The Puig stuff is . . . well, you know. It’s not really anything we haven’t already read in Molly Knight’s book, so aside from Van Slyke and his son — Puig’s teammate, of course — having to deal with some stuff while watching Thanksgiving football, whatever.
The Cano stuff, though . . . it’s just not something that someone inside baseball, or at least recently inside baseball, says about someone else inside baseball. Which makes it entertaining, for sure. Accurate, though?
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"Your highest paid, supposedly best player — I mean Robbie’s not a bad guy, let me say that before I say anything bad about how he played. But Robinson Cano was the single worst third-place, everyday player I’ve ever seen — I’ve ever seen for the first half of a baseball season," Van Slyke said. "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 at second base. I mean I’m talking about the worst defensive second baseman ever — I’ve ever seen in 20 years in the big leagues. He couldn’t catch the ball. No, I take that back. Any ball that was hit to him was an out. Any ball that he had a chance to turn a double play, he’s still maybe the best in the game today. He’s got a great arm."
"The hitting coach got fired because of Cano. And the manager and the coaches got fired because of Cano. That’s how much impact he has on the organization. He was the worst player and it cost people their jobs in the process."
As I suppose you either knew already or have read, Van Slyke’s evaluation of Cano are flatly contradicted by . . . well, by facts. While Cano was actually pretty terrible in the first half of the season, we all learned in early July that there were some mitigating factors. Maybe Van Slyke’s from the old NO EXCUSES school: When you don’t play well as you’re supposed to, it’s because there’s something wrong with you. I will note in passing that after each of the two best seasons in Van Slyke’s playing career — and they were damn good seasons — he didn’t play nearly as well the next year. And the second time that happened, he was making serious money, too.
Anyway, Cano played really well after the All-Star break. The GM who signed him to that $240 million contract didn’t get fired until late August, and the manager and coaches not until after the season. Even if Cano had played exactly as well in 2015 as he did in ‘14, the M’s still would have finished with a losing record. And it’s hard to see the management situation shaking out any differently.
Another member of that staff fired recently by new GM Jerry Dipoto, M’s third-base coach Rich Donnelly, says absolutely not.
"I’m shocked to hear about it," he said by phone Friday. "Robbie struggled in the first half but I would never say that he got us fired. We had a bad year as a team, and I give Robbie a lot of credit for coming back to have a great second half.
"He was dealing with some physical issues, and a lot of guys would have cashed it in. He worked his tail off to get back to where he wanted to be."
Well, that’s just good reporting right there. It’s always nice to have a second opinion, especially when that opinion rings true, or seems fair, or doesn’t smack of petulance. It’s just nice.
You know what else would have been nice? If someone had followed up with Van Slyke, asked him for some details, wonder if he wasn’t cutting Cano any slack at all for those mitigating factors. And if not, why not.
Instead, there’s just this bit of inflammatory oddness:
So maybe Van Slyke is just so bitter about being fired that he needed someone to blame. But even if Cano has had the best intentions as a Mariner, one long-time friend who spoke to him recently says the second baseman is not happy in Seattle, especially with a new regime in charge there now, and that he’d love to somehow find his way back to New York.
John Harper’s a skilled, well-respected reporter. But this seems like a bit of a stretch, no? I mean, it would be one thing to toss a second-hand grenade into the fray, but doesn’t this grenade need another source or two?
Who’s the long-time friend? How recently did he speak to Cano? How does the new regime make Cano unhappy? How much would he love to rejoin the Yankees, or perhaps replace David Murphy with the Mets? Enough to forfeit $80 million or thereabouts?
A report like this one isn’t meaningless, in the sense that what my pinky toe’s doing right now — and right now, I’m just sitting on the couch and listening to an old Aimee Mann song — isn’t meaningless; after all, I’ve got a whole system here!
But who knows what Cano actually said, or what kind of mood he was in, and if he was in the same mood an hour or a day later?
Well, Cano knows. But Harper doesn’t seem to know, and so we don’t, either. And so the grenade is an unfortunate little explosion in the midst of a new, probably long-term relationship.
Bottom line: Cano probably wishes he were back in New York, if only because the Yankees were better this year than the Mariners. Oh, and because Seattle’s not New York. This is a good thing for some people, but not for some others. And considering Cano seems to have been motivated to sign with the Mariners largely by money, he might be one of those others.
Or maybe that’s not fair. Probably isn’t. I just recall some people predicting that he would miss New York. The bright lights and all that. So it wouldn’t surprise me if he does. But if he’s healthy and the Mariners are playing better baseball, I suspect he’ll figure out a way to cope.