What Went Right: Robinson Cano, #KabakHat

Yanks' hardball stance with Cano could benefit all
Pirates designate former Yankees' target Garrett Jones for assignment

On a cold day in February, I made a bet that I thought would be a sure thing. In a fit of Twitter arrogance, I threatened to eat my hat if Robinson Cano reached 80 walks. His previous career high had been 61.

How could things go wrong, I thought. The Yanks didn’t have a great lineup entering the season, but they seemed to be able to offer up Cano enough protection that he wouldn’t blow past his 2012 walk total. And the things went south in a hurry. Derek Jeter wasn’t ready to return really at all this year while Curtis Granderson suffered two freak accidents. Kevin Youkilis and Travis Hafner were total busts, and Cano was left holding the Yanks’ offense on his shoulders.

For a few months, things looked dicey. As Robbie emerged as the only real slugger in the Yanks’ lineup, his walk totals rose precipitously. After walking only 18 times in April and May combined, Robbie drew 18 free passes in June, and this four-walk affair at the hands of Joe Maddon and the Rays seemed to represent my nadir. Would I be able to eat an inedible item made of sponge and wire?

From May 24 through July 28 — a span of 59 games — Cano drew 39 free passes, ten of which were intentional. That’s a pace of over 100 in a 162-game season, and the hat seemed doomed. Even accounting for his slow start, Cano was on pace to draw 81 walks, and I figured all was lost. But then Alfonso Soriano arrived and Alex Rodriguez returned. It was all wine and roses from there.

From July 29 through the end of the season, Cano returned to his free-swinging ways. He drew just 13 walks while still hitting a robust .346/.391/.528. The intentional walk well fell dry as well since he now had protection in the lineup. Opposing mangers IBB’d Robbie just twice over the final two months of the season.

And so the hat was saved. Despite sweating out a tough summer, despite a short-lived Tumblr with hat recipes and an RAB Countdown, the hat has survived the winter. Robbie ended the year with 65 walks — a new career high but a far cry from the 80 he needed to achieve for us to see what happens when man eats toxic sponge. I’d say that’s a season that went very, very right.

(REUTERS/Robert Galbraith)
(REUTERS/Robert Galbraith)

Outside of the walks, though, Cano’s season was a bright spot. He hit .314/.383/.516 with 27 home runs and 107 RBIs. He played a spectacular second base and seemed to be a leader in the clubhouse when the top veterans were injured. After hitting 21 dingers prior to the All Star Break, he launched only six more longballs all year but still hit .331/.379/.494. He appeared on his fifth All Star game and placed fifth in the AL MVP voting.

What comes next though is more important than what he did. We’ve followed the saga of Robbie very closely. He’s a premier offensive player who can man his position with the best of them. He’s Jay-Z’s first client and star in New York City. He’s also turned 31 a little over a month ago and wants a long-term commitment with lots of dollar signs attached. The Yanks can’t afford to let him go but may not want to pay. Yet for all the public posturing, they need Robinson Cano. I won’t say I’ll eat my hat if he doesn’t sign with the Yanks; I’ve learned my lesson there. But I’d be very, very surprised if the team’s best player in 2013 isn’t wearing his Yankee pinstripes come April.

Yanks' hardball stance with Cano could benefit all
Pirates designate former Yankees' target Garrett Jones for assignment
  • Havok9120

    Dude was an absolute beast this year. He, Kuroda, and the back end of the bullpen kept the team afloat for months when they were the only standout players on the active roster.

    Good on him. I’m happy his contract year will help net him a big payday.

    • Wayne’s World

      Hey, JZ, if your are going to post on R.A.B., you should use your real name, not a pseudonym.

      • Havok9120

        Slow your roll. There’s nothing wrong with liking the guy and being happy that, in the real world, he will see a massive dividend from his talents. Baseball remains a game, and I have trouble black-listing a guy just because he’s refusing to cooperate and do exactly what the team I like wants him to do.

        • jjyank


      • Robinson Tilapia

        I’ve seen what Havok looks like. I can assure you he’s not Jay Z. He actually looks more like Drake.

  • jjyank

    Before I finish reading the article, I first want to say: Hi Ben!

    Jeez, when was the last time there were three consecutive RAB articles posted by Mike, Joe, and Ben, respectively? I hope the latter two stay around more. No offense to Mike, but RAB is at it’s best with three voices.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      None taken and totally agreed.

  • Marsha

    So if Cano does sign with the Yanks, any eat-my-hat predictions for 2014?

  • TWTR

    As much as I would like to have him back, the Yankees have to start thinking beyond a one or two year window. So if he insists on 7 years or longer, they should move on.

