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Yankees people are still talking about Robinson Cano not hustling to first base

Feb 17, 2014, 8:12 AM EDT

Robinson Cano Getty Getty Images

You figure that Robinson Cano signing with another team would stop the talk from New York about him not hustling down the line on routine ground balls, but nope, it’s still a hot topic. John Harper of the Daily News has an interview with Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long about it today.

What’s striking to me is how much Long says to praise Cano and his work ethic. He talks about how he got in better shape, got a better attitude, put in hard work and did all sorts of things like extra cage work and training and stuff to make himself a better player with the Yankees. Yet the one thing that probably matters least in his game — appearing to run hard, or not, to first base on routine 4-3 putouts — is the thing Long, Harper and a host of other people in the Yankees Universe like to dwell on. Harper goes so far as to say it “taints” Cano’s brilliance.

I can see how it may be aesthetically annoying, but I really don’t get why people care so much. There is no hustle more false than the hustle to first on routine outs. At least when it comes from a big slugging superstar like Cano. Maybe once every 100 times not hustling down the line may cost him a base, but it’s probably also worth noting that Cano is the one dude in the Yankees lineup who hasn’t missed significant time to injury over the past several seasons.

I’ll take that mild annoyance over a pulled hamstring on a play where he was going to be out by 20 feet every time.

  1. unclemosesgreen - Feb 17, 2014 at 8:25 AM

    Between 1996 and 2010 Derek Jeter ran out approximately 3,000 routine ground balls at max effort, and without any of your “false hustle” (and how exactly do you detect the difference between real hustle and false hustle I wonder??) In that time span he never played less than 148 games in a season.

    Long is wrong to be talking about a Seattle Mariner. But you’re just as wrong. Should I now start commenting on every HBT article where I perceive false keyboard hustle? C’mon man.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 17, 2014 at 8:31 AM

      In that time span he never played less than 148 games in a season.

      This isn’t true. In ’03 he hurt his shoulder and missed a bunch of games, playing only 119 that year. And once could say it was his hustle that helped cause the injury.

      • unclemosesgreen - Feb 17, 2014 at 8:33 AM

        You inadvertently proved my point while you were trying and succeeding at being a massive, pointless pain in the ass.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 17, 2014 at 8:35 AM

        I proved your point because you were wrong, and that Jeter hurt himself by hustling? Maybe you should knock off these pointless games of Yankee trivia, because you keep coming up wrong (like your attempt with the last full time Yankees drafted).

      • unclemosesgreen - Feb 17, 2014 at 8:37 AM

        P.S. – Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain aren’t “everyday players.” It was weeks ago, but you were totally wrong. See, because pitchers aren’t everyday players. That’s how that phrase works.

        Try to stop obsessing over fact-checking and comment board “gotcha” moments. Take a deep breath and think of the bigger picture.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 17, 2014 at 8:43 AM

        It has nothing to do with a gotcha moment, you mentioned a player who played hard and said he never missed a game because of it. That’s blatantly not true. As a Sox fan I can see that you wouldn’t know how he got hurt, but looking at his b-ref page you can clearly see he didn’t play 148 games every season.

      • unclemosesgreen - Feb 17, 2014 at 8:44 AM

        Did he somehow hurt that shoulder hustling down the first base line?

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 17, 2014 at 8:54 AM

        No, he was on first with the shift on for Giambi being up, and when he reached second he realized no one was covering third. So he took off. The Jays catcher saw him run, and slid knees first into third base, and into Jeter’s shoulder.

      • chunkala - Feb 17, 2014 at 10:22 AM

        One could also blame being tackled at 3B by Ken Huckaby, a catcher with full equipment. Something that definitely shouldn’t be allowed at any other base but home.

    • paperlions - Feb 17, 2014 at 8:40 AM

      No, he didn’t.

