By Shannon Drayer
OAKLAND, Calif. – Apparently once you leave the Yankees you are no longer under the protection of the Yankees from the Yankees. I am sure most of you have read this by now but in his new book “Closer”, former Yankees closer Mariano Rivera writes that if he had to win one game and could choose his own team, Dustin Pedroia and not former teammate Robinson Cano would be his second baseman.
“I don’t think Robby burns to be the best,” Rivera writes. “You don’t see that red-hot passion in him that you see in most elite players.”
Rivera is certainly entitled to his opinion and no doubt he knows Cano as a teammate better than most. I would argue that the red-hot passion he talks about is something that is impossible to measure and perhaps sometimes even to see. I think some in baseball would say that a lot of what is visible is often just eyewash. I’m not saying that is the case with Pedroia, just that sometimes what you see from the other side isn’t the entire picture.
Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon is not about to make such assessments.
“I don’t know what Robinson Cano is feeling inside just like you don’t know what I am feeling inside,” he said after he told the assembled media that he felt both proud and blessed to manage a player of Cano’s character and ability. “It is impossible for me to justify or answer that. All I can tell you is, check the book. He plays 160, 162 games a year. I think that is pretty good passion.”
Cano spoke briefly with the media but refused to give his feelings on the matter or give it further life.
“I’m with this team, I’m here, we are winning and that is about it,” he said at his locker. “I was there already, now I am here, now I am focused on this team. I don’t want to be a distraction for my teammates. I’m just looking forward to tonight’s game.”
It is hard to believe that Rivera’s words would not sting on some level. Cano chose to let them stand, however.
“If that’s how Mariano feels, I respect that,” he said. “I am always going to have respect for him, the guy that I spent nine years with. Him for me is going to be the best closer, that’s how I feel.”
As Cano said he is now here and perhaps what we are seeing from him here with the Mariners is different from what they saw in New York. With the Yankees, Cano was always the younger player. It was not his job or place to lead in a clubhouse that had Derek Jeter and Rivera in it. Despite this I was told when we were in New York last week that Cano still took it upon himself to be a leader with the younger Latin players. I was also told that no one worked harder before games at hitting. We have certainly seen that here.
I don’t see anything to be concerned about in Rivera’s comments. They are his observations from a different time. Cano has jumped in with both feet here and has been anything but the lead-by-example guy. He leads. He grabs guys and takes them to the cages with him. He speaks up when necessary. He takes young players out to dinner. If that isn’t showing a burning desire to win I don’t know what is.
What Cano has been doing since the day he got here was try to make not only himself better but the team around him better as well. The only way he is going to win is if these guys get better and he certainly he is doing his part and then some to help them get there.
Michael Saunders, 9
James Jones, 8
Robinson Cano, 4
Corey Hart, DH
Justin Smoak, 3
Kyle Seager, 5
Dustin Ackley, 7
Mike Zunino, 2
Brad Miller, 6
Lineup notes: Yes, Stefen Romero has been hitting well the past week but there is a righty on the hill and McClendon would like to get James Jones into the lineup so there he is, hitting second and playing center.
The Mariners are averaging 5.5 runs per game over the last 10 games and are 12 for their last 29 (.414) with runners in scoring position.
• Felix Hernandez will start the first game of the double-header Wednesday and while he has yet to be officially announced as the starter, as expected, Erasmo Ramirez is here in Oakland. The A’s and Mariners are allowed to add a 26th player for the double-header so no roster move will need to be made.
• The A’s have yet to announce their second starter but unless he is needed in long relief Tuesday, Drew Pomeranz will most likely get the start.