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Yanks MVP: Cano, don't you know?

Robinson Cano celebrates in the dugout after his

Robinson Cano celebrates in the dugout after his third-inning homer as the Yankees host the Rangers in Game 5 of the ALCS. (Oct. 20, 2010) Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams

He was named for Hall of Fame legend Jackie Robinson and Joe Torre compared him to Hall of Fame second baseman Rod Carew.

Robinson Cano, 28, has weighty expectations. He is coming off a career year--.319, 29 homers, 109 RBIs-- and all he has to do is do it again.

On the Yankees, Cano is something of an overlooked superstar. He is clearly behind Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez in the headline-grabbing department. The mystery of Jeter, who rarely opens up, makes him fascinating. The allure of A-Rod lies somewhere between his conflicted standing not only on the Yankees, but also in the sport.

While performing under less glare, Cano now appears clearly ahead of both Jeter and A-Rod when it comes to baseball skills. While the two stars fight age, Cano may not have yet reached his prime.

Cano was undoubtedly the most valuable Yankee last season. And Cano, the Gold Glove winner at second base, was third in the voting behind Josh Hamilton and Miguel Cabera for the league’s most valuable player.

Cano shares a footnote in the deal that brought A-Rod from Texas in 2004. While Cano was a top prospect in the Yankees organization, they were ready to let him go as the Rangers had their choice of several players.

Texas took infielder Joaquin Arias, who has yet to be more than a fringe player in the majors. He was with the Mets at the end of last season. He’s been invited to spring training by Kansas City.

Cano was also offered up to the Royals when the Yankees went after Carols Beltran and was mentioned for Randy Johnson when that pitcher was with Arizona, but the Diamondbacks did not want Cano.

Today, if you had to give up A-Rod or Cano, the decision would not be that complicated.

In 2005, after Cano hit and finished third in voting for rookie of the year, then-manager Torre was chastised by some in the media for comparing the young player to Carew. Torre had to backpedal and say Cano ``reminded’’ him of the former great. In 19 seasons, Carew had 3,053 hits and a lifetime average of .328. Carew, a hitting machine, never had the power Cano has displayed.

But a Hall of Fame career is built over time and nurtured with consistency. In six big league seasons, Cano is averaging .309 with 21 homer and 91 RBIs. He has 1,0075 hits. In 2006, Cano hit .342 in 122 games.

Cano’s challenge now is to add more years of production to his resume. And that starts with the 2011 season.

New York Sports