      Jeter appears to run harder on routine outs than Cano, but he doesn’t run at max effort on balls that he knows are going to be outs. There are a few players that go balls-to-the-wall on every ground ball, but Jeter isn’t one of them…and you can tell just by the difference in his running on balls he thinks he has a chance on compared to ones in which he knows he doesn’t.

      The ability of people to fawn over Jeter doing what almost every other player does is amazing.,6805/

      • unclemosesgreen - Feb 17, 2014 at 8:43 AM

        As he got older, he went into coast mode more often, but never into full-fledged trot. As a younger man he busted ass every single time.

        I’m no Jeter worshipper, just saying that there was a player on the same team as Cano at the same time putting forth a greater effort without hurting himself doing it.

      • Glenn - Feb 17, 2014 at 10:55 AM

        Still, you are talking about a sample size of one player. This doesn’t disprove that hustling to first base on routine plays is worth it.

    • jfk69 - Feb 18, 2014 at 4:41 AM

      Hmm. Ok. I want all fat pitchers to lose weight and look in shape( Colon ). They are being paid a lot of money to look like a ballplayer and not like a sausage vendor at a feast. Future ball players may be wrongly influenced by their non athletic look. LOL

  2. dcarroll73 - Feb 17, 2014 at 8:26 AM

    Craig, I think any Yanks fan who understands the realities of the game agrees with your last sentence, “I’ll take that mild annoyance over a pulled hamstring on a play where he was going to be out by 20 feet every time.” As the old saying goes, you’ve got to consider the source, Kevin Long. That guy has caused a lot more than “mild annoyance” among Yankee fans, and he should STFU.
    I personally am glad they let Cano walk if he insisted on that long a contract, but I would have been very happy to have been able to keep him for a shorter term at the same (or maybe a tick higher) AAV. Alas that was not to be, and so fare thee well, and as Douglas Adams would say, thanks for the fish.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 17, 2014 at 8:33 AM

      you’ve got to consider the source, Kevin Long. That guy has caused a lot more than “mild annoyance” among Yankee fans, and he should STFU.

      What could you possibly have against Kevin Long?

  3. rathipon - Feb 17, 2014 at 8:34 AM

    Maybe it’s a 1% chance but it sure looked bad when he didn’t get that base. And it seemed to happen to him more than you might expect. In any given season there would be at least a dozen or so instances where an outfielder bobbled a ball and he couldn’t take second, or an infielder misplayed a grounder and recovered to get the force at first. When it happened in a close game, it was infuriating. What Kevin Long said makes sense. Cano could have ran at 80% and nobody would have complained. But when you have a professional athlete making millions of dollars basically not doing his job, it rubs fams the wrong way.

    Also, if Craig’s injury rationalization had any merit, managers would be instructing their sluggers to jog slowly to first. If it’s not an effective strategy beforehand, it’s not an acceptable justification after the fact.

    • sandwiches4ever - Feb 17, 2014 at 1:37 PM

      Confirmation bias at work. Guy who “loafs” has thing you might expect to happen to him happen to him more than you might expect, exactly because you might be paying more attention.

      Care to give an actual, real life example of Cano not hustling in a close game that actually had any possible effect on the outcome of said game?

  4. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 17, 2014 at 8:38 AM

    Yet the one thing that probably matters least in his game — appearing to run hard, or not, to first base on routine 4-3 putouts — is the thing Long, Harper and a host of other people in the Yankees Universe like to dwell on.

    One minor quibble here, Long is one of his coaches. If they’ve asked him to run hard to first, and he didn’t, that’s a knock on Cano. What a writer (Harper), or announcer (Kay), or fans think is irrelevant. You should do what your coach asked you to do.

    • jeffbbf - Feb 17, 2014 at 11:02 AM

      seemed to me, Long spent more time talking about the good things Cano did than the hustle issue. He was asked. He answered truthfully. Shame on him. But did he “dwell” on it?

