Robinson Cano put on quite the performance en route to winning the Home Run Derby last night over Adrian Gonzalez.
For years baseball analysts across the country have being saying that Cano has all the tools to be one of the game’s best players. Last season, Cano took great a few strides towards that reality as he finished third in the AL MVP Race.
In spite of the spectacular season Cano had last year, as well as the strong first half he put together this season, Cano seems to have been lost in the shuffle when it comes to mainstream success, he has been seen as a star for a few years now, but never viewed as a superstar.
All that may have changed with 32 swings of a bat.
The Home Run Derby is no longer the spectacle it once was, as the game’s best sluggers often decline the invite in fear of the lingering effects it may have on their swing. However, last night was Cano’s first chance to stand alone in front of mainstream audience.
Yes, Cano does play for the Yankees, and of course they are featured on TV more than any other baseball team. However, with guys like Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeria and Mariano Rivera on the same team, it’s tough to stand out, even if you are arguably the best player on your team.
Even at his own position, guys like Dustin Pedoria and Chase Utley have received more mainstream notoriety than Cano.
Last night Cano finally had his chance in the spotlight, and he did not disappoint.
The entire country got to see the sweet swing that makes scouts and analysts drool over Cano’s potential to win several batting titles, He effortlessly hit the longest homeruns of the night, and only got stronger as the night progressed. Cano hit eight home runs in the first round, 12 in the second round, and an incredible 12 more in the final round.
Also, Cano displayed the kind of power that the majority of baseball fans were unaware he possessed. With sluggers such as David Ortiz and Prince Fielder in the competition it was easy for Cano, a second baseman, to get cast aside. Not only did Cano win the competition, he hit the furthest home runs of the night.
In fact, only three of Cano’s home runs failed to go at least 425 feet.
Aside from his impressive display of power, Cano brought a genuine enthusiasm to the competition. He said repeatedly in interviews that he was only looking to have fun, and took the same approach he did when taking batting practice during a typical session in May. The look of excitement and joy when he hit that final home run was the kind of reason we all watch baseball.
In an age when many players skip the All-Star Game entirely, how refreshing was it for a player to not only compete in the festivities, but also genuinely have a good time while doing so?
Lastly, Cano brought some extra excitement to the event when he announced that his father, Jose, would be his pitcher. Jose was a former Major Leaguer in his own right, and Robinson did not want to disappoint his father. The image of the proud father embracing and celebrating his son’s victory is something that will live on in Home Run Derby lure forever.
The Home Run Derby has served as a launching pad for several players to go from stars to superstars. We saw it with David Wright in 2006, Josh Hamilton in 2008 and Prince Fielder in 2009, so why can’t Robinson Cano finally break through the glass ceiling and become a household name in 2011?