Robinson Cano was not elected for the All-Star Game. This is not the most disappointing development of a disappointing first half for the Mariners, just another indication of how easy it can be for national voters to ignore elite players on losing baseball teams, especially when they’re losing in Seattle.
Manager Scott Servais made a case for Cano the other day.
“You look at his numbers and what he’s done, despite missing 13, 14 games with the leg injury,” said Servais, pointing out that Cano, along with All-Star bound designated hitter Nelson Cruz, is among “the bigger guys, leadership-wise, in our clubhouse.”
Cano did not deserve to go to Miami as a starter – that honor correctly went to the Astros’ Jose Altuve – but it’s difficult to explain the inclusion of Starlin Castro and Jonathan Schoop on the American League roster, other than the fact Castro plays for the Yankees and Schoop plays for the Orioles.
Cano began the opener of the Mariners’ series against Oakland with better offensive numbers than either of them. And while the accomplishment of driving in runs has fallen out of favor with baseball’s analytic community, the RBI still is a legitimate stat. As of Thursday, Cano had 60, third in the league behind the 65 of Yankees’ rookie Aaron Judge and Cruz’s 63.
This might sound callous, but Cano’s All-Star snubbing does not bother me. For one, I stopped allowing this stuff to bother me around the time I quit collecting chewing-gum cards. For another, I suspect Cano – a seven-time All-Star who has participated in four home run derbies – wasn’t all that bothered, either.
He’s 34. There are worse misfortunes in a baseball player’s career than the opportunity take a four-day vacation from baseball.
When the Mariners return from the break with a weekend series against the White Sox in Chicago, Cano figures to be rested, revived and possibly even driven with extra motivation.
Cano comports himself on the field in a manner that suggests he’s not the most intense of pro athletes. There are grind-it-out guys whose uniforms are grass stained before the second inning, and there is Cano, who makes a difficult game look no more stressful than a tap-in putt.
The casual style can be misleading. During the 10 seasons between 2007 and 2016, he never missed more than six of 162 regular-season games. As Servais has pointed out, Cano is a reliable presence behind the scenes, too, eager to offer advice to the sometimes shell-shocked call-ups from the minors.
Although Cano is not a cinch for the Hall of Fame, he’s probably getting there. And yet he’ll enter the break essentially removed from the radar screen, an afterthought in the minds of All-Star voters.
It’s a snub, blatant and unprovoked, and I wonder if that will occur to him during his four-day vacation. Full-tilt gonzo, slamming-helmets-after-strikeouts is as uncharacteristic for Cano as a Saturday-night yoga session is for Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.
But Cano is a competitor – you don’t play every day, for 10 consecutive seasons, unless you’re a competitor – and deep down there’s an ego that had to be bruised when Castro and Schoop were chosen as the AL alternates at second base.
A fired-up version of Cano, determined to prove himself, may not be enough for the Mariners to gain ground in the bunched-up wild card standings. Then again, who knows?
Cano is four years into a $240-million contract guaranteed through 2023, and we’ve yet to see the fired-up version of him in Safeco Field.
We’ve seen his defense, and that graceful, slow-dance conversion of routine ground balls into bang-bang plays at first. We’ve seen his bat, and that sweet swing capable of driving the ball into both power alley gaps.
We’ve seen his winsome smile on the video board. When the Mariners signed the free agent from the Yankees in the winter of 2013, I had concerns he’d find Seattle a bit too low key for big-timer relocated from New York.
Such concerns were uninformed. The Pacific Northwest’s low-key vibe is a perfect match for Cano’s personality.
But I’m curious to watch what Cano does when – or if – he gets miffed. Starlin Castro and Jonathan Schoop are headed for the All-Star Game, and the best second baseman of his generation isn’t.
Feel free to take it as snub, Robbie. Voters considered your stats, and your team’s record, and shrugged their shoulders. They told you that you weren’t worthy.
May the force be with you.