  5. cur'68 - Feb 17, 2014 at 8:41 AM

    When the Beaver Wrestlers played The Empire, of all Yankee hitters I feared Robinson José Canó Mercedes the most. His defence was solid. His throwing arm was accurate. His plate D and homerun swing the stuff dreams are made of. And not once do I recall him not being in a series vs My Boys; he was durable, so he was playing. Running down to 1st, though? Yeah, THAT I didn’t worry about. I knew he would lollygag it. He never pressured the throw, and that was fine by me. It was the one part of his game where I didn’t fear what he would do. Did it matter so much? I guess not. But still, thank Dog for some small thing where you could get that guy out without too much trouble.

  6. chacochicken - Feb 17, 2014 at 8:44 AM

    I’m just glad he was clean shaven.

  7. chip56 - Feb 17, 2014 at 8:53 AM

    If running down the line on a routine play isn’t a big deal then why not do it? Long makes that point himself. If you’re being called a dog for not running down the line, the quickest way to stop that talk is to run down the line.

  8. mybrunoblog - Feb 17, 2014 at 8:56 AM

    Harper is a longtime NY reporter and we’ll respected. That’s why Kevin long answered his questions about Cano.
    Calcaterra’s headline implies the Yankee staff is sitting around a campfire ruminating over Cano’s lack of hustle.
    Come on Calcaterra please go find some real baseball news.

    • paperlions - Feb 17, 2014 at 9:07 AM

      No matter who is asking the questions, it would be pretty easy to just say, “Cano is no longer on the Yankees, I am here to discuss our players and what we are doing to win a WS in 2014.”

  9. florida76 - Feb 17, 2014 at 9:10 AM

    Can’t speak about the Cano situation, but generally speaking, players did run harder to first base years ago on seemingly routine plays. It’s factual. If you watched games from decades ago there is a clear difference. Today, you see countless plays during a season where a little more effort would have made the difference between a hit and a out. If a player has a sore muscle then it’s understandable to coast on seemingly routine plays, but otherwise, you have to run. Too often, a fielder will bobble a routine ball, but still make the putout because the batter coasted to first.

    You even see the coasting to first during the playoffs, which is ridiculous, even among future HOF players.

    One of the legends of the game, Roberto Clemente, showed how it should be done during the 1971 World Series when he hit a easy grounder right back to pitcher Mike Cuellar. If there was ever a play in which a 36 year old great could have relaxed, it was this one, but Clemente bolted out of the batters box so quickly, it seemingly rattled Cuellar. The veteran pitcher uncorked a high throw to first base, Roberto was safe, and scored later in the win.

    • sandwiches4ever - Feb 17, 2014 at 1:42 PM

      “Countless” plays? I truly have a hard time believing this. Even if you assumed that every single play where a grounder would turn into an error or a hit if the batter ran out of the box full speed (a hilarious over-estimate), it would be uncommon.

      It’s only “countless” because you have to make all sorts of hand wavy assumptions to even try and count them.

    • dinofrank60 - Feb 17, 2014 at 2:06 PM

      Bobby Clemente didn’t always bust it to first base; do you think the Pirates cared?

    • buddaley - Feb 17, 2014 at 4:07 PM

      I don’t know whether or not Cano or anyone else hustles to first on every play or if they should. My preference is to see them do it, but in the long view, it is probably not terribly meaningful.

      But I do think we should be more precise when describing something as factual. While it may be a question of fact, verifiable by data, it is not factual that players ran harder to 1B years ago-not unless you have more than anecdotes and impressions to support the statement. You simply do not have enough data to make such a claim.

      What you have are suppositions, memories, impressions and the like, more than likely the stuff of nostalgia. It would take a pretty intensive study to support that claim. I doubt it would be worth the trouble. Without such research, however, the statement falls into the “back in my day players played the right way, or played fundamental baseball better” category i.e. nonsense.

