For about three years now, slugging second baseman Robinson Cano has been the best overall player for one of Major League Baseball's top teams. However, he has never quite been the exact center of a team before this 2013 World Baseball Classic experience. Sure, he's been better than any other Yankee, but when the average fan thinks of the New York Yankees, he or she probably still thinks of Derek Jeter before anyone else. It's not a criticism on Cano's ability; the Yankees' immediate connection with Jeter will simply be unavoidable until the Captain finally hangs up the spikes. He's been the golden boy of the franchise for a good 17 years now anyway.
This time around though, Cano was the unquestioned center of the favored powerhouse Dominican Republic team in the WBC. While it was only for a couple weeks, Robbie put on a hell of a show for the international fans while directly under the spotlight. In eight games combined against Venezuela, Spain, Italy, the United States, the Netherlands, and Puerto Rico, the Dominicans ran the table for the first undefeated mark in the three-year history of the WBC. Cano was named Pool C MVP for the first round, Pool 2 MVP for the second round, and he capped it with an overall WBC MVP upon the final out Tuesday night, a strikeout of Luis Figueroa by Rays closer Fernando "Plantains are now my thing" Rodney.
In those eight games, Cano hit a staggering .469/.514/.781 with four doubles and two homers making up part of his WBC-record 15 hits. That triple slash includes a hitless finale in the victory over Puerto Rico. By then, Cano was such a dangerous threat that Puerto Rican manager Edwin Rodriguez elected to intentionally walk him with one out and a runner on third... in a scoreless tie... in the first inning... in front of Blue Jays masher Edwin Encarnacion, who hit 42 homers last year.
I'm glad for Cano, but I'm even happier that he made it through the tournament injury-free and can now go back to doing his ridiculousness for the Bronx Bombers. They desperately need his offense to continue in the early goings with skilled hitters Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, and Alex Rodriguez all missing from their regular lineup. Be "Bobby Beisbol." If that's not a nickname by now, it should be.
The Yankees are going to have to either pay the man big or take a heavy loss in production very soon. Pay the man.
Cano's WBC Highlights
Game 1 vs. Venezuela (3-for-5, 2 2B, 3 RBI): Slick glove-flip double play turned with D.R. shortstop Jose Reyes
Game 1 vs. Venezuela: First inning two-run double portends WBC performance to come
Game 2 vs. Spain (3-for-5, 2B, RBI): RBI single makes score 3-0 in third inning
Game 3 vs. Puerto Rico (3-for-5, HR, RBI): First homer of tournament ties game up in the fifth
Game 4 vs. Italy (3-for-4, HR, RBI): Monster homer off second deck at Marlins Park
Game 5 vs. U.S.: 1-for-4, no highlights on MLB.com
Game 6 vs. Puerto Rico: 1-for-4, no highlights on MLB.com
Game 7 vs. Netherlands: 1-for-2, 2 IBB, no highlights on MLB.com
Game 8 vs. Puerto Rico (0-for-3, IBB): Team D.R.'s final out and celebration