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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

What would Jackie Robinson do about Robinson Cano?

The simple answer is that Jackie Robinson would impose his 1940s attitudes and experiences on Robinson Cano.  "Old school", "tough love", blah, blah, blah.

Circa 1951
By Fawcett Publications
via Wikimedia Commons
Jackie would be appalled at any athlete dogging it, especially a black athlete, especially a black athlete as talented as Robinson Cano, who, to make matters worse, was named after Jackie Robinson, the man who broke the color line in 1947 and became the first black major league player in modern times.

Jackie would be appalled at the overall behavior of athletes today.  Football and basketball players seem worse than baseball players.  Jack was an educated gentleman who conducted himself with dignity.

But that's mixing someone from more than 60 years ago with current players.

How would it work if we used a time machine?

Option one: send Robinson Cano back to 1950:

It's Jackie's fourth year with the Brooklyn Dodgers.  In 1947 Jackie was National League (NL) Rookie of the Year and the Dodgers almost won the World Series, losing to the Yankees in seven games.  In 1949 Jackie was NL MVP; Dodgers lost WS to Yanks in five.

Jackie had been managed by Burt Shotton in 1947, then Leo Durocher starting 1948 for the first 72 games (35-37), then back to Burt Shotton to finish 1948 (48-33).  Shotton managed the Dodgers through 1950 when Jackie is long past his first year commitment to general manager Branch Rickey that he would not fight back.  Jackie is aggressive with opponents and teammates alike.  He is fiercely competitive.  In 1950 the Dodgers would finish second (89-65), two games behind Philadelphia.  By 1950 28 year old Roy Campanella was the starting catcher, 24 year old Don Newcombe was the number one starting pitcher and 31 year old Jackie Robinson is the reigning MVP and starting second baseman.  Enter rookie Robinson Cano.

It's difficult to imagine that Cano would enter that environment with his bad habit of dogging it to first base as he did frequently with the Yankees 2005-2013.  If he somehow did manage to reach spring training and exhibited such behavior Jackie would have come down on him like a ton of bricks.  Cano would be messing with their World Series shares, which comprised a large portion of their total compensation.  Cano would have been the apprentice and treated as such.

Option two: send Jackie Robinson to 2014:

New Seattle Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon is already doing back flips to accommodate his new $240 million man.  First McClendon was fiercely defending Cano against statements of dogging it by Cano's former Yankee hitting coach, Kevin Long.  Then McClendon was equivocating and making excuses for anticipated bad behavior by Cano.

So what would Jackie be like in 2014?

As a player Jackie would be much more assertive than Yankee captain Derek Jeter.  Jeter was named team captain June 3, 2003, 23 days before his 29th birthday, by late owner George Steinbrenner who promoted Jeter in an attempt to inspire his team, which had only a one game lead.  Over the many years that Jeter has held that title he's done little with it.  Yankee coach Kevin Long suggested that he thought Jeter had spoken to Cano about Cano dogging it but it is still unclear what, if anything, Jeter did other than lead by example and always hustle.  If Jeter did little with Cano, then when did he exert his captaincy?

If Jackie were Mariners team captain or a leader of the Mariners, he would probably launch a preemptive strike against Cano because of Cano's reputation and set him straight.  The first time Cano dogged it, I'd expect a confrontation with Jackie. Some things transcend generations.

Suppose that Jackie was the Mariners manager and here comes Mr. Moneybags with the dog rep.  I'm guessing that Jackie would be somewhat more tempered than he would have been back in his day.  That's what's conflicting McClendon.  He'd probably like to lay down the law and exert his authority but the ten year deal that his bosses have just given Cano makes any such position untenable.  The Mariners cannot fire Cano even if they eventually want to.

Probably Jackie Robinson would not be dealing with Robinson Cano at all.  Jackie would be doing something more substantive than managing a baseball team.  But I'm guessing that Jackie would probably like Cano, who other than the occasional dog act, conducts himself well and has an engaging personality.  See recent related posts:

Robinson Cano: should he be suspended for not hustling? Isn't that cheating?  Saturday, February 22, 2014

What's in a name: Robinson, Willie, Rosey, Mickey?  Monday, February 24, 2014


pol poi said...

I cannot recall any Yankees capitan using his 'capitancy' to exert influence on a team mate. From Gehrig to Munson to Nettles to Guidry to Randolph to Mattingly to Jeter. What is the point here?

pol poi said...

This article makes no sense. Since when did any yankees player "exert his capitancy" on a fellow player. From Gehrig to Munson to Nettles to Guidry to Randolph to Mattingly and now Jeter, they all led by example..Please spare us the misleading prose.

Kenneth Matinale said...

I cannot imagine any of those former captains not speaking to Cano about his dogging it to first, although Nettles sometimes did it himself but not as often or as blatantly as Cano.

My point was obvious: a leader should lead, sometimes by more than example. Sometimes by confrontation, which does need to be nasty but must be firm.