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When Robinson Cano hit his second home run in last night’s game, I sent out a sarcastic tweet about his success being tied to the fact that long time buddy Melky Cabrera was no longer on the team to distract him. Much to my chagrin, a number of people responded by taking my statement literally, and agreed that the absence of Melky was at least part of the reason for Cano’s amazing start. Quite frankly, I think that this is a bit ridiculous, for a variety of reasons.
Most notably, this sort of performance is nothing new for Cano, as he had a similarly hot April in 2009. Robbie hit .366/.400/.581 in last season’s first month, notching 5 home runs and knocking in 16. While his 2010 April has been better than that, the difference is certainly not stark enough to conclude that we are looking at an entirely reborn or more focussed player. I would like to see him sustain his great performance for more than a few weeks (obviously he will not be THIS good all year, but I’d like to see him show improvement over 2009) before I declare that he has taken the next step in his development.
However, even if he does sustain that performance, I still would not link the change to Melky’s departure. Robbie Cano is 27 years old, and is just entering what should be the prime of his career. It is only natural that he would take a step forward this year, simply because he is at the stage of his career where great young talents turn into stars. It is not necessary to impose a ridiculous narrative about Melky and distractions onto these events when a much simpler explanation exists.
Quite frankly, I cannot fathom where this storyline came from in the first place. Cano and Melky were close both on and off the field, but plenty of players have close friends and enjoy the city nightlife. As I recall, Derek Jeter was an avid club-hopper, and even did a commercial with George Steinbrenner that touched on that subject. Cano had one season where he struggled during day games, and suddenly fans were convinced that it was because he was staying up late the nights before games, partying with Melky. This narrative never disappeared, despite evidence that Cano was in fact a very hard worker who tirelessly attempted to hone his craft. Now that Melky is gone and Cano is mashing, the narrative is simply reinforced, despite little evidence to suggest that the two things are related. Cano is not red hot because his distracting buddy is gone. Rather, it is because he is a 27 year old with amazing talent just entering the prime of his career.