Other stars from his city were sent home early from the World Baseball Classic. Mark Teixeira, the Yankees’ first baseman, and David Wright, the Mets’ third baseman, returned wounded before the United States’ elimination in the second round. Robinson Cano, meanwhile, took his team to the championship game. Cano, from the Dominican Republic, had the most to lose by playing. He is unsigned past this season and employs a powerful agent, Scott Boras, to maximize his value in free agency. Injuries can happen anywhere, but the safest play would have been to stay with the Yankees all spring. To Cano, it was not an option. For all the talk about Wright as Captain America — and Wright does care deeply about representing the United States — Cano is perhaps the best symbol of the tournament for Major League Baseball. He has played in all three events, enduring the sting of a semifinal loss in 2006 and the national shame of a first-round knockout in 2009. “You hear from a lot of people,” Cano said late Monday, after the Dominican Republic beat the Netherlands, 4-1, to advance to Tuesday’s final against Puerto Rico. “There were some guys that went back home after a day off, and we got criticized a lot last time. But hopefully, this year, we end up winning.” Moises Alou, the general manager for the Dominican Republic team, said he cringed in the days before the tournament when he would see a player’s number on his cellphone. He worried about late cancellations. Yet his decorated team, managed by Tony Pena, was 7-0 on its march to the final, following a daily pregame speaking ritual. “After Tony’s done, Robby always has something to say,” Alou said. “That has made my job easier. He’s a true leader. He has shown it on the field and in the clubhouse, too.” Cano arrived at the championship game with 15 hits in 29 at-bats, for a .517 average. He was intentionally walked in the Dominicans’ four-run rally in the fifth inning Monday, which vanquished the team that beat them twice in 2009. Alou said that poor showing galvanized the Dominicans on major league rosters. They told him they wanted to play in 2013, and kept their word. Several played winter ball, Alou said, specifically to get in shape for the tournament. “Because of what happened, they wanted to give back to the country, show the country we’re good players,” Alou said. “They came in better shape. This is the best shape the players have been in. They took it seriously and it’s paid off.” It would be easy to chastise United States players for not approaching the tournament the same way. Certainly, the lineup would have been more imposing if, say, Prince Fielder, and not Eric Hosmer, had replaced Teixeira. But the United States has so many talented players that it will always find enough to fill out a roster capable of winning. The difference is the mind-set. Before a first-round elimination game in Phoenix, United States Manager Joe Torre said he had to use certain players and pitchers to honor his word to their managers. Thus, Torre benched Giancarlo Stanton, the major league leader in slugging percentage last season.
More Vocal Cano Away From the Bronx
New York Times | Mar 19