It’s no secret that the Yankees, for the most part, are an older baseball team. Brian Cashman has made moves to get younger in the outfield and on the mound, but the facts remain. The faces of the franchise are getting old.

Derek Jeter is a 37-year-old, range-declining shortstop. Alex Rodriguez has dealt with an ailing hip/thigh/calf over the last two seasons. Mariano is still performing at a high level, but he’ll turn 42 this year. Jorge Posada is literally on his last legs. This group of immortal Yankees has begun to show mortal tendencies and management desperately needs another player to become the face of the Yankee franchise. Look no further than second baseman, Robinson Cano.

Kevin Long said it best with this quote…

“He (Cano) can be the face of the franchise,” hitting coach Kevin Long said. “When you think of the Yankees, you think of Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada. But at some point someone is going to have to take over that, and Robinson is the guy.”

Truer words have never been spoken. Especially from a guy who analyzes and tweaks Cano’s swing everyday. Long didn’t do much tweaking to that swing last season though. The smooth-fielding, strong-armed 28-year-old posted career highs in runs (103), home runs (29), RBIs (109), on-base percentage (.381), and slugging percentage (.534) in 2010. After walking only 30 times in 2009, one knock on Cano was his lack of discipline at the plate. Cano virtually doubled his walk out put (58) in 2010, showing poise and control at the plate. In addition to his impressive offensive output, Cano collected his first career Gold Glove award. Cano only committed three errors all-season long and regularly made flashy plays, displaying his above average arm strength and range.

But it wasn’t always this way for Robbie. During the 2008 season, he was benched for not hustling, committed 13 errors at second base, and watched his batting average fall to .271. Yankee fans began to write off Robbie, wanting Cashman to send the second baseman to San Francisco for pitcher, Matt Cain. In the past, Cano’s named was linked in trades involving A-Rod and Johan Santana. Cano took these trade rumors to heart and completely changed his game during that off-season. He hasn’t been the same since.

Cano truly emerged during the 2009 season, smashing 25 home runs, driving in 95 runs, and getting his batting average back up to .320. Cano, a career .309 hitter, really took off during the 2010 season. Many believe (including yours truly) that his buddy, Melky Cabrera was really holding him back. Melky and Robbie would always joke around during and after the game and I could just tell that Melky’s days were numbered. The Yankees sent Melky packing before the 2010 season and Yankee fans watched Cano blossom into a true stud, finishing third in AL MVP voting.

The YES Network documented Robinson’s training camp this off-season in the Dominican Republic. Robinson has trained on a small, secluded field with other amateur players for the last ten seasons. The workouts were intense, but they have molded him into the player he is today. Current Yankees Francisco Cervelli and Eduardo Nunez joined Cano for these camps and have raved about the experience. This is just one prime example as to how Cano will be leading by example.

As we enter 2011, Robinson Cano is clearly baseball’s best second baseman. Chase Utley is nursing a knee injury and Dustin Pedroia is coming off of a broken foot. Outside of second base, Cano is one of baseball’s most complete players and will be an MVP candidate for years to come.

In a sport where star players slowly ride off into the sunset, teams are constantly searching for young, emerging talent. The Yankee farm system is stocked with kids named Manny, Jesus, and Dellin. A current Yankee named after Jackie Robinson is ready to take the reigns of this franchise and lead by example like many before him have.