Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano delivered a belated and measured response Thursday to former outfield coach Andy Van Slyke, who charged in a radio interview in November that Cano was so bad last season that he got the team’s “GM (Jack Zduriencik), manager (Lloyd McClendon) and coaching staff fired.”
“He had probably the worst single year of an every-day player I’ve ever seen in 20 years at the big league level,” Van Slyke said during an appearance on “The Press Box” with Frank Cusumano on CBS Sports Radio 920 in St. Louis. “He was just the most awful player that I’ve ever seen.”
Van Slyke launched his rant when he was asked what went wrong with the Mariners last season. Favored for the first time in more than a decade to reach the postseason and contend for a World Series berth, Seattle instead collapsed, finishing 76-86, fourth in the AL West.
“Our bullpen blew up. Fernando Rodney was horrible,” Van Slyke explained. “Your highest-paid, supposedly best player . . . I mean Robinson’s not a bad guy, let me say that before I say anything bad about the player, but Robinson Cano was the single worst every-day player I’ve ever seen for the first half of a major league season. He couldn’t drive home Miss Daisy if he tried. He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t get a hit when it mattered.”
As the Mariners assembled for their first full-squad workout Thursday in Peoria, AZ., Cano was asked by reporters about Van Slyke’s tirade.
“Honestly, it didn’t hurt me coming from a guy like him,” said Cano, who hit .251 with six home runs in the first half, when the Mariners played themselves out of pennant contention with Cano making $24 million per year, highest among all Seattle position players. “It doesn’t bother me at all. Because I know how I played. You (reporters) know. If you heard the comments, first he threw me under the bus . . . it doesn’t even matter to me.
“I was home (when he heard about Van Slyke’s comments). A lot of people called me and I said, ‘I’m not going to waste my time and say anything back.’ I got a call from the Mariners apologizing because he (Van Slyke) said all that stuff. Here was a guy that always talked to me. Then he says that. I don’t know come he said everybody got fired because of me.”
Cano, who played much of last season injured, rebounded to hit .331 with 15 home runs in the second half, but when the Mariners failed to make the playoffs, ownership axed Zduriencik. New GM Jerry Dipoto then opted to not retain McClendon and most of his coaches, including Van Slyke.
“He played the worst defense that I’ve ever seen,” Van Slyke said of Cano. “I’m talking the worst defensive second basemen EVER I’ve ever seen in 20 years in the big leagues . . . 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 had on the organization.”
Cano underwent double sports-hernia surgery in October. Thursday, he declared himself “98 percent” recovered and said is looking forward to a fast start.
“My season starts today,” he said.