9:51 am May. 11, 2012
Things seem to be getting back to normal for the New York Yankees.
Thursday night, Robinson Cano's two-run homer provided the margin of victory in a 5-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.
After the game, the focus was on Rafael Soriano closing, and the dominant performance of CC Sabathia.
So it has been with the New York Yankees for years now: Cano arguably the most important player, headlines for others.
Since Cano broke into the league, seven years ago last week, he has been the second most valuable Yankee, worth just under 27 wins above replacement level, trailing only Alex Rodriguez. He's just ahead of Derek Jeter over that span, and miles ahead of anyone else.
But since the Yankees moved into their new home in 2009, this has arguably been Cano's team. From Opening Day 2009 to the present, Cano accumulated nearly 18 wins above replacement in value, by far the highest total among hitters on the Yankees. Brett Gardner, surprisingly, is second, Rodriguez third, Mark Teixeira fourth, Jeter fifth.
But if this has secretly been Cano's team for several years, it is likely to become more obviously his going forward. After all, Cano is 29; Jeter turns 38 in June, Rodriguez turns 37 in July. Accordingly, Cano's .375/.394/.625 run over the past eight games is the most welcome sign yet for a New York team that, at present, finds itself in fourth place in the American League East.
It is an unlikely luxury Cano has enjoyed, a pair of high-profile teammates in Jeter and Rodriguez shielding him from the spotlight that comes with being the primary focus of America's most famous team. But as much as anyone else, Cano will help determine exactly how good the New York offense will be in 2012.
Cano's durablity is tremendous, illustrated by the fact that he has played between 159 and 161 games each season since 2007. And value at second base has been matched only by Boston's Dustin Pedroia since 2009. The team is in very good hands.