Round 1 in the Yankees’ Teardown of Robinson Cano
Can it happen in football? No. If a player freelances, he’s ruining a specifically tailored gameplan and tactics that are designed for everyone to be working together with knowledge of the scheme.
Can it happen in basketball? There are players who can go one-on-one in certain circumstances and demand the ball at crunch time. But if the other players got up and walked off the floor, not even Michael Jordan could operate without the presence of his teammates.
Can it happen in hockey or soccer? No. Every success is, in some context, contingent on the group. Yes, the goalie or a great player can steal a game through sheer brilliance, but over the long-term the individual has to be secondary to the good of the group whether it’s Wayne Gretzky or Pelé as the team’s best player. No one can go it alone.
How about baseball?
Unlike any other team sport, baseball is an individual sport played within a team concept. At its heart, it’s batter vs. pitcher. Of course the team success of a player is contingent on his teammates, but the new statistics are taking a large portion of that away with a focus on what the players do as individuals with an accounting and proportionate assessment of all the factors that go into his achievements. For example, a player might have 145 RBI, but that largely hinges on the number of runners he has on base. A pitcher might win 18 games, but if he’s getting an outrageous amount of run support, has a shutdown bullpen or has a tremendous defense, it’s not worth as much as a pitcher who goes 15-14 with less help.
The dichotomy is that players are expected to “play for the team” while their lifeblood is based on playing for themselves. In many instances, there are players who are called “team players” because the only way they’re going to keep their jobs is by doing what the manager asks and contributing the little things like versatility, bunting, and stealing a base here and there. In other words, doing the dirty work.
Stars don’t have to do the dirty work.
That means if Don Kelly complains about not playing regularly or being asked to do things he’d prefer not to do, Kelly will be released. If Cano is unhappy, he will be negotiated with. One is expendable and the other isn’t.
So why is it stunning when players openly complain about their personal numbers when a large portion of their perception is still based on home runs, RBI and the baseline statistics that have made up the foundation of player judgment for 150 years?
It’s no shock that as he’s heading out the door, the Yankees, their fans, media members and apologists are bitterly telling Cano not to let the door hit him in the backside on the way out. In addition, they’re also screaming his faults as he drives away. The attributes that made him one of the most feared hitters in all of baseball are being counteracted by his negatives as he’s leaving to join the Mariners.