  10. 2reinpro - Feb 17, 2014 at 9:20 AM

    Weren’t we all always taught, by at least one coach, in any sport we played growing up, ‘that ‘going half speed will get you hurt!” Hustle pulls a hammy, dog it and get hurt?!? Amazing how ‘eye tests’ perceive same event two different ways when needed to be squeezed into said observer’s narrative.
    So by Craig’s eye test (which in every other sabremetric argument is universally frowned upon by the way) 1 out of every 100 hustles results in a base hit. Mmmkay. I watched 150 some odd Phillies games last year, but I can’t remember one guy pulling a hammy busting it to first base. Chase Utley and his problematic knees made it through the season with him going 100 every single time. I DO remember watching, in person, Jimmy Rollins at Marlins Park, not hustling a ball out in back to back games. One resulting in him only getting a single, instead of extra bases because of a muffed fly ball, the other was when he got thrown out on a bang/bang play via a muffed grounder, after barely moving out of the box. I do also remember Ryan Howard in Philly losing a hit because he practically walked out of the box and a ball was dropped. Hustle 3 – Laziness 0. YAY eye tests right? Well I did play fours of D1 college baseball and 2 years of A ball. My eyes have personally experienced more than yours have watched. Huh? What? still doesn’t matter? small sample size? You need actual stats or numbers to back it up…Siiiiigggghhhh. Oooookay.
    Well, I agree, no one should be any more swayed by your little league playing eye than my pro playing eye. Yours are colored with annoyance for Kevin Long, mine by J Rolls lacks-a-daisity.
    How ’bout we just agree to HUSTLE every ball out every time, until at least, you or any other sabre whiz, with nothing but time on their hands do what you do, crunch numbers/form narratives, can conclusively provide actual, real hard data, that yes, in fact, coasting out of the box on routinely hit balls has no negligible effect. I mean you guys did that with the sac bunt right? It might actually be a somewhat interesting stat, well at least a lot more interesting and most definitely more reliable than the Calcaterra Observatory Approach method.

    • spudchukar - Feb 17, 2014 at 10:31 AM

      Times change. Players are different. When a player sinks below the Mendoza line is he putting out maximum effort at the plate? When a pitcher paces himself in the early innings in order to go deeper in games is he pitching with ultimate effort? When an outfielder glides to a long fly and collects it just as it comes down, is his nonchalance an indication of his showboating or allowing his eyes to not bounce, compared to the balls out appoach which may negatively affect his ability to judge a ball.

      Were the Cardinals not true to this Baseball axiom, when they instructed Yadier Molina to take it easy running the bases in order to not put stress on his knees, in order that he can catch more innings?

      Old school is fine when it is efficacious, but no sense using an abacus when an iPad is handy.

      • paperlions - Feb 17, 2014 at 11:27 AM

        Times have changed more than that…back in the halcyon days of nostalgic alleged hustle. Players did jack squat during the offseason. The offseason really was time off. Spring training wasn’t a time to battle for jobs, it was a time to get back into shape after sitting around all winter (unless we go way back to the barnstorming days, when some players made more money doing that during the winter than they did playing for MLB).

        Now, players take a couple of weeks off and then start working out, work on improving their mechanics, or on weak parts of their game…many doing so in winter ball. Baseball used to be a 6 month job, now it is a 12 month job.

  11. scoutsaysweitersisabust - Feb 17, 2014 at 9:30 AM

    This article is Craigs way of saying the threads have gotten a little too chummy lately. This sure helped liven things up. Good work!

  12. tamparey - Feb 17, 2014 at 9:31 AM

    False hustle? It might seem false but it does reduce the margin of error for the opposing team. Fielders definitely feel more pressure when someone is hustling down the line. A bobble or bad transition from glove and the runner is likely safe. There’s a reason Joe Maddon made running hard to first one of his two team rules. You never want to make anything your opponent does easier than it has to be.

