Former New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera’s new book, “The Closer,” confirms what’s long been suspected about two of Major League Baseball’s elite second basemen.
Rivera wrote in his book, released Tuesday, that he’d take Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia over anybody at the position, including longtime teammate Robinson Cano, when it comes to winning one game. Rivera’s reasoning centers on Pedroia’s passion and Cano’s lack of drive.
Rivera’s praise for Pedroia is unsurprising, even though the two competed against each other for eight years as part of baseball’s fiercest rivalry. Pedroia seemingly has earned as much respect among his biggest adversaries as he has among his Red Sox teammates since breaking into the majors in 2006.
Rivera’s criticism for Cano, on the other hand, is interesting given the nine years in which they shared a clubhouse in the Bronx. But once one gets beyond the pure notion of Rivera calling out one of his former teammates, is the longtime Yankees closer’s “revelation” really anything groundbreaking? Hasn’t the better part of a decade — particularly the last year-plus — revealed this same information?
If a player’s value is measured by the size of his contract, his natural talent or his overall potential, Cano is in a league of his own. He’s widely considered the most skilled second baseman in baseball, both offensively and defensively, and the 31-year-old undoubtedly is among the game’s best all-around players despite his slow start to the 2014 season.
But Cano always has featured a nonchalant demeanor — fairly or unfairly creating a sense he doesn’t career all that much — and his obnoxious contract demands before signing with the Seattle Mariners last offseason only heightened the skepticism surrounding his true motives.
If a player’s value is measured by his level of commitment, his tenacity and his determination, Pedroia represents the truly elite and the one guy you want manning second base with the season on the line — no ifs, ands or buts. No motivational concerns ever have surrounded Pedroia, who took a massive hometown discount last season to stay in Boston for the foreseeable future, and it’s fairly obvious to anyone who spends any time around the Red Sox that his work ethic is second to none.
“Pedroia is a great player. You definitely want to mirror the way he’s played the game,” 24-year-old Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. said last week at Fenway Park.
Bradley’s comments weren’t really newsworthy, largely because they were right in line with virtually everything that’s ever been said about the Red Sox second baseman. But if you dive a little deeper into the young outfielder’s words, it shows exactly where the line is drawn between Pedroia and Cano.
While Cano represents what every young player wants to be from a talent perspective, Pedroia represents what every young player should strive to be from a competitive standpoint. Pedroia’s talent is gravy on top of his grit and desire to be the best.
Rivera’s comments about Pedroia and Cano are important, particularly given his stature in MLB history. They don’t have too much shock value, though, because they line up perfectly with some widespread preconceived notions.