David Lennon has been a staff writer for Newsday since 1991, when he started covering New York City
The Yankees used their checkbook to lure Brian McCann from the Braves, Jacoby Ellsbury from the Red Sox, Carlos Beltran from the Cardinals and Masahiro Tanaka from the Rakuten Golden Eagles.
Before that, it was CC Sabathia from the Brewers and Mark Teixeira from the Angels. We can keep going, but you get the idea. In every case, the Yankees offered boatloads of cash to a star player and -- surprise, surprise -- it wasn't long before that star player was being fitted for pinstripes.
Dress it up any way you want. They always dreamed to play for a first-class organization such as the Yankees, in a world-class city such as New York, where the fans are the most passionate in baseball. Sounds nice, but let's get real.
These are business decisions. And if we're going to praise the Yankees for buying nearly $500 million of free-agent talent this past winter, then it would be hypocritical to get on Robinson Cano for being motivated by cash, too.
But that's what actually happened Tuesday night in Cano's return to the Bronx, a place he called home for nine MVP-caliber seasons, when he rarely missed a game and helped lead the Yankees to a World Series title in 2009.
Not only was Cano viciously booed at a surprisingly high volume by the half-empty stadium during his first at-bat, the Bleacher Creatures got him with the ol' bait-and-switch when Cano took the field in the bottom half of the inning. The Creatures went into roll-call mode by yelling Cano's name, but as soon as he turned, they began chanting, "You sold out! You sold out!"
Seriously. These fans were ripping Cano for taking $240 million, a 10-year deal made possible because the Mariners chose to improve their franchise by writing a huge check.
Cano may have been a free agent this winter, but he was thinking like a Yankee all the way, holding out until he got top dollar from Seattle. Could he have stayed put in the Bronx for $175 million? The Yankees' front office says so, and as Joe Girardi remarked Tuesday, "that's a lot of money over seven years."
Yes, but guess what -- it wasn't enough for Cano. And if the Yanks can rebuild their empire by outbidding the rest of the league, then their fans should accept the flip side of that system.
Don't hate the player -- hate the game, or more accurately, the economics that drive it. Strip away all the hysterics over Cano bolting, and here's what you have: The Yankees chose not to pay the price Cano could get elsewhere, and that's why he was in the visitor's clubhouse.
"One thing to understand -- this is a business," Cano said before the game. "I can't control the Yankees. I can control myself. They made a decision, and at the end, we're both happy. I'm happy to be a Mariner and good luck to them."
Cano made a wise decision to stick to the script and didn't dirty himself by diving back into the "no respect" quagmire he created during his intro in Seattle. Cano said the Yankees disrespected him by not making a better offer.
There's little doubt Cano was hurt by their unwillingness to match but those wounds have scabbed over by now. Cano has his cash and the Yankees entered Tuesday night in first place, so both can afford to play nice. "I think we all respect Robbie," Girardi said.
We'll take his word for it. As for Cano, he kept fouling off questions that related to his departure from the Yankees, repeatedly saying, "I don't want to talk about the past."
Eventually, the rest of us will move on, but it's not going to happen anytime soon. The booing will continue for two more games in the Bronx this season -- we don't see a playoff rematch looming in October -- and then likely start up again in 2015.
Maybe someday, when the Mariners are looking to dump salary -- after everyone in the Pacific Northwest has purchased No. 22 jerseys and named their Labrador retriever Robbie -- we'll see Cano back in pinstripes. And if that day does come, it will be because the Yankees could absorb Cano's bloated contract.
Just another business transaction, like all the others.