O’Neil: Mariners starting to look like they’re missing their best hitter
Not all of the Mariners’ bats woke up on Sunday against Colorado.
Ryon Healy’s did, though.
Well, actually it was Mitch Haniger’s bat as wielded by Healy, who entered the game on an 0-for-13 skid. While swinging a bat borrowed from Haniger on Sunday, Healy put the Mariners ahead of the Colorado Rockies on two different occasions.
First, it was a bases-loaded double with two outs in the first inning. Then it was a three-run homer he clobbered in the sixth inning as Seattle salvaged the last of three games against the Rockies during a series most notable for what the Mariners didn’t do in the first two games. They weren’t scoring.
They haven’t been for about a week now. In fact, it’s almost like this team is missing its best hitter.
Of course, the Mariners are missing their best hitter with Robinson Canó suspended the past 51 games and not eligible to return until Aug. 14. Before Canó was suspended, the Mariners averaged 4.6 runs. Since his suspension took effect on May 15, they’ve averaged 4.1 runs.
Now, let’s be careful not to exaggerate Seattle’s demise. The Mariners still ranked fifth in the American League in runs scored during the month of June. But let’s not get confused as to why Seattle has thrived in Canó’s absence, either. It’s not because the Mariners have made up for his production. It’s because Seattle’s starting pitching was exceptional.
That wasn’t the case against Colorado this weekend. None of the Mariners’ starting pitchers got shelled exactly. Felix Hernandez, James Paxton and Wade Leblanc all threw at least five innings apiece. None allowed more than four earned runs.
But none of them were what you would call good, either. And the Mariners managed one lone run in each of the first two games in the series before Healy’s bat saved Seattle in the series finale. Well, technically it was Haniger’s bat being swung by Healy.
And speaking of Canó, he spoke with a small group of reporters for the first time since his suspension before Saturday’s game.
A more skeptical person might point out that this was timed at the precise moment in which it would attract as little attention as possible, coming on the Saturday of a holiday week and one day before the All-Star selections were announced, bumping it out of the news cycle. But aside from that bit of cynicism, Canó provided an above-average athlete apology.
He didn’t present himself as a victim. He didn’t insist on his innocence because the banned substance he tested positive for was not technically a performance-enhancer itself. And while he stopped short of spelling out exactly what happened, he characterized his actions as a mistake and expressed his regret for the impact that it had on his teammates and his employer.
One quibble from Canó’s prepared statement, though: “One thing I want you to know, because of my agreement with MLB, I’m not allowed to go into details.”
That is Canó’s decision, not some sort of league mandate. This isn’t a court case with a non-disclosure agreement, and while teams are limited in what they can say about their employees (the players) based on the collective-bargaining agreement, a player isn’t forbidden from saying what he did or did not do. But at a time when many athletes tend to apologize for the situation they’re in instead of the actions they’ve taken, Canó’s apology still comes out above average.