When Robinson Cano left the New York Yankees, he felt the wrath of many fans. And coaches. Former hitting instructor Kevin Long lashed out about how lazy he was and that he wasn’t a team player. I defended Robbie for a long time, saying that the Yankees biggest mistake was letting him get away. Maybe I was wrong…
Who knows if Andy Van Slyke is bitter about losing his job, who knows if what he said is embellished a bit because of a personal grudge. The fact is that when Cano left the Yankees, coaches and players said stuff about him. Now, former Mariner coaches are doing the same.
“It doesn’t always work out because in Seattle, we had (Nelson) Cruz, who’s probably the most dominant hitter I’ve ever personally seen for four months and Cano was hitting in front of him. You would think Cano would’ve had a terrific year, but he had probably the worst single year of an everyday player I’ve ever seen in 20 years at the big league level.”
This was from former Mariners first base coach Van Slyke on a radio show the other day. But wait, folks, it gets worse.
“He was just the most awful player I’ve ever seen,” Van Slyke continued. “He couldn’t drive home Miss Daisy if he tried.”
“He couldn’t get a hit when it mattered. He played the worst defense I’ve ever seen. He was the worst defensive player at second base I’ve ever seen.
“He couldn’t catch the ball … Robinson Cano cost the GM his job. The hitting coach got fired because of Cano and the manager and coaches got fired because of Cano. That’s how much of an impact he has on the organization. He was the worst player and it cost people their jobs in the process.”
That is not a ringing endorsement, nor will it help get his ridiculous contract off of the Mariners books in a trade. Two years ago when Cano left New York, you could assume that New Yorkers were simply bitter that Cano was “insulted” by the Yankees nearly $190-million offer and left for the 10-year, $240-million that the Mariners gave him. Now… it’s a pattern. And maybe Cano isn’t who we thought he was… or maybe he is exactly who many of you thought he was and I refused to believe.
The problem was that the Mariners outbid the Yankees. Right there should have been a hint. When the Yankees want someone, when do they get outbid? This is a team that has a roster in flux because of stupid contracts to C.C. Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Jacoby Ellsbury. This is a team that is quietly undergoing a sneaky rebuild project as their youth is ready to oust these old, unproductive guys on the roster.
But the Mariners wanted Cano, and the Mariners got Cano. Cano, however, was never the guy that they thought he was, and that was something I never disagreed with. Cano went to Seattle and immediately became “The Man.” He was the guy the Mariners were going to build their future around. The Yankees saw the flaw in that, and they refused to do the same.
Derek Jeter always stole the media and spotlight from every Yankee. While every New York athlete is newsworthy, there is always one key figure — for good or bad — that monopolizes the spotlight. Carmelo Anthony, Eli Manning, Mark Sanchez and Matt Harvey come to mind. Cano never had to deal with being that central figure of attention.
He also had more powerful bats around him, both in front of him and behind him. Cano never had to be the go to guy for a clutch hit. He didn’t have to be the guy that had to deliver in the heart of the lineup. If he slipped up in New York, someone else could pick him up.
Some had the Mariners as an under-the-radar, sneaky pick for the Wild Card slot in 2014, Cano’s first season. They just missed, finishing 87-75, one game behind the Wild Card Oakland As. That led many to believe (myself excluded) that the AL West would be the Mariners in 2015.
It was the complete opposite. They finished an ugly 76-86, and Cano had one of his worst statistical seasons of his career, second only to an abysmal 2008. He slashed .287/.334/.446 with 21 home runs and 79 RBI, hardly numbers you want from your $24-million a year heart of the order bat. He also struck out a career high 107 times, something that was part of Cano’s “thing”: he was never a big strike out guy in an era full of big strikeout guys… until now.
The blame can’t all fall on Cano. The Mariners bullpen was awful, one of the worst I had ever seen, and it cost them way more games than Cano did. But when you make that much money, you become the face of the franchise. When great things are expected of that franchise, and they fall way short, that face takes the blame. Again, that was something Cano would never have to experience in New York.