12/6/2013 11:17 A.M. ET
A View From Studio 3: Cano missing 'it' factor
Slugger among game's best players but he doesn't stir much passion from fans
By Matt Yallof / MLB.com
Robinson Cano is a great baseball player, maybe the best baseball player in the world right now.
If you polled players, fans and media members, many of them would tell you he ranks No. 1. That's why he was offered a contract north of $200 million.
Even in today's game, where average players make about $8 million a year, a $200 million deal is reserved for the elite. It happens only when you're on track to join the immortals in Cooperstown.
As we watch the latest mega deal unfold involving a star on the most recognizable and successful team in MLB history, it appears the story has everything to make it sexy and memorable. The kind of story you read and re-read as to not miss any juicy details.
You have a Yankee, a hip-hop mogul turned agent, private planes shooting back and forth across the country with nearly a quarter of a billion dollars at stake.
But look closer.
Where's the outcry from Yankees fans? There's very little kicking and screaming; barely any begging of management to produce a blank check to keep one of their own in pinstripes. It feels like you're watching a good movie that miscast the part of the leading man. If it was the right leading man, this would be a great movie.
There are a few theories on why Cano's possible departure is more about dollars and cents and less about losing the player/person -- and the emotional toll that will follow.
As gifted as he is, Cano is a player who is very tough to identify for a large segment of fans.
We love our athletes to play hard all the time. Cano doesn't "appear" to do that. We love our athletes to get dirty. On many occasions, he doesn't need to go head-first into the dirt to make a play. He's that smooth.
We love our athletes to give us a great soundbite. If you're looking for Cano to provide that, you'll be disappointed.
We love our stars to be leaders of men. Sorry, this just doesn't seem to be Cano's M.O.
In the nine seasons Cano has starred in New York, he has awed us with superhuman baseball abilities. But he's never been the face of the team. He's never the spokesperson for the team, and he's never had the "it" factor that makes an All-Star irreplaceable.
Think about the appeal of some of the great players or great winners we've seen in the last quarter century.
Cal Ripken, Jr. was the "Ironman" whose efforts were mythical, Ken Griffey Jr. was the "Kid" who, in his early years, played with reckless abandon. Derek Jeter is "The Captain" and the ultimate leader. Dustin Pedroia is a "dirt ball" who would eat glass to win a game.
Mention Cano's name in a baseball crowd and his perceived lack of hustle will be a topic of conversation, along with his insane skills. Fair or unfair, it's reality.
I could go on, but you get it.
You could make the case Cano is a victim of poor timing when it comes to growing his legend in New York. As the Alex Rodriguez suspension saga continues, it's a constant reminder that putting $250 million in one basket is a risky proposition. It can hamstring an organization for years. Even for the Yankees who seem to print money in their basement.
Although Cano has never been linked to anything illegal, he's linked to Rodriguez due to team logo and desired contract size.
I recently questioned Cano's leadership abilities. Why isn't he more outspoken, or more of a go-to guy internally? I received a response from a highly respected veteran Yankees reporter. He said that with Jeter on the club, Cano was never "allowed" to become the leader. This was and still is Jeter's team.
But as Jeter's career winds down, Cano had the chance to make it his. But with him apparently heading to Seattle, that's not going to happen.
Matt Yallof is the co-host of The Rundown on MLB Network from 2-4 p.m. ET. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.