing. Health is out the window already. Good fortune comes with good play. It does not look good. Cano is a top 10 player try to sign him and work trades around the players with value, Hughes and Granderson if the season gets messy by July. Play some of the kids when things are looking bleak. I hope that I’m wrong about the season.

  16. LK says:

    The sad part about all this is that Cano could absolutely mash his way through April, and the offense might still suck.

    • Jim Is Bored says:

      I’ll take my chances with Cano mashing throughout April rather than without that.

      Cano mashing -> good chances of at least an average offense
      Cano not mashing -> Very tiny chance of at least an average offense.

      • LK says:

        Oh, Cano mashing is better than the alternative, don’t get me wrong. I think they’re going to need Hafner/Youkilis/Gardner to bring it as well.

  17. Dars says:

    This is what you get when you do not have a farm system, you trade away your prospects for players that go bad, you sign your aging stars to multiyear contracts way past their prime and you give lengthy contracts to productive players who have now aged. This is a last place team, all they have is names of “have beens”.

    Sure Hafner, Ichiro and Youkilis would have been great additions in 2007, not in 2013. We could have Austin Jackson patrolling CF and Ian Kennedy and Phil Coke as extra arms. Jesus Montero as DH/C.
    Think of what kind of players we could have gotten for ARod’s 28 million, for the same money the Red Sox got Victorino, Napoli, Drew and Uejehara.

    It will not only be 2013, this will be a very prolonged drought. I think it will take the Yankees 4 years minimum to come back and be a contender again. It is the natural price to pay after many years of success, so hopefully we enjoyed the ride…

    • MannyGeee says:

      “Think of what kind of players we could have gotten for ARod’s 28 million, for the same money the Red Sox got Victorino, Napoli, Drew and Uejehara”

      I am having a hard time getting it up for any one of those 4 names you just mentioned. And speaking of guys that would have been awesome to have in 2007, hows Victorino treating you?

      Phil Coke grows on trees, sorry to tell you. You can make the argument IPK would be under team control next season so he might help the case for 2014. Damn shame IPK looked bad (like Nova last August bad) when he was with the club.

      Alot of hole in your theory, son. A LOT of holes.

      • Winter says:

        Don’t forget, if we’re going with the “if only we’d sign them in 2007″ argument, that is exactly when we signed A-Rod. He was coming off an MVP year, was still one of the best players (if not the best player) in baseball, and everyone was saying we were doomed if we didn’t re-sign him after the opt-out.

    • JAG says:

      So, to clarify: You were absolutely against the Granderson trade at the time, right? At the time, not afterwards when Kennedy looked like superman in ARI and after Detroit endured Jackson’s growing pains. The week the trade was announced, you were against it. That’s what I’m getting from this.

      Because, yeah, of course, in retrospect if we could only have anticipated that Granderson might suffer a fluke injury in his last contract year after delivering 40+ homer season two years in a row, we might have avoided being burned by such a horrible trade.

  18. Athenian says:

    The unfortunate thing about Tex’s injury is it will haunt him all year. This injury will make this a lost year as he won’t be back until the All Star break.

    I only hope this doesn’t add fuel to over reacting and over paying Cano. For all the brilliance in business that Bros Stein are given, I can’t understand the continual need to over commit on years. This will not end well.

  19. Too lazy to type my actual screen name while Mike works on fixing the site says:

    Have the masses picked up on this Cano quote? Re: playing against the Yanks…

    “That was fun,” Cano said. “To get to play against your guys, play with the team you’re going to be with for the next two weeks – hopefully – to see your manager and hitting coach on the other side, guys you’ve known for a long time, that was fun. It was exciting. It’s good to see the way you can go out there and have fun, laugh, be able to play against your team.”

    Sure sounds like a guy going to at least test FA!

    • Too lazy to type my actual screen name while Mike works on fixing the site says:

      Btw mike to be clear this is me again. On my iPad, every time I leave the site and return the fields for Name and Mail are blank.

    • Jim Is Bored says:

      Boy I’m not interpreting it that way at all. Whenever I played organized sports I always loved scrimmages because it was fun to play against the guys you play WITH all the time, because you’re familiar with them. It never meant I wanted to go elsewhere.

      Plus, if he leaves, he won’t be playing against “the team you’re going to be with for the next two weeks”.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:


    • MannyGeee says:

      You should make sure you warm up a little bit before you stretch that far… you might pull something

    • DC says:

      No. This sounds like a commenter talking out of his ass.

