By Jason Keidel
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Kevin Long caused quite a furor when he called out Robinson Cano last week. Funny thing is that no one questioned his assertion, only the timing of it.

Long said what we’ve long known: Cano doesn’t run hard to first base, and he should. Of course, Cano’s apathy would be perfectly acceptable had he re-signed with the Yankees, which makes Long’s assertions quite convenient.

Sure, Long also lauded Cano before ending with his “dog” declaration. But we always focus on the more incendiary portions of any interview. Surely, Long was well aware of his timing and his temerity.

You could almost hear Mark Teixeira squirm during a radio interview last week when asked about Cano’s lethargy on ground balls to third base. Teixeira tried to excuse Long, or at least diffuse his comments, by saying that a hard gallop to first base doesn’t cost anything.

Lord knows Cano cost something. About $240 million to the Mariners. Yankees fans have understandably mused over the team’s conflicted offseason, during which they let Cano — a top-five talent — walk westward. Yet they signed walking-wounded outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury to a colossal contract.

Then they surrendered $45 million for geriatric outfielder Carlos Beltran. Then they burped $155 million (plus a $20 million posting fee) for the mysterious Masahiro Tanaka, who hasn’t thrown one pitch in the majors. They dropped another $85 million on Brian McCann, the only deal that is universally approved. Then they tossed a final, financial log on the hot-stove season by giving $52 million to Brett Gardner.

So they have over $400 million for strangers but not enough for their homegrown, burgeoning icon? When you consider Hal Steinbrenner’s stated disdain for luxury tax, and his declarations of newfound frugality, it feels like the Yankees were on the road to the $189-million salary cap, then swerved back into their familiar, ravenous capitalism.

But their offseason gorge doesn’t fill the clear chasms in their pitching. Who’s the ace? CC Sabathia, suddenly svelte, says he doesn’t plan to focus on his velocity, which means he doesn’t have any velocity left. Brian Cashman concedes that he expects Tanaka to be a No. 3 starter. Michael Pineda has yet to throw a fastball in anger since he was traded to New York years ago.

And can David Robertson replace Mariano Rivera? The question is rhetorical, of course, as no one can replace the laconic, iconic closer. And who will replace Robertson as the fireballing setup man?

The Yanks still have a rickety starting staff, too many variables in the bullpen, no one to replace A-Rod, an ancient Brian Roberts replacing Cano, an older, injury-plagued Jeter at short and a now-tender Teixeira at first base.

If Las Vegas is the barometer, the Yankees aren’t expected to do much this year, with their projected win total hovering around 83, well below the exorbitant expectations of the Steinbrenners.

In fact, a Steinbrenner spending spree seems to be the only thing Yankees fans can count on these days. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. New York needs something familiar, if not familial, during these oddly uncertain times.

Once Jeter retires, we will only have the manager and the owner to remind us of the dynasty days. Hal and Hank aren’t George. Or are they? This year will give us some idea.

Follow Jason on Twitter @JasonKeidel

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