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Is Robinson Cano Establishing Himself as the Best 2B Ever?



By Mike Silva ~ October 6th, 2011. Filed under: New York Yankees.

Is Robinson Cano positioning himself to be the best second baseman in the history of baseball? It was a topic discussed yesterday on WFAN.

He certainly is the best second baseman in the game today. Three straight years of a .300+ batting average, two straight years of 100+ RBI, and a gold glove makes that an easy distinction. Perhaps the only one that comes as close is Dustin Pedroia. But all time? Those are lofty prognostications.

This kind of debate is when I use WAR to help me gain perspective and compare. According to Baseball-Reference Wins Above Replacement, Joe Morgan is the best second baseman of all-time as he compiled 103.5 wins throughout his 22 year career; that is 4.7 per season. Believe it or not, Lou Whitaker, not Roberto Alomar, is next with a 69.7 WAR. Alomar is third at 63.5, while Willie Randolph is fourth at 60.5.

To date, Cano has 28.7 WAR or 4.1 per season. That would put him short of Morgan even if he played another 15 seasons at this level (unlikely).

Forget the stats for a minute; is Cano the best second baseman ever? I think the nod has to go to Morgan who won 4 Gold Gloves and 2 MVPs playing for the Big Red Machine in the mid-seventies. Morgan walked 1865 times in his career versus 1015 strikeouts. His career high in walks was 1975 when he collected 132 free passes versus only 52 strikeouts. In his best seasons he was on base 45% of the time and greater. Cano doesn’t possess the kind of plate discipline to put together that type of season. I also think he would struggle if he were not in the powerful Yankees lineup. His process doesn’t match up to that of Morgan’s.

I believe Roberto Alomar, right now, is ahead of Cano as well. Nobody was better with the glove, and again, he was a better all-around hitter. Lou Whitaker is interesting since I didn’t expect to see him in the top 3, but he put together a nice display of power and defense that goes unnoticed, for whatever reason.

I definitely think the last two years has put Cano in the conversation with the aforementioned greats. I think Pedroia will also be discussed in the same vein if he continues at his current pace. Both are in their mid-twenties and need to continue this into their late prime to be seriously considered in the same breath as Morgan, Alomar, and Whitaker. Cano’s approach at the plate doesn’t lend itself to me believing he will sustain this type of success for as long as those great second baseman.

***

I think Yankees radio announcer John Sterling is one of the most polarizing members of the media. The NY Times did a rare behind the scenes look at the Yankees voice.

The picture they painted was very interesting as Sterling didn’t reveal his age (but it’s believed to be in his early 70s), talked about how he preferred to be just another disc jockey, and we found out he is divorced with relatively young children (age of 13 and under).

Sterling also doesn’t watch sports or use the internet. He prefers to read mystery novels and biographies on celebrities. Part of his aloofness towards new technology might be the criticism that is hurled at him from pundits (like me).

Personally, Sterling doesn’t bother me. I find him self-serving, but he comes across as someone that lacks such care and awareness of what he is doing that I can’t get angry with him. Michael Kay, on the other hand, is just goofy and comes across as a footie pajama wearing fan boy who knows exactly what he is doing, but thinks you are fooled. Sterling comes across as a Yankees-fan, while Kay comes across as a paid Yankees-shill. There is a difference.

Sterling has teamed up with Suzyn Waldman since 2005. Bob Raissman of the Daily News calls them “Ma and Pa Kettle.” The Yankees are negotiating with various outlets since their WCBS 880 agreement is coming to an end. They have the power to keep Sterling in the booth regardless of who has the rights to their radio broadcast.

Has the malapropos and inaccuracies wore thin on Yankees management? It doesn’t sound like it from reading the piece. When I asked Yankees fans to vote on Sterling’s Q-Rating  earlier this year it was surprisingly negative, as 53% did not view Sterling favorably.

I, for one, would miss Sterling if his tenure is coming to an end. If you are going to make a change it probably should be with Waldman, as I don’t think Sterling’s partner really matters since he is the star of the broadcast.

