Moore: If Mariners don’t make the playoffs, blame Robinson Canó
After his first season with the Mariners, I had doubts about Robinson Canó. Didn’t think he was worth $240 million when he hit only 14 home runs in 2014 after averaging nearly 30 homers a season with the Yankees.
My doubts increased when he got picked off of every base during the 2015 season, including the one time when he sauntered toward home plate after thinking a teammate had drawn a bases-loaded walk only to be thrown out because the bases weren’t loaded after all.
And I admit to having an ongoing issue with Canó not running out ground balls even if it’s an old-school attitude. I just think that on the off-chance the second baseman bobbles the ball or short hops the first baseman with the throw, Canó would have a better chance of being safe if he ran harder than the way he trots out grounders now. Plus it would set a better example for kids who use him as a role model.
But until he was suspended 80 games for violating Major League Baseball’s performance-enhancement drug policy, I grew to like Canó. Even took to calling him Robbie even though I don’t really know him all that well. I’ve enjoyed talking to him in interviews and have given him sunflower seeds, bubble gum and a Skillet CD. I love how smooth he is with everything he does and how he looks around in the stands when he’s in the on-deck circle, appearing to not have a care in the world.
I like his smile and seeing him hit in the third spot in the order, always knowing that we’re watching a future Hall of Famer. Or so I thought until he was busted for PEDs in May. Now I’m not so sure about Canó anymore. I don’t buy his explanation. In fact, I think he was lying. It’s cool that he apologized, but like most busted athletes, I think he’s sorry he got caught more than having true remorse about what happened.
We’re naive to think this was a one-time thing, and it will never happen again. If I had to guess, I’ll bet he was using something for years and never got caught. That’s either my skeptical or realistic assumption, take your pick. And personally, I don’t even care if he was juicing – baseball was actually pretty fun during the steroid era when balls were being launched all over the place. But the rules being what they are, he broke them and is about two weeks away from returning to the Mariners on Aug. 14.
So how are we supposed to greet him? With open arms, celebrating the return of his bat to a lineup that desperately needs it? With a standing ovation because he served his time and we all should let bygones be bygones? Or should he be booed for possibly derailing the Mariners’ season?
Hate to say it, but I’m more in the “boo” camp than the “yay” camp. If the Mariners don’t make the playoffs this year, forget about blaming Félix Hernández or Juan Nicasio or Mike Zunino or Guillermo Heredia or any other slumping position player. Blame Canó.
What happened after he left is typical in sports. A star player is suspended or suffers an injury and the rest of the team sucks it up and bonds together and somehow compensates in the short term. The Mariners were so good after Canó left that I initially thought that, hey, maybe they don’t even miss him. But now we’ve seen what can happen in the long-term. Mitch Haniger is a very good player, but he hasn’t hit as well in the three hole as he did lower in the order. The whole lineup has suffered without Canó’s bat. They’re averaging just over three runs a game this month, and I’m guessing it would be closer to four with Canó.
In Canó’s absence, Dee Gordon has been forced to go back to second base, which has caused Heredia to play more in center field than the team wants him to. I was hoping Guillermo might be good enough to play every day, but he hasn’t been. He’s like Zunino – as good as he is defensively, he’s a liability at the plate.
There’s been a lot of talk about what to do with Canó and Gordon when Robbie returns. Should you continue to play Gordon at second base since Canó won’t be eligible for the playoffs? And by the way, it’s stupid how MLB handles these suspensions. Either suspend a guy for the rest of the season, including the playoffs, or suspend him for 80 games and let him return AND participate in the playoffs. This business of going halfway is dumb.
Think about it: you’re trying to hold off the A’s or maybe even trying to catch them in September, and Scott Servais is stuck trying to jockey his lineup through no fault of his own. Do you toggle between Gordon and Canó at second, Gordon and Heredia in center, Canó and Ryon Healy at first, Canó and Cruz at DH, and Healy and Kyle Seager at third?
Good Lord, that’s too many dominoes to count. Someone, whether it’s Healy or Cruz or Seager, is going to suffer as a result. Plus I don’t think we’re going to see the Canó we’re used to seeing. He’s basically going to be thrown in there as a rusty player who will need time to get comfortable at the plate again. Maybe the practice he’s getting in the Dominican Republic will have him up to speed right away, but I don’t think that will be the case. Add into it the pressure that Canó will face to produce after possibly short-circuiting his teammates’ season – I don’t think it’s a recipe for success.
On top of that, we’ll have the feel-good stories of teammates saying they’re happy to see Canó back in the clubhouse again, and Robbie will tell us how great it is to be back, promising to do whatever he can to make up for his absence, and I’ll be rolling my eyes when fans cheer the announcement of his name as he heads to the batter’s box at Safeco Field.
Even those who aren’t as quick to embrace him will forgive and forget as soon as he hits a walkoff homer to clinch a wild-card berth, ending the 17-year playoff drought. But if they don’t make it, blame Robinson Canó.