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Robinson Cano's coming-out party

American League's Robinson Cano of the New York

American League's Robinson Cano of the New York Yankees holds up his trophy after winning the MLB Home Run Derby in Phoenix. (July 11, 2011) Photo Credit: AP

Much like Dr. Simon Finch-Royce once exclaimed of Diane and Sam, "I've grown to hate them" in this "Cheers" episode, I had grown to hate the Home Run Derby. It's generally interminable and just plain dumb, and as I've written before, it seems to be geared towards drunk adults and sober kids.

But last night's Derby reeled me in a little bit, mostly because I know Robinson Cano and think very highly of him.

Not only did we have a Yankees-Red Sox angle in Cano and Adrian Gonzalez, and not only did we have a walkoff victory of sorts by Cano, but we also had Cano triumphing with the help of his dad, former big-league pitcher Jose Cano, who lives year-round in the Dominican Republic and flew up to Phoenix just to serve as Cano's personal pitcher.

The post-game news conference occurred at about 8:45 local time, which meant that New York-area reporters didn't have much time to joke around before filing for final editions. But by the time Cano wrapped up, most of us needed to wipe the smiles off our countenances before pounding out one final story, on one of the busiest days of the year for a baseball writer.

I won't say that Cano shined in the news conference the same way he did in the Home Run Derby, because far more people can do the former than the latter. How about his Derby performance? I usually try not to pay attention, but his swing mechanics were remarkably smooth. Once he got to five homers or so in the final round, it grew evident that he was going to defeat Gonzalez.

In that news conference, though, Cano put an exclamation point on top of his day. The national baseball media, for what that's worth, got to see what a charming guy he could be. He praised his father endlessly; he interacted with reporters he knew, asking one, "Where would (a 472-foot shot) have gone in Yankee Stadium?" then going, "Wow. I have power"; and he helped a shy young lady who sat at the table and was involved with the charity component of the event.

The face of the Yankees is still Derek Jeter, and for the most part, I think he excels in this, despite his increased grumpiness and decreased production. Even today, as I warned you, I wrote that he deserves a pass for blowing off the All-Star Game.

But as Jeter's role and performance diminish further, and with Alex Rodriguez's physical durability increasingly in doubt, maybe Cano can help take over that face of the franchise role. He's under control for two more years, at the completion of which he'll be 31, and with Scott Boras as his agent, there are no guarantees about his long-term future.

If he can continue to have more ups than downs as a player, however, and the Yankees decide to invest in his decline phase with the belief that he'll still be better than most, then he seems up to the task or representing the Yankees publicly. The baseball world saw that last night.

--I'll check in later today. Both Bud Selig and Michael Weiner are speaking to the BBWAA at our meeting here.






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