- Last Updated: 11:59 PM, October 16, 2012
- Posted: 11:57 PM, October 16, 2012
DETROIT -- This isn’t about advancing to the World Series anymore. The Yankees stand so far away from the Fall Classic, they couldn’t see the Commissioner’s Trophy with the Hubble Space Telescope.
This is about restoring some sense of dignity around the industry’s winningest team. And it starts with Robinson Cano.
For the good of the Yankees, for the good of their most valuable player of 2012, Cano should probably play well in Wednesday night's American League Championship Series Game 4. So he doesn’t head into the winter drawing the months-long fury of Yankees fans.
Not surprisingly, Justin Verlander dominated the Yankees on Tuesday night at Comerica Park, allowing just three hits in 8 1/3 innings as the Tigers edged the Yankees, 2-1, in ALCS Game 3, giving Detroit a commanding, 3-0 lead in games. Only Eduardo Nunez’s ninth-inning leadoff homer prevented a second straight Tigers shutout.
Cano? He went 1-for-4, ending his record-breaking (in the postseason) 0-for-29 slump with a ninth-inning single against former teammate Phil Coke. Of anyone on the Yankees’ current roster -- healthy, so let’s not count Derek Jeter -- Cano might be the last guy you’d peg for that sort of meltdown, so perfect is his swing.
Yet here he is, having just climbed out of baseball purgatory, and it’s times like now when the haters come out and point out that Cano doesn’t wear his emotions as passionately as did, say, Paul O’Neill. Or as does Mark Teixeira. That he looks too relaxed while sitting in the Yankees’ dugout, his feet resting on a cooler. And that he doesn’t hustle out of the batter’s box all of the time.
That’s really not a good use of your time. Know that Cano works as hard as anyone in a Yankees uniform. He can be found on the field early in every home game, working with Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long. Does he sometimes not run all out? Yup, and it’s terrible. Yet you accomplish very little by viewing that in a vacuum. You conduct a full Cano audit, and his positives outweigh his negatives.
No one is perfect. Even Jeter could have conducted himself better as team captain over the years, starting with his treatment of Alex Rodriguez.
Joe Girardi has hit Cano third, second and fourth in the first three games of this series, as the Yankees’ manager, coaches and general manager Brian Cashman have worked aggressively to change things for the better (and also have dealt with Jeter’s broken left ankle). There really isn’t anywhere else to put Cano besides the bench.
And what would that accomplish? What, you’re going to start Jayson Nix at second base and take out your best hitter? The difference between Cano and the scratched Rodriguez is that Cano enjoyed a terrific regular season while A-Rod declined for the fifth straight year. The difference between Cano and the scratched Nick Swisher is that Swisher has a four-year postseason funk going and even has allowed it to impact his defense, while Cano played very well the prior two Octobers.
Down 3-0, going into Game 4, sure, you want to win and try emulating the 2004 Red Sox. However, you also have to think some about the future. Cano, who turns 30 next week, represents an important part of the Yankees’ future. At the least, he’ll be on the team next year, once the Yankees exercise their $15 million team option on him. And this horrible postseason notwithstanding, the Yankees will probably discuss internally the prospect of committing Cano to a long-term contract, if not actually go ahead and negotiate with him.
That’s why Cano could eradicate a sliver of the bitterness with a good game tonight. If he can provide some run support for Yankees starter CC Sabathia, and if Sabathia can dominate the Tigers the way he did the Orioles, then maybe the Yankees could make this a little less of a disaster.
They aren’t duplicating the ’04 Sawx. Not happening. If they can avoid duplicating, say, the 1976 Yankees, though, and if Cano can stop his tribute to Dave “Mr. May” Winfield in the 1981 World Series, then the Yankees will have avoided one headache in an offseason that figures to be replete with plenty others.Follow @NYPostsports