    • Havok9120

      They are thinking beyond that if they sign a seven or even eight year deal. By the time he’s theoretically dropping off the table and a drag on the team rather than a boon, the other huge-money contracts will mostly be off the books, allowing them to absorb the downside of Cano’s contract. At least that could be their thinking. They could also be thinking “screw 189.” Or they could just be being bloody-minded and hamstringing the team.

      I’d like to get him for seven. I’d be open to eight if that’s where the market is (and I think that’s likely), and we can work the money out in a somewhat more favorable way. I’d be distinctly uncomfortable with more than that. But even if they do 9 and the plan is to stay away from contracts beyond 6 years or so, I can see a way that it might be sensible. We’ll just have to see.

      • TWTR

        That was the type of thinking that led to giving A-Rod, CC, and Tex extremely long-term deals, and those contracts keep limiting their options and putting a ceiling on how good they can be. As a result, it’s harder to be a truly great team.

        It’s time for a change in mindset, imo.

        Especially if they can’t grow their own so that they can have really good cost-controlled young players to offset the cost of expensive older ones.

        • jjyank

          That type of thinking also got a championship. There’s no perfect way to build a baseball team. There are always going to be cons to any strategy. They Yankees have been in “win now mode” for a long time, and eventually it’s going to get harder as those player age. But it also spawned a pretty awesome run of great baseball teams.

          • Chris

            You are right jjyank and I agree with you in principal. The problem is that that type of thinking is outdated at best imo. The win-now mentality also really hasn’t helped the team win any championships aside from 09 if you think about it. The 90’s dynasty was created when George was suspended and Gene Michael’s crew took control, refraining from trading key pieces like Rivera, which Steinbrenner in his “win-now” mentality wanted to do. The 80’s wasn’t exactly a success and they had the same mentality then. Sure, they made the post season in the 2000’s, but they didn’t actually win anything aside from 09.

            The other issue is that with more teams hanging onto their young players, the amount of impact players on the Free Agent market has, to me, gone down. Aside from Cano and McCann, there really aren’t any players who you can say are going to make a difference for the team, the way they could with an Ace in CC and an all-star 1st baseman in Tex back in 09. I wouldn’t put McCann on the same level as them either CC or Tex was in 09 for the record. Cano is out there yes and he is a player just as good, if not better than who we got in 09, but we had him last year, so you can’t really say that resigning him is an upgrade over last year.

            I don’t have an answer, I just don’t like the win-now mentality and I think it is keeping the team from developing that next young crop of players who will be our next dynasty.

  • ropeadope

    I’ll eat my hat if he doesn’t sign with the Yanks


  • SMK

    You seemed to shy away from the prospect of eating a toxic foam hat. Adam Richman would have embraced it.

    You’re no Adam Richman.

  • Pseudoyanks

    Ben, I want a recount and this time count all the times Robbie walked to First on a groundball to an infielder…

  • Darren

    I love watching Robbie, especially his throwing arm and spectacular work at second base. And obviously, his year went way more right than wrong (hey at least he wasn’ injured!) But, he didn’t really produce one of those monster, put the team on his back and carry a crappy team to the playoffs ala Lebron. Mybe it’s totally unfair to expect absolute superstar performances from him, but he’s so good that he almost makes you think he’s capable of that. And this year proved he wasn’t. He had a great year, but he didn’t have a “holy shit, that contract year production earned him an extra $30mm kind of year.”

    Hey, at least Matt Harvey didn’t break his hand. THAT would’ve sucked.

    • hogsmog

      I think it’s totally unfair to ask that performance of any player- baseball isn’t the sort of game where one player can possibly carry the whole team. No matter how good a player is, he only gets to bat 1/9th of the time, and field a small percentage of balls in play.

      Look at 2004 Barry Bonds. PEDs aside, that could be the most dominant season ever had or that ever will be had by any player, but the Giants still didn’t make the playoffs.

      Baseball isn’t like basketball or football, where you can build every play around one guy. When your best pitcher isn’t pitching that day, he can’t effect the game, even if he’s Greg Maddux. When Bonds isn’t at bat, he can’t either. It’s just the nature of the game.

      • jjyank

        Agreed. Diminishing Cano’s value because he can’t carry a team like Lebron can is asinine.

        How’ve the Angels been doing, playoff wise, with Mike Trout? Dude might be the best player in the game, but baseball isn’t a sport where one man can truly carry a team.

      • OldYanksFan

        Babe,, 1920: .376 .532 .847 1.379, 255 OPS+
        Bonds, 2004: .362 .609 .812 1.422, 263 OPS+

        Bonds did have a .863 SLG in 2001.

  • RetroRob

    Would you be comfortable with a 70 walk bet in 2014?

  • Tyrone Sharpton

    good shit, benben