Mariano Rivera Tuesday delivered perhaps one of his best pitches -- a sales pitch for his autobiography -- in which he criticized former teammate Robinson Cano.
In Rivera's memoir, "The Closer,'' released Tuesday, the former Yankees great questioned Cano's "passion'' and said in a crucial game, he would rather have Red Sox star Dustin Pedroia.
"There is no doubt that he is a Hall of Fame-caliber [player],'' Rivera said of Cano, with whom he played nine seasons and won a World Series in 2009. "It's just a question of whether he finds the drive you need to get there. I don't think Robby burns to be the best . . . You don't see that red-hot passion in him that you see in most elite players.''
Cano signed a 10-year, $240-million contract with the Mariners last offseason, but he has long been criticized for an apparent lack of hustle. Pedroia is regarded by many as an overachiever who consistently puts forth maximum effort. Both players are All-Stars and Cano has a statistical edge, but Rivera's comments certainly will generate a buzz.
"If I have to win one game, I'd have a hard time taking anybody over Dustin Pedroia as my second baseman,'' Rivera said in the book, co-authored by the Daily News' Wayne Coffey.
Rivera had a book signing at the Book Revue in Huntington Tuesday night but didn't speak to reporters. Cano downplayed the issue earlier Tuesday. "That's how Mariano feels, then I'm going to respect that,'' Cano reportedly told Seattle media. "For me, he's always going to be the greatest closer.''
Cano is a .309 hitter with 205 homers and an .857 OPS in 10 seasons. He has won two Gold Gloves. Pedroia has hit .301 with 100 homers and an .820 OPS in nine seasons and has three Gold Gloves. Pedroia was 1-for-12 against Rivera.
Several Yankees fans who waited to meet Rivera were split in their opinion of Cano.
"Numbers don't always win games,'' said John Paglia, 33, of Massapequa. "Cano is a great player, but he doesn't have that fire. Pedroia plays with his heart on his sleeve.''
Diane Baggetta, 74, of Commack said she agreed with Rivera because "Pedroia never gives you reason to question his effort.''
Ryan Katz, 30, of Huntington said the perception of Cano is unfair. "Just because a guy makes it look easy doesn't mean he's not giving his all,'' he said. "Not taking anything away from Pedroia, but he doesn't have half Cano's talent.''