I'm starting to think Robinson Cano is doing a little more than testing out his pinkie toe. For those of you who don't know, that was the rationale given for why Cano sought—and then received—permission from the Mariners to play with his hometown Estrellas Orientales is the Dominican Winter League.
"Robinson approached us about playing games in the Dominican Winter League and we have granted him permission to play in a limited amount of games," Zduriencik said. "Robinson has reported to us his broken right pinkie toe is fully healed and he wants to get on a baseball field to test it before reporting for Spring Training. We look forward to Robinson reporting to Peoria in a little over a month ready to go for the 2015 season."
While I'm sure that's a big part of the reason, there is more to it. As noted, Cano is playing for his hometown Estrellas Orientales. Founed in 1910, the club has only won two titles, in 1954 and 1968. So while Cano made his mark on the game of baseball as a New York Yankee, arguably the most prestigious and successful franchise in American sports history—in his native Dominican Republic, he is a Chicago Cub.
The Cubs, most recently, had Bartman—but Estrellas has Cano. And here's what Cano did in the league's semifinals.
ROBINSON CANO UPDATE: 4 for 4 H3 H2 tonight. 6 for 11 (.545) 2 H2, H3, 4 Rbis, run in 3 games in #Lidom #Estrellas @LosMarineros @Mariners— Enrique Rojas/ESPN (@Enrique_Rojas1) January 16, 2015
Estrellas Orientales, as you can tell from the title of this post, is moving on. And they're excited about it.
Esto es de locura en San Pedro... pic.twitter.com/bqIwD0I68U— EOBASEBALLCLUB (@EOBASEBALLCLUB) January 16, 2015
Remember this idiot?
Yes. That's a (awful) Yankee (in Anaheim) fan complaining that it's all about the money with Robinson Cano. pic.twitter.com/UZ0nTfXXtW— Jimmy Traina (@JimmyTraina) April 1, 2014
Yeah, look at that top image again and tell me Robinson Cano plays the game for money and money alone. Or that he's lazy, and doesn't have the heart of a Jeter or Pedroia or whatever other player fits more neatly into the grit-covered "he does it the right way" box sportswriters constantly put them in.
This means a lot to Cano, because Cano means a lot to his hometown and its team. To see, take a gander at some of the videos Cano put up last night on his Instagram page. Here's one:
Cano is a hero in the Dominican Republic, and even more-so in his hometown of San Pedro de Macorís. This is a video I highlighted way back when he first signed, but for those who haven't seen it, take a look at this trailer for a 21-minute documentary from Jay Z's Life+Times, titled 'WHERE I'M FROM':
The full documentary is worth watching as well. If you're looking for more, there's a four-part series from YES Network on how he normally spends his time in the Dominican during the offseason.
I realize I'm getting a little carried away here. But all I aim to illustrate is that we as Mariners fans are bound to look at this, mostly, from one limited angle: this is an opportunity for Robinson Cano to get hurt. So far this offseason, he's 1-for-1 on such opportunities. And while some will question the Mariners even granting him permission, know that team's can't actually say where players can and can't play in the offseason. I doubt Cano would play if the Mariners strongly opposed this, but if he was hellbent on playing, it wouldn't be worth it for the Mariners to try to strong-arm him away from doing so.
And after all, this is why there are sports. Stories like this are why we play games and cheer for teams and devote so much time, energy and emotion to baseball. The $240 million contracts help, but as you can see from the look on his face as he's chased across the field by his teammates, there are some things in life worth more than that.
So go win a title, Robbie. Pop champagne, smoke cigars and have a big-ass parade. But please stay healthy, because we'd like to do that here too.