Robinson Cano signs with the Mariners: Is this the end of an era?

Stephen Dunn

Robinson Cano is gone. Does this signal the end of an era?

Let's just get one thing out of the way first: I was wrong. I have been preaching all season that Robinson Cano would be a Yankee for life. I wrote articles about how the Yankees would overpay for him and give him more years than he's worth. I gave reasons like his marketability, how his talent could not be replaced from neither inside nor outside the organization, and many more. Here we are, though, watching as one of our best, homegrown superstars signs with the Seattle Mariners for ten years and $240 million. What does the mean for the future of the Yankees organization?

Perhaps the Yankees have finally learned their lesson about not handing out insane ten-year mega contracts. If so, that is both a good and a bad thing. It's good because matching the offer the Mariners gave him would probably hurt them in the future. It's a lot of years and a lot of money. We're seeing the impact that contract like that have both first hand with Alex Rodriguez and over in Anaheim with Albert Pujols. Logically speaking, it would be a blessing for the Yankees if A-Rod was suspended due to the fact that they wouldn't have to pay him. Even that short reprieve of his contract would benefit the offseason plans for the Yankees. That's the burden of these types of deals.

The bad thing about it is that it might signal the end of the Derek Jeter type players to wear pinstripes. The reason I thought that Robinson Cano would always be a New York Yankee is because he's been the best prospect to come out of their farm system since Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada. I love Brett Gardner like the unhealthy Yankee fan I am, but I'm well aware that he could be gone eventually. Brett Gardner is not Robinson Cano. Cano was their homegrown superstar and nine times out of ten they try and keep them and build a team around them, no matter the cost. The Yankees could have easily matched the Mariners' offer. Whether they should have or not, whether it was smart to let Cano go, is up for discussion. The point is that they didn't. These are not the Yankees I know, and I'm not quite sure how to feel about this.

I'm going to speak from the heart for a bit. One of my favorite things about the Yankees and about baseball is that I like that a team to have a homegrown superstar to root for. Could be a pitcher or a hitter. The Mariners have that with Felix Hernandez. The Mets have that with David Wright. The list goes on. The Yankees, for the longest time, have had that since I became a fan. It started with Don Mattingly, then transitioned to Bernie Williams, and now Brett Gardner. Many other fans have had that with Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and probably Robinson Cano. These players were not only among the elite at their position, but they were ours. Robinson Cano was ours. Now he is not. For me, losing Cano heralds the end of an era.

Perhaps it's time to move on in more ways than one. Obviously it's time to move on from Robinson Cano, because we have no choice. The Yankees have a team to finish building for 2014, and there are many holes that need to be filled. Second base is now one of them, unless Kelly Johnson is the Yankees' plan for that position. However, perhaps it's time for fans to move on from the hope that they will ever see something as incredible as what the Yankees did during the dynasty. I'm not talking about the World Series victories. As incredible as those World Series championship are to myself and all Yankee fans, that's not the thing I take away from the late 90's Yankees.

What I'm talking about the hope that the Yankees can bring up the nearly unheard of amount of excellent homegrown talent that they did and have them remain in pinstripes for as long as they did. Losing Andy Pettitte to the Astros hurt. Getting him back made me very happy. Derek Jeter still makes me smile when he swings that "Jeterian" swing of his. Even that brief moment of him coming off the DL this season and immediately hitting a home run made me feel young again and like everything was going to be alright. I won't even go into Mariano Rivera, because watching him hug Andy Pettitte on the mound brings up all the emotions every time I see it. The reason the "Core Four" narrative was always around is because it reminded fans of what the Yankees farm system could accomplish. It reminded fans that, unlike other teams out there, the Yankees could always afford to keep their superstar homegrown talent.

Now Robinson Cano is a Seattle Mariner. He is a reminder that baseball is a business. He serves as a lesson that sometimes the Yankees cannot keep every homegrown superstar they develop, whether it's smart or not to do so. The Yankees can use that money to sign other free agents out there to attempt to replace his offensive production. It's not the production I'll miss the most, no matter how sexy that swing of Cano's was. It's the illusion I'll miss. The illusion that one day we can have another group like the late 90's Yankees again. We still might one day. Today, though, that day seems too far and too long gone.

Good luck in Seattle, Cano.

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