Don't sweat it

Robinson Cano doesn't always give his 110 percent. That's a good thing.

Updated: November 15, 2013, 11:17 AM ET
By Peter Keating | ESPN The Magazine

NumbersJason Schneider for ESPNRobinson Cano's intensity is constantly in question, but his stats don't lie.

THERE IS NO doubt who the best player is among this winter's crop of MLB free agents. Robinson Cano has an incredibly rare combination of middle-of-the-order power and middle-of-the-infield prowess. Cano is just the seventh second baseman in MLB history to post an OPS at least 25 percent above the league average in 5,000 or more plate appearances by age 30. Of the other six, five are Hall of Famers.

But many fans and media types harbor doubts about whether it's smart to sign Cano -- and not just because the 31-year-old reportedly wants a contract in excess of $300 million. Cano, you see, doesn't run hard on every groundout and has a history, despite two Gold Gloves, of looking rather casual in the field. His intensity is constantly in question. As the Bleeding Yankee Blue blog put it in October: "Maybe it's him jogging down the first base line. Maybe it's him NOT fist-pumping after a game ... Maybe it's him just making it seem like it's 'too easy' ... Cano looks like he's padding numbers as opposed to leading a club to a championship."

Peter Keating is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, where he covers investigative and statistical subjects. He started writing "The Biz," a column looking at sports business from the fan's point of view, in 1999. He also coordinates the Magazine's annual "Ultimate Standings" project, which ranks all pro franchises according to how much they give back to fans. His work on concussions in football has earned awards from the Deadline Club, the New York Press Club and the Center for the Study of Sport in Society.