Moore: With Canó returning Tuesday, Mariners fans don’t have to miss Robbie anymore
Robinson Canó returns Tuesday night from his 80-game suspension for violating MLB’s drug policy. As I’ve mentioned before, I picture Robbie returning to the rescue on a white horse, leading the Mariners into the playoffs, hailed as a conquering hero.
If we were all thinking clearly, we’d boo Canó when we hear his name announced for the first time on Friday at Safeco Field. You could argue, and I have, that he is the main reason why the Mariners won’t make the playoffs. Losing a hitter of his caliber for half of a season could be the difference between playing and not playing in the postseason, particularly when you consider that the Mariners are in a nip-and-tuck race with the A’s for the final wild card spot.
The Mariners averaged 4.69 runs with him, are averaging 3.9 runs without him, and he hadn’t really heated up to his standards before the suspension, with a .287 average and only four home runs in his first 40 games.
You could also be justified in booing him for cheating even though Canó said he “did not realize at the time that I was given a medication that was banned. I would never do anything to cheat the rules of the game that I love.”
I want to believe him but don’t believe him, not for a second. And yet, I can’t possibly boo him Friday night when the Dodgers arrive for a three-game series. Nor will I root against him when he joins the Mariners in Oakland Tuesday night for the last two games of their three-game series with the A’s.
I know this for a fact because I went to Everett last Friday to watch him play with the AquaSox during his rehab assignment or whatever you want to call it. My kids wanted to go see him because, as one of them said: “I really miss Robbie.” I have a feeling he shared the sentiment of many Mariners’ fans.
Canó strikes me as being one of those guys you can’t possibly dislike no matter what he does. He could run off with my wife, and I don’t know who I’d miss more. On the really, really off-chance you’re reading, I’m kidding, honey.
I fully understand that Canó was facing kids on the mound for the Eugene Emeralds. These are Class-A players, most of whom will never make it to the big leagues. But still, to see him rip a single to left was a beautiful thing. And then he ranged far to his right, dived for a ground ball, and in one smooth motion, turned and flipped it to the shortstop to start an inning-ending double play. It was the type of play that made you laugh because it seemed so absurd that anyone could do what Canó just did. It would have been a Web Gem on ESPN for certain if it had happened in a major-league game.
To no surprise, last night's @Chevron ExtraMile Extra Effort Play of the Game goes to @RobinsonCano who made a sliding play at second base, flipped the ball to @Ryneocerous13 who threw it to @nickrod23_ for the @walottery double play! #HowBoutThemFrogs #SCtop10 pic.twitter.com/oEtelmHN8f
— Everett AquaSox (@EverettAquaSox) August 11, 2018
In the seventh inning, he stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs, his team trailing 2-1, and it’s almost like Grandma was already putting mustard and salami on the rye bread. Canó swung at the first pitch, a high fastball, and smacked it into the netting above the wall in right-center field. We all stood and cheered as Robbie rounded the bases in his trademark not-in-any-hurry style.
The smile was there all night too, and I’ve probably missed that the most, along with the bubble-blowing and sunflower seed spitting from a guy who does not appear to care about a single thing in the world, effortlessly smashing baseballs and snaring them with the greatest of ease.
He played second base Friday night and was at third base Saturday night after playing first base Thursday night. Mariners manager Scott Servais plans to use him all over the place. If you can be a starting utility player, that’s what Canó is supposed to be when he returns.
I liked the idea of him playing most of the time at first base in a platoon with Ryon Healy or replacing Healy altogether, until Healy got three hits Saturday in Houston and delivered the dramatic game-tying homer with two outs in the ninth inning Sunday afternoon. You could also make a good case that he should take some time away from the slumping Kyle Seager at third, but I’d be hesitant to do that because I haven’t given up on Seager and that sweet swing of his though I know I’m in the minority on that one.
Forget this business of worrying about having Dee Gordon ready to play second base in the playoffs. If you don’t make the playoffs, he won’t be playing at all. Your best bet at making the playoffs is putting Canó at second, where he’s most comfortable, and putting Gordon back in center field.
I don’t know what that would mean for the outfield carousel the Mariners have now, but I don’t care about that as much as wanting to put Canó in the best position to produce at the plate. If it means that Cameron Maybin is on the bench more frequently, fine. But I would like to see Ben Gamel back with the big-league team soon – I know that Guillermo Heredia is a defensive whiz and saved the game Saturday night with his spectacular catch, but for every one of his positive defensive metrics, you’ve got to put up with his at-bats, which aren’t ideal. I still love watching him – he’s a try-hard guy who gives you all he’s got, but what he has isn’t what will help propel the Mariners to the playoffs on an every-day basis.
As much as I hope to see Canó on the white horse, I’m concerned that he won’t be good to go for awhile. Taking batting practice in the Dominican Republic and facing minor league pitchers might boost the ego and make you think you’re ready when you’re really not. As good as he is, I can’t imagine that Canó will be tearing the cover off the ball right away. I think we’ll have to be patient while Robbie warms up.
At the very least, this has turned into an incredibly intriguing season with so many twists and turns. I can’t remember a season in which some parts of it, I’ve felt like the Mariners would never lose again, and in other parts I’ve felt like they’d never win again. How they swept a four-game series at Houston against four of the best pitchers in the entire league after losing three of four to the Blue Jays and two of three to the Rangers, no one can explain that to me.
And it doesn’t make sense to think that Canó and a reliever named Félix could help the Mariners end their 17-year playoff drought. But in a season like this, the unexpected just might happen.