Andrew Marchand is a writer for ESPNNewYork.com. He spent nine years at the New York Post before joining ESPN in 2007 and remains a regularl contributor to ESPN New York 98.7 radio broadcasts.
He is a New York boy, through and through, and it shows in his critique of the excerpt that was released from Mariano Rivera’s new book “Closer” wherein Mo writes that, while Robinson Cano is supremely talented and surely an elite player, if he had to choose one second baseman to play for him in a one-game scenario, he would take the Red Sox’s Dustin Pedroia over Cano.
His reasoning was simple.
“Nobody plays harder, gives more, wants to win more,” Rivers writes of Pedroia. “He comes at you hard for 27 outs. It’s a special thing to see.”
Rivera also had the audacity to question Cano’s drive and desire; to question whether Cano burns to be the best player possible, or whether he simply and sometimes lazily relies on his wealth of talent.
According to Marchand’s interpretation, this was Rivera “throwing an ex-teammate to the wolves.” And Marchand – apparently loyal to the core for his Yankees even after their gone – writes that he would take Cano’s 80 percent over Pedroia’s 100 percent. Here is his justification:
Dustin Pedroia over Robinson Cano? Let’s take a look at the facts:
• The highest OPS Pedroia has produced in a season is .869. Cano has bettered that number six times.
• Cano has won the Silver Slugger award five times, which goes to the best offensive player at a particular position. Pedroia has one.
• On defense, they are both elite. Pedroia has three Gold Gloves, Cano has two. And while the Gold Glove is not the best metric to grade fielders, we can all agree both players are excellent on defense.
• In the past seven seasons, Cano has played in an average of 160 games. Pedroia has appeared in 141 per season in the same span. Pedroia won the MVP in 2007, while Cano’s best showing was fourth in 2012.
• Pedroia crushes Cano in grass stains.
When you add it up, Mariano Rivera’s take on the Cano-Pedroia competition — an item designed to sell his book, “The Closer” — is wrong. Cano is a better player than Pedroia. If you had one game, you would rather have Cano than Pedroia. Plus, there is a better chance Cano would be available to play.
Here’s the problem with Marchand’s analysis. He is looking at this as an argument as to who the better overall player is, Cano or Pedroia. But that is not what Mariano is saying.
No one would rationally argue that Pedroia is a better baseball player than Cano (sorry Sox fans, you are not rational). The proof is in the statistics and the dollars; numbers rarely lie.
But you can throw all of that stuff out the window when looking at a one-game scenario. It’s in that type of situation that intangibles rule over the law of averages. A season’s worth of numbers mean nothing come playoff time. Marchand could look to the familiar examples of Alex Rodriguez (famous for his immaculate talent but notorious for an inability to perform in those single game playoff situations that matter the most) and Derek Jeter (who always seems to produce in the most clutch moments, regardless of how good or bad his overall season was) as vindication for Rivera’s opinion.
Pedroia is a gamer, plain and simple. He is one of the toughest outs in the big leagues, and plays with a tenacity in the field and on the base paths that has helped lead Boston to two different World Series championships. He plays with a fire that we have yet to see in Cano. And that’s not a knock on Cano – every player is different in terms of personality.
Rivera, of all people, knows firsthand what it takes to succeed in the pressure-packed moments this game can manifest. So if he sees something in Pedroia that leads him to believe Pedroia would be superior to Cano in those moments, I’m deferring to Rivera’s opinion.
Marchand’s exuberant defense of Cano is curious considering Cano rejected the Yankees’ $175 million offer before fleeing to Seattle for bigger dollars. But I guess to Marchand, Mariano’s sin – promoting the talents of a Red Sox player as a former Yankee – is greater than Cano’s.