Robinson Cano Needs to Become the Leader of the New York Yankees

Paul Francis Sullivan@@sullybaseballChief Writer IOctober 14, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 13:  Robinson Cano #24 of the New York Yankees looks on after he hit into the final out of the bottom of the second inning against the Detroit Tigers during Game One of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium on October 13, 2012 in the Bronx borough of New York City, New York.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

The moment that will forever define Game 1 of the 2012 ALCS was filled with agonizing symbolism. Derek Jeter, the captain of the New York Yankees, was going all out to stop a Jhonny Peralta ground ball from going into center field and hold the Detroit Tigers to a single run in the top of of the 12th.

He managed to stop the ball, but in the process, he fractured his ankle. He visibly screamed, much to the horror of Yankee fans who already endured the loss of Mariano Rivera earlier in the season.

But instead of simply collapsing on the ground, he tossed the ball to second baseman Robinson Cano. Even as his season was ending, he was concentrating on the out.

That needs to rub off on Cano and it needs to happen fast. As in sometime between now and Sunday afternoon when the Yankees play again.

The Yankees need to evolve into a new decade. The leadership and pulse of the team still harkens to the glory days of the 1990s and early 200s, but the pages must turn for some of the homegrown legends.

Only Pettitte and Jeter remain from those days. With Pettitte pitching Game 1 and Jeter out, there is a strong chance that they have both played their last games of the year.

But despite the glum feelings around the Bronx and the knowledge that the Tigers were able to take away home-field advantage before throwing Verlander, the series is not over.

The Yankees can still prevail in the series if they start winning. And the team needs to turn to Robinson Cano for leadership.

Cano needs to lead on the field and in the batter's box. He needs be the one getting the big hits but also making the smart plays.  He cannot be concerned with jawing with the umpires. That's not the job of a leader, or in Jeter's case, a captain. 

This will never be Alex Rodriguez's team. And the fans have turned on Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson.

Even if Jeter comes back, he will never be the regular shortstop he once was. This is now Robinson Cano's team. And the first task he has is to produce on the field and lead the Yankees to a victory in Game 2 of the ALCS.

Jeter would note that you need to take it one game at a time.

If the Yankees win tomorrow and  win Sabathia's start in Game 4, then even with a Verlander Game 3 victory, the series could be tied after four.

It is possible, even with the captain down. He tossed the ball to Cano. The captain was, in a way, saying "you have a job to do. Now do it."