  13. Carl Hancock - Feb 17, 2014 at 9:42 AM

    When you are one of the best players on the team you need to set an example for the younger players on the team. Even if you aren’t a vocal leader you can lead by example. Unless you’ve been been asked to protect your legs because of recurring issues there is no excuse for not hustling down the base line on routine plays. It’s that hustle that can make a routine play an infield hit or an error.

  14. happytwinsfan - Feb 17, 2014 at 9:43 AM

    can the sabermetricians rescue us? do we know what the percent chance is each time a guy runs all out down the line of pulling a hamstring and weigh the negative impact of that in terms of lost or degraded playing time against the positive impact of the unexpected extra base or avoided out occasionally gotten by always running all out?

    it would also be understandable for individual players to consider the negative impact on their market worth of pulled hamstrings. general managers may give an A for effort, but they don’t like to pay for it

    • yahmule - Feb 17, 2014 at 10:48 AM

      Craig is referencing the old bar-of-soap theory, which suggests that the more you use something, the quicker it wears out. His fellow proponents include a number of talented slackers and ne’er do wells.

  15. jfk69 - Feb 17, 2014 at 9:47 AM

    If a man was on base,slow choppers or balls hit with with a degree of difficulty, Cano always ran hard.. It was the plays that Cano saw in front of him as an easy out that Cano trotted down the line that annoyed many.
    That said. He backed it up as a great hitter who missed basically no time out of the lineup. That tells me he is not lazy. Considering some players sit out with a hangnail. Of course if Steve Sax was playing second base. I would race down the line even if he had 5 minutes to throw the ball.

  16. nymets4ever - Feb 17, 2014 at 9:58 AM

    When you make hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars playing a game for a living, it’s kinda nice to put 100% of your energy into it 100% of the time. But whoa, I guess that concept is way too outlandish for you statheads.

    • dirtyharry1971 - Feb 17, 2014 at 10:37 AM

      Well said when you make that much money you would think a guy could put 100% energy into the game, its not really asking that much when you think about it.

    • raysfan1 - Feb 17, 2014 at 11:55 AM

      This isn’t a stat issue, so the stat head snark is misplaced. Actual statistical evidence wasn’t even brought into this article. The argument is a philosophical one…is the small risk of injury running out a routine grounder worth the small chance of the fielders not making a clean play or throw and thus resulting in the runner being safe? It could have different answers based on who the batter is. A fast runner is more likely to beat out a throw than a slow one. An injury prone player might be asked to protect himself. The rub is what “church” mentioned above–the coaches’ instructions. If they want a player to bust it down the line, and he doesn’t then that’s a problem. Fans’ preference that all players run hard as they can at all times is irrelevant.

    • sandwiches4ever - Feb 17, 2014 at 1:50 PM

      He’s not your property, he’s not your chattel. No one ever puts 100% of their energy into it 100% of the time. It’s about maximizing your strengths while minimizing your weaknesses.

      Consider the fatigue factor–guy busts out of the box on an easy ground ball, gets thrown out, loses half a step in the field, ground ball gets through. Yeah, it happens rarely, but if we’re playing the what if game, I’m gonna play too.

  17. pisano - Feb 17, 2014 at 10:18 AM

    The bottom line is he’s history in NY, people need to move on about Cano’s lack of hustle. He’s Seattle’s problem now, and if they want to give him 240 mil. for his lack of hustle, that’s their business. As a Yankee fan, I have one question, Robinson who?

    • yahmule - Feb 17, 2014 at 11:01 AM

      Robinson Cano.

      Man, the internet has really degraded your attention span.

  18. genericcommenter - Feb 17, 2014 at 10:53 AM

    I can assure that many Yankees fans who “get it” never really had this problem with Cano. We realized that he was by far one of the best players, if not THE most productive player on the team the last several years, and his “non hustle” will be missed. Seriously, a great player who sometimes doesn’t hustle is often more valuable than 4-5 guys who go all out but simply aren’t that good. Of course, the combination of skill, dedication, and effort is the ideal, but every player represents some kind of trade off between the ideals.

