Opinion: Robinson Cano outplayed all other AL rookies

by Rob Esposito | 10/14/05 5:00am

ESPN has some of the best sportswriters on the planet working for them. Heck, Peter Gammons, their lead baseball analyst, was recently inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Take a moment to let that sink in the Hall of Fame.

These people have been in the business longer than I've been on this planet. It would stand to reason, then, that when asked for their picks for AL Rookie of the Year they would pick the clear favorite, the "Rook" who has had the best season.

Despite batting .297, hitting 14 home runs, driving in 65 runs, and recording 155 hits in 132 games this season, Robinson Cano received zero votes from the 17 "experts" at ESPN. How can a 22-year old kid who comes into a $206 million organization in the most unforgiving city on the planet, steps up to play a dominant role in the Yankees final surge to win the pennant, and bats almost .300 while playing second base in Yankee stadium day-in and day-out get zero votes? It's like some freak "Twilight Zone" episode that never made it to television.

Cano batted an unheard of .348 in the month of September and, along with his solid glove at second base, was a big reason why the Yankees were able to push past the Red Sox and win their eighth straight AL East pennant. Cano has better numbers, has played in more games, and was placed in the toughest position of any other candidate, yet the experts treated him like a day-old dinner roll.

Zero for 17 -- an average equaled only by Red Sox's third baseman Bill Mueller's 2005 Division series batting average (Mueller went 0-11 with a walk against the Chicago White Sox). Even Hall-of-Famer Peter Gammons dropped the ball on this one. For shame, ESPN baseball analysts, for shame. Let's take a look at some of the "expert" picks.

Oakland A's relief pitcher Huston Street received 13 of 17 votes, and was rewarded with the prestigious ESPN.com AL Rookie of the Year award. Granted, Street put up relatively good numbers for a first-year reliever, recording 23 saves and sporting an admirable 1.72 ERA. Even the most mean-spirited fan must admit that Street deserves to be in the running for Rookie of the Year.

He allowed only 53 hits in 78 innings, and averaged almost one strikeout per inning, both very promising stats for a young reliever. Some may even point to the fact that Street was a perfect 18 for 18 in converting save opportunities since the All-Star Break as evidence enough that he deserves the award.

Trouble is the A's, after posting a miserable 11-17 record in September -- including dropping 4 of 5 games to the Angels -- did everything but pin the AL West Pennant up in the Angels locker room. "But Street didn't play any of those games," whine the Street-supporters. And they're right.

In fact, Street wasn't in a lot of games. He appeared in 67 games to be exact, only 28 of which were save opportunities. That's 95 games during the 2005 season in which Huston Street played as much baseball for the Athletics as I did. And for that reason, neither Street, nor any other rookie reliever short of a Mariano Rivera incarnate, deserves to be Rookie of the Year.

But what of Tampa Bay Devil Rays leftfielder Johnny Gomes? A glance at Gomes' season numbers suggest that maybe he, too, should have gone on the juice -- Johnny batted a mediocre .282, with 21 home runs and 54 RBI's in 101 games -- not amazing numbers, especially considering that he's a left fielder. Digging a little deeper into Gomes' numbers yields little surprises: in 348 plate appearances he struck out almost one third of the time, drew only 39 walks, and recorded 98 hits -- not exactly what you would call a "contact" guy. Let's face it, Gomes was good, but he wasn't that good.

Clearly, the only appropriate choice for this year's award is Cano. Peter Gammons and the rest of the ESPN.com gang must not get the YES Network in their DirecTV packages.

If they'd seen any of the Yankees' games this year, they'd know who the real Rookie of the Year is.