***

I find it hard to see the Tigers pulling out a victory in tonight’s decisive Game 5 of the ALDS. First, I am going to put my money on Ivan Nova, who has shown a big game persona this year. The Yankees also debunked the mystique of Doug Fister in Game 1, as he didn’t look anywhere near the pitcher that posted a 1.79 ERA after the July 31st trade from Seattle.

It probably will be a close game, and even if the Tigers do lead late, I am not sure Jose Valverde can close it out. He’s been shaky during his two previous appearances and just escaped. Fifty-one consecutive saves this year calls for the law of averages to come into play. I think the Yanks win a tight game 4-2 or 5-3, and worst case scenario is a come-from-behind victory in the ninth with Valverde on the mound.

The only reason I predicted Detroit to win this series in five was because Justin Verlander was slated to pitch tonight. Due to the Friday night rainout things changed, and the inability of Jim Leyland to be able to pitch Verlander tonight swings the odds heavily in the Yankees favor.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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9 Responses to Is Robinson Cano Establishing Himself as the Best 2B Ever?

  1. Frank Russo

    According to his Wikipedia Article, Sterling was born on July 4, Circa 1948, which would make him 63 years old.

  2. B.E. Earl

    Mike,

    I find it interesting when folks say things like “He certainly is the best second baseman in the game today” when talking about Robinson Cano. That’s it’s “an easy distinction.”

    Is it? Consider the average stats of Cano, Pedroia and Ian Kinsler for the past 5 years (2007-2011):

    Age G R RBI AVG OBP SLG OPS+ rWAR fWAR
    Cano 28 160 95 96 .304 .349 .498 119 22.8 21.5
    Pedroia 27 139 95 67 .309 .377 .469 120 24.1 26.7
    Kinsler 29 131 99 68 .273 .357 .471 115 23.4 23.3

    I’m not seeing a whole lot of distinction there. Cano gets points for being healthier. Both Pedroia and Kinsler were hurt often in 2010. And Cano’s RBI totals are impressive, but they are also skewed by his position in the batting order compared to the other two guys. Oh, and Pedroia has a GG to his name and an MVP as well. Advanced defensive metrics love Pedroia, so he may get another GG this year. Kinsler is highly underrated.

    Cano MAY be the best second baseman in baseball today. But it isn’t a certainty. Those other two guys are CERTAINLY in the conversation. Don’t ya think?

  3. B.E. Earl

    To be fair, you did say “I think Pedroia will also be discussed in the same vein if he continues at his current pace.”

    And I agree, both have a ways to go before approaching Joe Morgan levels.

  4. Ralph C

    I am a Sterling fan. He does get carried away at times but I find him entertaining. He seems to enjoy what he does and has never missed a game since becoming a Yankee announcer. To me, baseball is supposed to be fun and Sterling’s calls add to the excitment. I do think being on radio helps Sterling as a majority of radio listeners are not watching on tv and therefore don’t know he is blowing calls.
    I hate Michael Kay though-he frequently blows calls (he is on tv, so this makes him look even worse) and half the time is talking to his analysts about irrelevant things (i.e. his radio show, ice cream, etc) instead of watching the game.

  5. Chuck

    Sterling’s the worst announcer in like, ever.

    Worst thing about living in AZ is I can’t listen to Yankee games.

    Best thing about living in AZ is I don’t have to listen to Sterling.

    Can we wait til Cano’s played 15 years before considering him best of anything, please?

    The guy needs to play five or six more years just to get on the HOF ballot, let’s deal with that conversation first.

  6. Anthony Brunetti

    I like Sterling but I am not a big fan of Waldman. I love Kay, why does it seem like so many people despise him?

  7. Frank Russo

    Anthony,

    I love both Kay and Sterling. I think when Sterling and Kay were together in the radio booth they were the best. Waldman I am not a fan of.

  8. Chuck

    I get Yankee broadcasts occassionally on satellite or on MLBNetwork and I actually like Kay.

  9. NYM

    LOL what? Last yr he had an incredible yr. This year he put up a 129 OPS+. Good but not the most amazing of all time by any means. He still only has a career OPS+ of 119. He needs a lot more years like 2010 to enter into any kind of “best of all time” conversation.

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