    On a personal note, I am a Yankees fan who grew up in the non-“Dynasty” era- when Don Mattingly was the only constant. In retrospect, even though he remains my favorite player, I realize that even in his great years there were better players on the team and there are all kinds of cultural reasons they didn’t get their due. However, I still respect the heck out of the guy and his opinions. I remember when Donnie was the hitting coach, he really talked up Cano’s abilities. Keep in mind, this was after Cano really wasn’t that great in the minors and wasn’t considered a top prospect and before he really developed into a slugging .300 hitter. He said that Cano looked like he could be a future batting champ.

    • yankeefan1950 - Feb 17, 2014 at 3:35 PM

      Don’t assume that you can talk for all Yankee fans, many of us that “get it” did not like it that Cano didn’t bust it down the 1st base line or the times he’d lallygag a double into a single by trotting to 1st base. Take it from a Yankee fan that “gets it”, Cano is lazy and is a poor example of what a professional baseball player should be.

  19. beachnbaseball - Feb 17, 2014 at 11:09 AM

    First of all, I’m sure Long didn’t call a press conference to announce he was not pleased that Cano didn’t hustle down the line every time. Harper asked for an interview with Long and the topic came up. And Long is 100% correct; if he and others asked Cano to change his ways then it’s on Cano.

    Maybe Cano should remember this: “There is always some kid who may be seeing me for the first or last time, I owe him my best.” Joe DiMaggio – Source: The Sporting News (April 4, 1951) When he was asked by a reporter why he played so hard.

  20. louhudson23 - Feb 17, 2014 at 11:42 AM

    He didn’t just fail to run out ground balls. He lollygags in a variety of situations,and no fielder ever feels threatened or rushed because he might beat it down the line or take an extra base. 10 feet shy of first on a hit to the outfield instead of ten feet past first and threatening to go further(because of standing at the plate gazing and jogging the first 25 feet)……..with and without other runners on…He also often failed or refused to play to the situation at 2B …..It isn’t really hard to understand…He did not play the game very well or properly.He executed a HoF skill set,offensively and defensively filling up spreadsheets with wonderful numbers,but he could seemingly give a hoot about the actual game play…and people don’t like it because there is no excuse for it………it’s the game of baseball,not the game of stat compilation…paly the game…

  21. louhudson23 - Feb 17, 2014 at 11:44 AM


  22. schlom - Feb 17, 2014 at 12:54 PM

    Craig, are you actually arguing that running hard will inevitably lead to a pulled hamstring? If so, then should Cano (and every other batter) always just jogged the bases? Is stretching that single into a double, or going first to third on a single, or stealing a base worth a pulled hamstring? It must be better to just play station to station baseball.

  23. Kevin Gillman - Feb 17, 2014 at 12:55 PM

    This board just cracks me up on how EVERYONE looks up the stats to be proved right. Okay, this is just an OPINION, so you don’t need to fact check here, but how about this….

    If a major superstar doesn’t run hard on a ground ball, because lord knows an error can happen, it sends the wrong message to the YOUNG Yankee players who are just trying to make names fro themselves.

  24. yordo - Feb 17, 2014 at 1:49 PM

    They thought he was lazy or unmotivated BEFORE he got his massive deal? He should be fun to watch now.

  25. ctony1216 - Feb 17, 2014 at 3:44 PM

    The reason “not hustling to first” is so annoying is because it’s so easy to remedy. Just run. If every player on the team didn’t hustle to first, it would be a major problem. So, it’s hard to tolerate one player doing that.

    Long talked about other issues with Cano, including him giving up ABs with guys on base, and coasting in the field. As Cano got older and matured a bit, he worked hard and addressed those other issues, but he still had a problem running out hits. Long was just telling it like it is. And only because someone asked. Long also said that he hopes the Yankees appreciate Cano and welcome him back warmly when he returns. This is not a huge deal, unless you want to make it one.

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