TSL HIGH HEAT: The Trial of Robinson Cano  


Year One 411 On Cano Deal

Robinson Cano ended up being an All-Star piece to a Seattle Mariners playoff puzzle that fell a bit short this season. Was Cano a boss game-changer and captivating personality as Jay Z proclaimed when he jumped ship on the Yankees to sign a record $240 million deal with Seattle in the offseason?


Is he still the best second baseman in the game and a supreme asset to any team?


In 2013, Seattle finished 71-91 and in fourth-place in the AL West. The addition of Cano and other acquisitions have transformed Seattle from cellar dwellers and doormats, to a contending squad. Cano’s defense has been superb as expected and he has brought a winning attitude to the Mariners. His Yankees swag is in his blood, so regardless of what uniform he’s wearing, Cano owns that ‘09 championship ring and exudes a calm confidence, which rubs off on other players.

His presence was expected to do that, but Cano’s power has dropped considerably since leaving the healthy confines of Yankees Stadium. Cano’s 14 homers and 82 RBIs are a little thin. It’s like Jigga selling 450,000 downloads. That’s not even gold. Cano’s .320 batting average and 185 hits are cool, but those digits are well below projected sales and don’t meet the value and expectations of the contract. He averaged about 25 homers and 100 RBIs in his illustrious nine-year career with NY.

A counterpoint for Jay Z would be attendance. It is up this season 260,000 from 1,703,700 to 1,963,930, so Roc Nation Sports could point to that stat as proof of Cano’s impact, but you could also credit a return to dominance by Felix Hernandez, who slipped a bit last season in innings pitched and had an ERA over 3.00.

Overall, after 156 games Seattle is still 26th-lowest out of 30 teams in attendance, so Cano isn’t flooding the gates—that’s if he’s really impacting them at all. A 10-plus game improvement in the win column and a pennant chase will also bring heads to the ball park.

You can’t deny the fact that Seattle is getting better and closer to the playoffs. It’s obvious that Cano’s bat alone is not going to get them there.


Pitt Pirates Igniting Playoff Party Part 2

The Pittsburgh Pirates' transformation from MLB’s Saigon to McCutchen’s Chocolate Factory is complete and can't get any sweeter for these dudes.



Last season, the Pirates secured a winning season for the first time since 1992, when a young Barry Bonds was hitting bombs and swiping bases in the 'Burgh and broke a nasty streak of twenty years of futility (the longest consecutive losing-season streak in major professional North American sports).

Pittsburgh’s playoff cup of coffee started with a 6-2 win over Cincinnati in the NL Wild Card game and ended with a heart-breaking five-game NLDS loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. 

One playoff appearance can be lightening in a bottle. A second consecutive one marks a glorious moment for Pirates baseball, the spirit of which has been rejuvenated in Pennsylvania. Some credit the Bucs. Some credit LLWS hero Mo’Ne Davis and The Taney Dragons .

Either way, after beating the Braves 3-2 on Tuesday night behind 24-year-old Gerrit Cole, the Pirates clinched back-to-back postseasons for the fourth time in franchise history. Now they have a shot to go further than last year. After shocking baseball with 94 wins in 2013, this season’s playoff push wasn’t as easy.

“When you see these guys lay it out there for each other every night and work through everything we had to work through to get ourselves in the playoffs again. Man, this is why you play the game,” a champagne-soaked Bucs manager Clint Hurdle told MLB Network in the locker room after the game.

After starting 10-18 through May 1st, the Bucs have gone 76-53 since May 2nd and the only squad with a better record over that span is the Washington Nationals (76-52).

The Pirates’ turn up hasn’t stopped as they’ve won 15 of their last 18 games and have outscored opponents 82-39 and still have a mathematical shot to win the division.

It’s no coincidence that the Pirates found some consistency as soon as McCutchen did, and with Giancarlo Stanton’s year being cut short, McCutchen’s MVP campaign is making a late rally. The Pirates pitching, led by Cole, is killer as well, posting a MLB-best 2.06 ERA in September.

“I think it establishes our presence in this league, that we’re not going to go away,” Cole said. “I think it’s just great for our team. The highs and the lows, you know while you’re grinding through some of the low parts of the year, you keep telling yourself it’s going to make this part of the year, the finish, the winning, so much sweeter.”


