Second Baseman Gleyber Torres made his Major League debut on Sunday to a thunderous welcoming ovation from the Yankee Stadium faithful. Former Second Baseman Robinson Cano made his MLB debut in 2005 under similar circumstances, but with far less fanfare. It’s time to compare and constrast, a look ahead and a look back.
Though he’s just 21-years-old, the anticipation of Torres’ arrival at The Show has been like a feeding frenzy ever since his acquisition from the Chicago Cubs at the 2016 trade deadline. Speculation had been that Torres’ debut would occur last season, but an elbow injury on his non-throwing arm knocked him out for the year, with Tommy John surgery to boot. The Yankees initially held off from having him start the 2018 season with them. But, with the team and second basemen Tyler Wade and Neil Walker off to slow starts, the time had come. The decision became even easier due to Torres’ red hot start at Triple-A.
Such was not the case back in 2005 when Cano joined the Yankees. Cano was not a household name. Besides the fact that the internet was not the source it is today for following Minor League players, the media and fans didn’t have the same expectations of Cano that they do of Torres.
In fact, when the Yankees attempted to acquire Randy Johnson from Arizona in 2004, the Diamondbacks had no interest in Cano. The Yankees even had Cano play a handful of games at third base to make him more marketable, but no one bit when the Yankees offered Cano as part of a package for a starting pitcher.
The 2005 squad had struggled through the first month of the season. They sat 6.5 games back in the AL East with a 10-14 record. Perhaps some of it was due to the hangover of the 2004 ALCS collapse or the wrong offseason acquisitions. Among the players that the Yankees picked up was veteran speedy second baseman Tony Womack.
Womack’s April produced adequate results – a .320 OBP with two stolen bases in four attempts – but the Yankees needed better than adequate output to infuse some life into the ball club. They thought they could get that with the 22-year-old Cano.
Named after Jackie Robinson, Cano made his Major League debut on May 3, 2005. Like Torres, Cano went hitless with a strikeout in his first game, and was 2-23 in his first seven games. But, 13 hits in his next 22 at-bats gave manager Joe Torre a glimpse of what his new infielder could accomplish.
Cano finished the season with a .297/.320/.458 split, 14 home runs, 67 RBI, 78 runs scored, and 34 doubles. He was the runner-up in the AL Rookie of the Year voting, losing by 40 points to the A’s Houston Street. The Yankees went on to win the AL East on the second-to-last day of the season.
“Cano, don’tcha know”, has gone on to a fantastic career, both offensively and defensively. (Ironically, he’s now the same age – 35 – that Womack was in 2005.) He was an integral part of the Yankees’ 2009 World Series victory. Should Torres have a similar career, I am sure the Yankees would be more than happy.
Everybody Wang Chung Tonight
The 2005 season would not have been a success without the call up of another rookie – Chien-Ming Wang. Not much more was known about the Taiwanese native’s baseball acumen than that of Cano. His 2004 numbers at Trenton were mediocre, but in five starts and a relief appearance at Triple-A Columbus, Wang had pitched to a 2.01 ERA and a WHIP under 1.000.
Despite a lackluster start at Columbus in 2005, the Yankees recalled him at the end of April. Wang made his MLB debut on April 30 against the Toronto Blue Jays. Though he didn’t figure in the decision, Wang held the Jays to two runs over seven innings in a 4-3 Yankees win. Wang produced mixed results in his 12 starts – nine of the 12 were considered quality, based on MLB standards (6+ IP, 3 ER or less). He was well on his way to becoming a big find until he hit a bump in the road in July.
Wang went on the DL with elbow pain and the Yankees thought they had lost him for the season. Come September, Wang’s return came as a pleasant surprise. The Yankees won three of his five September starts, and he was the tough-luck loser in Game 2 of the ALDS when he allowed just one run in 6+ innings against the Angels.
“The Wanger” picked up 19 wins over each of the next two seasons as the team’s de facto ace, but injuries derailed his career. The Yankees are now waiting to see if Chance Adams, Justus Sheffield, current starter Jordan Montgomery, or another youngster develops into their next rotation star.