  20. lol says:

    Cano the savior… what a joke.

  21. JRod says:

    Teixeira is expected back May 1-May 15; Grandy expected back about May 5. So, barring complications, they will have to cover 5-6 weeks of the season without these guys, one of whom has not been very good in recent Aprils in any case. In that short sample, Youkilis and Hafner are absolutely capable of being impact players offensively. Nunez could certainly have a good couple of weeks with the bat. There’s a major element of randomness involved in a sample size that small. Obviously whether Tex will actually heal in the allotted time is a huge concern, but making a desperate trade with a weak hand like Francesa is calling for would be pathetic. I suggest they dumpster dive for someone a little less nebulous than Dan Johnson and battle it out until May.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      Not to mention this team has laid plenty of eggs in April in recent history even with healthy players in the lineup, and in seasons where they’ve rebounded big time afterwards. Not suggesting this team will rebound the same way, but so much of this is overreacting by people who are either too spoiled, too young, too old, or too troll.

  22. Mark says:

    Do you think the Yanks miss Nick Swisher yet?

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      They missed him before the injuries happened. What’s your point?

      • MannyGeee says:

        butbutbutbut… TEH OCTOBERZ!!!!!!

      • Mark says:

        My point is that the Yankees are acting like they are the Royals or Rays, teams that often can’t re-sign their own guys. I have no problem staying out of bidding wars for free agents like Josh Hamilton, Zach Greinke etc, but I don’t want to hear that the Yankees — the NY Yankees for Pete’s sake — can’t re-sign their own guys. If it were purely a baseball decision the Yanks would have brought back Swisher and not Ichiro. And it should have been a baseball decision. Sorry, but this is New York — Broadway — and it costs money to put on a first-class show.

  23. dkidd says:

    What the fuck happened to the Delta I used to know? Where’s the spirit? Where’s the guts, huh? This could be the greatest night of our lives, but you’re gonna let it be the worst. “Ooh, we’re afraid to go with you Bluto, we might get in trouble.” Well just kiss my ass from now on! Not me! I’m not gonna take this.

  24. Manimal says:

    Anyone else think that Cano could play third base very well? Nunez would fit in at second and youk/tex would be at first.

  25. MB923 says:

    To no surprise, Mo is expected to announce his retirement very soon.

  26. Joe R says:

    If we come out with a decent size hole in the standings after all these injuries, I wonder if that would make Cashman more likely to consider trading Robbie mid season.

  27. Antony says:

    I keep thinking that this is going to bring good things to New York. Yankees prospects don’t have the chance to show they can do it in the majors. Perhaps this is a chance for Slade Heathcott or Tyler Austin. Perhaps some other prospect. Remember when Pena made the team without playing in Triple A? Remember when Cervelli came to the majors? I think these guys could have done better if they have had the chance. Brett Gardner did it and now he is one of my favorite players. Ivan Nova did it great 2 years ago and he even earned the Second Starter in the playoffs. Here in RAB people considered Gardner a fourth outfielder and Nova as depth guy for the minnors. Injuries sucks, but I think this is going to bring great things for the Yanks

    • Winter says:

      I don’t think anyone considers Gardner a fourth outfielder. I believed Mike called a healthy Brett Gardner “the most important offseason acquisition.” He’s easily the Yankees best outfielder until Granderson comes back.

      • Mike Axisa says:

        I’m not sure if I said the most important, but I did wrote a post saying he was their best offseason “acquisition” in terms of being an upgrade over who he was replacing.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      If you widen your lens wide enough, sure, I could agree with this.

  28. mt says:

    As somone earlier said, Cano may have a great April and the Yanks still be dreadful at scoring runs because he will get pitched around a lot, no matter what, with men on base. When he does have runners on base he must come through. As anyone recalls, Cano was pretty bad with RISP last year until the last two weeks of season. So his magnificent ISO and WOBA did not translate into a lot of RBIs. Yanks still won but that was last year with more margin for error and others who also contributed like Swishe, Chavez, and at times Martin.

    Given our lower margin of error even before all these injuries, it was imperative for Robbie to rebound to his past years level of performance as far as critical situations. With Grandy and Tex out, he will now be pitched around a lot unless teams absolutely have to pitch to him. Now he must come though even more when given any opportunity.