TSL AL MVP: Redemption Road

Nelson Cruz



PED association has destroyed the career of many players, but serving a suspension for PED use and being “blackballed” to a certain extent on the market, then picked up by Baltimore for loose change, has been a new beginning for Cruz.

On Tuesday night Cruz entered the record books along with legendary Frank Robinson when he hit his MLB-leading 40th dinger, becoming just the sixth player in franchise history to hit at least 40 homers. He also joins Robinson as the only players in Orioles history with 40 blasts in their first season with the team. In 1966, Robinson won the MVP and the AL Triple Crown bashing 49 homers and 122 RBIs in lifting the O’s to their first World Series title. It’s only fitting that Cruz (40 homers, 107 RBIs) win the MVP for leading Baltimore to its first AL East Division title since 1997 and putting them in a real position to snatch a WS title.

This is a year where the home run should count heavily in postseason balloting. Baseball has returned to some normalcy and Cruz showed his superiority by banging 40 homers in a season where no other player could, and he didn’t do it for a last place club like Andre “Hawk” Dawson back in ‘87 for the lowly Cubs.

Cruz was the steal of the off season and put the finishing touches on a O’s team that needed another big-bopper in the lineup, especially in a year when 50-homer guy “Crush” Davis battled injuries and a suspension, All-Star catcher Matt Wieters goes down midseason and future Hall of Fame third baseman Manny Machado suffers another season–crippling injury.

With all due respect to Mike Trout and the fact that he’s basically “owed” this MVP, if the baseball writers haven’t conceded the award to Trout despite his late season batting average dip and production plunge, Cruz will be and should be the guy.

It’s also a great thing for baseball. The BBWA has been anti-steroids and PED in its HOF voting. With the stain the entire PED Era has cast on the game, Cruz is a great symbol for baseball. The flipside of PED controversy. A guy, who kicked the junk, worked hard and proved you can be the best and be clean. 


TSL NL MVP: Can’t Knock The Hustle

Giancarlo Stanton



Stanton unfortunately misses the season’s final few weeks after fracturing his face with a pitch. Still, his power numbers and production, as well as his positive impact on the Marlins’ competitive spirit and rejuvenated franchise moral put him in a class by himself this season as a NL performer.


One Last Glance At The G.O.A.T.

In Jeter’s next to last scheduled home game at Yankees Stadium, he had a hit and struck out with a chance to win the game. The strikeout in a clutch situation is hardly indicative of Jeter’s brilliant career, but very indicative of the fact that he’s hanging it up at the right time. Expect him to produce some memorable magic in his final game on Thursday.



And finally, a guy who has run from the spotlight his entire career is immersing himself in the celebrity aspect of being a star.

Jeter personally chose “My Way” as the theme song for his now-famous Gatorade commercial. Another classic. No doubt.

He’s made his rounds, being lavished with gifts at each city-stop, including Boston. Recently Jeter’s appeared on Broadway at the Hudson Theatre for a Q&A and meet-and-greet sponsored by a memorabilia company. Tickets went from $149 (balcony seating, no lunch) to $2,500 (lunch, photo op with Jeter and signed piece of memorabilia).

New York magazine came out with a story and intimate photos of Jeter, shaving his dome, getting a massage, shooting pool and sitting on his unmade bed.

It was announced that his first post-career venture, Jeter Publishing, releases its first title, a children's book entitled "The Contract" — and no, it's not about any of the contracts he signed with the Yankees that have earned him more than $265 million in a 20-year career that will end Sunday in Boston.

Jeter Publishing also has a project coming out next month: "Jeter Unfiltered," a collection of photos by the same man who took the pictures for the magazine article. Don’t be surprised if you see him in a few movies and when the Derek Jeter reality show drops, it could draw all-time ratings because of the nature of his personal anonymity throughout his career.

If you want to see the future first-ballot Hall of Famer and Baseball Jesus one last time, it will cost a grip. The average price to get into the Yankees game against the Baltimore Orioles is $845, according to the ticket aggregator TiqIQ.

The lowest price just to get into the ballpark is $362, which has risen from $220 less than a week ago. With doe to blow, you can spend $9,700 and get a seat right behind the Yankees dugout.

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.