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Robinson Cano: How Wearing Pinstripes Can Hurt An MVP Season

-- See SB Nation's Pinstripe Alley for more coverage

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In the past three seasons, New York Yankee second baseman Robinson Cano has been labeled every Bronx Bomber cliche known to sports fans.

First, Cano was an overrated, pinstripe-wearing prospect who was never going to live up to the New York hype after posting "disappointing" numbers -- .279 batting average, 14 home runs, 72 RBI and just 70 runs scored -- in what was supposed to be a breakout 2008 season.

Second, Cano was called just another overpaid Yankee who didn't care about the game after signing a four-year contract, which included $30 million guaranteed, in the 2009 offseason. He also seemed to play with a nonchalant swagger that critics picked apart -- even though he hit .320, 25 homers, 85 RBI and scored a career-high 103 runs last season.

Currently, Cano has reached such a high level of play he's now just another Yankee putting up inflated numbers -- personal highs in RBI, home runs, runs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, plate appearances (681). Because of his employer's uniform, which stereotypically produces potent offenses, Cano is being lumped among the American League's best sluggers.

2010 - Robinson Cano 160 626 103 200 41 3 29 109 57 77 3 2 .319 .381


At first glance this makes sense because Cano's sweet-swinging bat was the power when Alex Rodriguez was injured. Then upon Rodriguez's return, Cano protected the third baseman and first baseman Mark Teixeira by hitting fifth in the Yankees' order.

However, some forget Cano has played 158 games at second base and only two as a designated hitter. That means day in and day out Cano's bat, ridiculous glove and throwing arm -- which should win a Gold Glove -- has been stellar while playing one of the game's most demanding positions, which in the last decade has had only nine players who've hit 29 homers and 100-plus RBI in a season.

Did I mention his Roberto Alomar-like glove that is in the field everyday?

Unfortunately, Cano's current stereotype as a Yankee and displacement among AL sluggers could cost him the American League MVP.

Why? Well, because Cano is doing what a Yankee batting in the middle of the lineup should do.

Yes, despite putting up similar numbers to 2007 National League MVP winner, Philadelphia Phillies' shortstop Jimmy Rollins -- .296 average, 30 HRs, 94 RBI, .344 OBP, .531 SLUG -- Cano is probably going to fall short of the AL's most prestigious award because, well, he is supposed to do what he's doing.

However, the coaches, players, fans, experts and followers who watch the Yankees on a consistent basis know different. 

"He is (the MVP) for me, because of the combination of what you're putting together," Yankee manger Joe Girardi told writer Bryan Hoch. "You're putting together an outstanding offensive candidate with a Gold Glove second baseman. There might be guys that have better offensive number than him, but I don't think they bring that same defense that he does. He is a complete, complete player. He is excellent on both sides of the ball."

Because of Cano's MVP-like play, Rodriguez has hit 30 homers and collected 125 RBI in just 137 games and thinks it's a lot in part to No. 24.

"He's slowly but surely become one of the elite players in our league," Rodriguez told Hoch. "Everyone talks about hitting, but what he's doing power-wise in big situations and defensively, there's no question he's the best second baseman in baseball."

However, standing in Cano's way is a great story in Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton.

Hamilton has put up impressive numbers despite missing almost all of September with two fractured ribs. His bat has helped the Rangers to its first AL West title since 1999 -- an honor the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim had five of the last six seasons. And of course, let's not forget Hamilton's inspiring comeback story.

2010 - Josh Hamilton 132 514 95 185 40 3 32 100 43 95 8 1 .360 .412 .636

Yes, Hamilton has been good, really good. And for those writers or experts who have a slight bias against the Yankees, Hamilton is an easy MVP vote because he's a solid alternative. Heck, I am not even going to argue against voting for Hamilton.

The problem is, if Cano played for the Minnesota Twins or -- cough, cough -- the Rangers he'd instantly become a front runner for the MVP. 

However, he's wearing pinstripes so what he's doing isn't special. It's expected.  

Welcome to another label, Robby: Being Derek Jeter -- a superstar who will probably will never win an MVP because he's a Yankee.