    As for how long other Yanks have to hold down the fort, bad wrists have a way of sapping power and being chronic – like Jose Batista, capable of re-injury at any swing. I am pretty optimistic about Grandy’s return from broken forearm in one piece ready to go but wonder what Tex’s wrist will mean for rest of year after he returns.

    The other thing to remember is that Tampa Bay has won for years with some pretty ugly line-ups – now they have had marvelous starting pitching. 2013 Yanks have good to maybe great starting pitching. If our starters can be great for April and May, we may not have to have a wonderful line-up. However, like TB did, we will have to go overboard with the speed game – Gardner and Suzuki (if he gets on) must run wild in that case.

  29. Winter says:

    Am I the only one who doesn’t think this year’s pitching is a lock to be good? I sincerely hope it will be, and I think it has the potential to be great, but it seems like I’m seeing more question marks than most:

    Sabathia: Coming of surgery on his throwing arm. Then again, it takes more than that to stop CC.

    Kuroda: 38 and coming off a career-high in innings pitched. Last year was the best season of his career, and while I hope he can repeat, he did start to flag towards the end of last year (remember he skipped throwing between starts to keep his stamina up).

    Hughes: Hopefully his back is OK.

    Pettitte: It’s really not worth guessing with Pettitte, he’ll just prove me wrong. I could say he’s old and spent most of last year on the DL, but strangely, outside of CC, I have more confidence in Andy than any other starter.

    Nova/Phelps: One was seriously disappointing last year (Nova) while the other was mediocre (“big game Phelps” meme aside) and is due for a sophomore slump.

    Again, hopefully I’m wrong about all of this, but I don’t see the rotation as a given.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      “Am I the only one who doesn’t think this year’s pitching is a lock to be good?”

      No one’s pitching is ever a lock to be as good as you think they’re going to be. Par for the course.

      That being said, sure, all of those scenarios are possible, and a couple may happen.

    • Adam says:

      Winter – I swear I didnt read your post before writing mine. Great minds think alike.

  30. Adam says:

    Why is the rotation so strong? Yeah, CC, although I think he is overrated, he is a true #1. Pettite? I mean would an injury surprise anyone? Or a significant regression from last year? He is no spring chicken. Kuroda could regress and that wouldnt be a surprise. Hughes? Yeah he COULD be okay. Nova/Phelps? Cmon.

    I would say that their rotation is mediocre. Strong? Cmon.I live and die by the Yanks but lets be real.

    • Jim Is Bored says:

      Why does no one ever say “Let’s be real” and then say something positive?

      Being real is not exclusively the realm of the pessimist, you know.

  31. FIn says:

    I agree with what Mike wrote. The Yankees put themselves in this situation. However, I don’t think signing Swish for 4 more years or Martin for 2 more were the right moves either. This team is gearing up to rebuild, unless they were going to go Dodger crazy with money, it was going to happen even without the $189. Years of winning always come to an end eventually, and this seems to be the year for the Yankees. I thought that before all of these injuries this early. The team is too old and through injuries or age related performance declines, the odds seemed very high to me that this was going to be a long year. It’s going to be interesting to see how long it takes the Yankees to rebuild, especially if they are sticking to $189. Hopefully, they are as skilled in rebuilding as the Braves have been, but I’m not holding my breath for that.

  32. Conor says:

    I don’t see how expectations for this team should be that different from say 2005. That year our best starting pitcher was Randy Johnson (age 41). Kevin Brown was 40, declining (2004 ERA 4.09) and then terrible. Mussina was already 36 and his ERA was 4.59 the season before. We came into the season knowing the pitching staff had question marks and feeling confident that the Yankees would slug their way to victories. And they won 95 regular season games.

    This year Nova, Phelps and Hughes are all young and give the Yankees depth at the back. Sabathia was very, very good last season. Kuroda and Pettite were excellent. We aren’t hoping for bounce back years from any of the older pitchers unlike in the mid 2000s. The relief pitching was very good last year and should be very good again. The Yankees will win lots of games on the mound this season, even the 1-0 and 2-1 games where the offense barely shows up. Sure the offense is pretty mediocre and may even become bad, but this isn’t like a 2010 SF Giants offense.

    The Yankees are still going to be a contender for the division title and at the least a likely wildcard entry. Stop all the doom and gloom talk.

    • Fin says:

      LOL, if you cant understand why the 05 team was better, with 8, healthy future/almost hall of fame players in their in their prime, I dont know what to say.

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