Robinson Cano is sure to get lots of hugs, fist bumps and smiles from his former Yankees teammates Tuesday night when he returns to the Bronx as an opponent for the first time, but how will Yankees fans react to him?
It's an unusual scenario for the fans. Rarely do they see their team get outbid for a free agent they want, especially one as talented as Cano is in his prime.
But Cano left the Yankees for a 10-year contract worth $240 million, one that was significantly greater in total value than the Yankees' seven-year offer for $175 million. His former teammates say they understand his decision, but will Yankees fans feel the same way and give him an ovation?
The consensus among his former teammates and manager is that the reaction will be mixed.
"I would assume you'll have some people cheer and I would assume there will be some people booing. It's just what happens," Derek Jeter said. "People who cheer will cheer what he accomplished here, how he helped us win. And probably the people who boo will probably be booing him because he's on the other team and they probably wish he wasn't."
Joe Girardi compared Cano's return to Yankee Stadium to Jacoby Ellsbury's return to Fenway Park last week. Each player left the organization that developed him for a deal with significantly more guaranteed money. That's business, but the emotional ties fans develop to their teams often muddy the picture.
"Sometimes seeing a player in another uniform, you're going to get some people who are upset," Girardi said. "But overall, I think people are happy with what he did in a Yankee uniform, which would lead me to believe you're going to hear some clapping."
In his nine years with the Yankees, Cano batted .309 with 204 home runs, 822 RBIs and an .860 OPS and played stellar defense at second base. He averaged 160 games per year in his final seven seasons. But he frequently didn't run hard to first base after hitting ground balls, and fans and the media got on him for that. His smoothness in the field also made some wonder if he was playing hard.
Jeter spent thousands of innings playing a few dozen feet to Cano's right and knows his game as well as anyone does. "Robbie was a guy, he worked extremely hard and he played every day," Jeter said. "It was very rare for him to not play in a game . . . He liked going out there, liked having a good time. I just liked how he enjoyed playing."
CC Sabathia, who will start Tuesday night for the Yankees, added: "Playing with him here, you were just in awe. Because he just hits so many pitches and had so many good at-bats."
Girardi went so far as to say Cano's toughness was overlooked by many. "Robbie loved to play and had a great smile and a lot of times made it look real easy," he said. "He was a really, really good Yankee. That's who he was."
And that last part is why Jeter thinks that, despite being stung by a great homegrown player's decision to sign elsewhere, plenty of Yankees fans will cheer him in this series.
"Yankees fans are big on their history," Jeter said, "so I'm pretty sure most fans will be happy to see him, but not happy to see him in another uniform."