Robinson Cano's return to the Bronx brings mixed emotions for all

Yankees' fans give Cano a mixture of cheers and boos upon his return
04/29/2014 7:33 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Robinson Cano addresses the media ahead of Tuesday night's game.(AP)
Robinson Cano was booed soundly by the fans at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night when public address announcer Paul Olden read his name as part of the introductions of Seattle's lineup. He was then booed even more heavily as he stepped up to the plate for his first at-bat, with those jeers continuing throughout the entire plate appearance - turning only to cheers when CC Sabathia got a called first strike, a swinging strike two, and eventually, a swinging third strike as well.

And to think, prior to the game, Cano admitted that he was looking forward to his first game back in the Bronx and had nothing but positive things to say about Yankee fans.

"I've been looking forward to coming back to this city, I loved it here and had a great first nine years," Cano said with a smile. "It'll be nice to see some old teammates, guys I played with for a long time. It's always good to be back, and I want to thank the fans for being great to me all those years."

That said, Cano "gets it," and knows that in many fans' eyes, he's the villain for taking the money and running to Seattle.

"One thing that I understand about the fans…I know I'm not a Yankee anymore, and it's not the same when you're not the home crowd. That's something that I always knew," he said. "I understand the fans are not going to cheer for you because you're on the opposite team. The last thing they want is for you to come here and do well. I have to understand that, and I do."

After spending Monday shooting a sketch for "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" where Cano surprised Yankees fans who were asked on the street to cheer or boo a large billboard of him, the second baseman knew he was likely in for an interesting Tuesday - but he still relished what lay ahead.

"That was a lot of fun and was a great experience. I had a lot of fun, and (enjoyed) their reactions when they saw me," Cano said of the sketch, where almost every fan's jeers turned to a stoic expression of shock once he emerged. "I got a lot of love from these fans, and I look forward to tonight."

Cano got another taste of that in the bottom of the first inning, with the fans - or the Bleacher Creatures, at least - offering a faux olive branch as part of subterfuge.

At the outset, Cano joined a list that includes Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon, and others by getting a ceremonial "Rob-in-son!" roll call from Section 203, but as he turned to wave, the chants became a different three-syllable message: "You sold out."

One could think of, say, 240 million reasons for the fans to feel that way, but the backlash hadn't, at least as of the afternoon, dampened his enthusiasm for what surely wasn't just another late-April road game.

"I didn't think people would make a big deal about coming back. I'm just happy to come back and see guys I spent a long time with," he had said Tuesday afternoon. "The Yankees are a team that has won a lot of championships; they have fans all over the place, but I've always loved the fans here."

Again, Cano gets it, and in the hours leading up to his return, he understandably did not want to talk about his switch from agent Scott Boras to Roc Nation sports, the details and acrimony of his contract negotiations, or anything regarding his comments that the Yankees didn't "respect" him during his free agent period. He acknowledged that "I already talked about that and said what I have to say," and he wanted to focus simply on baseball.

However, when asked if he could compare playing in Seattle to playing in New York, Cano did say he was happy early on with the way he's been received in the Pacific Northwest.

"The city is different, and it's always going to be different; I've only played two homestands in Seattle so I can't say much about it yet, because I don't know how it will be throughout the season," he said, "but I can say I'm happy there and happy with the way the fans and the organization have embraced me."

And whether it was $175 million, $240 million, or the entire world's worth that drew Cano to his new location, he knew that wherever he landed, it would be a business decision. He made his, and the Yankees made theirs - spending more than a half-billion dollars on free agents not named Robinson Cano - and both parties understand where they stand with all said and done.

"I can't control the Yankees, I can only control myself," Cano said. "They made their decisions, I made mine. I'm happy to be a Mariner, and they're happy with what they got."

Above all that, though, Cano noted that just because he's got some new laundry, it doesn't mean he has a new perspective on what happens between the lines.

"I want to play the game to win, and go out there and do my job."

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