Joe Girardi has positive feelings upon Robinson Cano's returnYankees manager Joe Girardi is happy to see Robinson Cano back in the Bronx
"I'll say hi to Robinson, of course. Robbie meant a great deal to us, and we loved having him," Girardi said. "He was fun to watch play on a daily basis, and it was easy to put his name in the lineup every day."
For the first time since he signed a 10-year, $240 million deal with Seattle in the offseason, Cano is back in the Bronx, the No. 3 hitter for a 10-14 Mariners team and not the first-place Yankees.
It's a stark change after Cano spent his first nine years following in the footsteps of players ranging from Tony Lazzeri and Joe Gordon to Jerry Coleman and Bobby Richardson to Willie Randolph and Chuck Knoblauch - but it's one that Girardi had to expect, even if he hoped he wouldn't have to see it.
"I knew he would be pretty sought after, and there would be clubs that would make some long-term offers," Girardi said of Cano's free agency. "I've said it before though - I always thought Albert Pujols would be a Cardinal, and it didn't happen. There are certain guys that you envision will play in a certain spot their whole career, but most of the time, it doesn't happen. That's part of the game, and you understand that."
Cano had said that he felt the Yankees didn't show him "respect" throughout the whole scenario, with their highest offer of seven years and $175 million almost a slight - but the skipper didn't see it that way.
"I think sometimes during negotiations, players can get passionate and heated and want certain things to happen," Girardi said. "I think $175 million is a lot of money over seven years, and I think we've always respected Robbie Cano and his talents and always will."
Those talents make Cano perhaps the best second baseman in Major League Baseball, a luxury to have at a position where offense isn't a premium. The Yankees have had some very good offensive second basemen over the years, but even Girardi acknowledged that Cano is the best of the bunch.
"Chuck Knoblauch was a good offensive player, and so was Mariano Duncan, but they weren't Robbie Cano; he's almost in a league of his own when it comes to offense from second basemen," Girardi said.
That, too, was a bit of a stark change, if a pleasant one, for a player who wasn't necessarily a highly-touted prospect, but Girardi said it was fun to watch Cano grow from one of the guys the Texas Rangers passed over in the Alex Rodriguez deal into perhaps the best offensive second baseman in baseball.
"Over the years he physically matured, which helped him drive the ball all over the park. He also learned how to pull the ball as he got older, and he just became more comfortable in his surroundings," the skipper said. "I never felt he got uptight in situations, but he just became more comfortable and became a bigger part of the lineup as years passed because of that maturity."
All that said, Girardi knows Cano will get his fair share of boos, and probably won't get a "roll call" from the Bleacher Creatures like some others who have left got upon their return - but, the Yankees' skipper thinks the reaction when Cano steps into the box for the first time as a Mariner will be a positive one, and he had a fun spin to put on that observation.
"When you're a great player somewhere and you leave, when you come back, I've always felt that the people that are cheering for you are showing their respect for you, and the people that are booing you are really showing their respect for you, because they didn't want you to leave. That's the way I've always kind of felt it is. I think the people really appreciated Robbie and wanted him to stay, and they're not happy that he left, but I still think they like him and appreciate what he did."