Entering the All-Star break, much is to like about the Mariners. Much is to panic about the Mariners too.
Despite a 22-6 run during May and June that made them the favorite for the second wild-card spot, the Mariners (58-39) have dropped eight of the past 11, including Sunday’s 4-3 loss in Denver that completed a sweep for the 51-45 National League Rockies (box).
The slump puts them closer to the third-place Oakland A’s than the first-place Astros. None of that bothers me. It’s just baseball, and a real race.
What pisses me off is Robinson Cano.
His 80-game suspension for cheating MLB’s drug rules — please, let’s call it what it is, and not “a mistake” — was a blow that becomes more consequential now that the Mariners have fallen back.
In partial compensation for his absence, the Mariners made a trade in mid-May that looked good, getting OF Denard Span and set-up reliever Alex Colome from Tampa Bay, easing the move of CF Dee Gordon to Cano’s spot at second base.
The cost was two minor league pitching prospects, Andrew Moore and Tommy Romero. The trade still looks good, but it also depleted assets from a thin farm system that could have been useful in trade, now that the pitching staff is fraying as the July 31 trade deadline looms.
Personnel shortfalls caused by Cano’s foolishness are just part of the story. His unwillingness to come clean about playing dirty is another. He had a chance July 7 in his first meeting with local media to start some bridge-building since his suspension. He whiffed.
He read from a statement:
“The city of Seattle has become my second home for my family and I. I’m grateful to the organization, my teammates and the fans and as you guys know, I’ve been getting tested for the last 12 seasons and I’ve never had an issue with MLB policy. I was being treated for some medical ailments and I was being supervised by a doctor. But at the same time, I understand that everything that goes into my body, I’m responsible for that.
I wanted to apologize genuinely to the city of Seattle and to all the fans, and the young baseball players in the States and the DR (Dominican Republic) and most importantly to my teammates. I wanted to show my face to you guys. I don’t think for me it’s fair to just come back and walk into the clubhouse. I’m here now to take questions. One thing I want you to know, because of my agreement with MLB, I’m not allowed to go into details.”
Reading that — I didn’t hear or see it, because Cano and the Mariners invited only selected beat reporters, and forbade video or audio to be broadcast or streamed — I was not impressed.
Nor were his answers good to subsequent questions, none of which produced answers to why he did what he did — unless you think that describing the suspension as the “hardest thing” he’s gone through since the death of his grandfather illuminates anything.
I don’t care what the alleged agreement is with MLB, or how sorry Cano feels. If he wanted to tell the truth, nothing stops him from saying he took a banned masking agent, the diuretic furosemide, that covered up a performance-enhancing drug he hoped would help his 35-year-old body do better.
Most players using PEDs don’t do it to add Barry Bonds-style muscle. They do it to recover faster from fatigue and minor injuries. Please don’t think Roger Clemens in his late 30s took PEDs to push his fastball from 97 to 99 mph. Clemens, Cano and most of the rest of the busted users are desperate to stay at peak levels for the money and what they rationalize as the needs of teammates, franchise and fans.
But it was his teammates, as union members, and team owners who agreed in collective bargaining that using PEDs for any reason was wrong. Period.
It doesn’t matter about how sorry he is, how bad he feels, how difficult it is to watch games on TV.
I can’t help but think of the scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail when Arthur, King of the Britons, encounters an animated God appearing between clouds in the heavens, and Arthur drops to his knees in supplication.
“Oh, don’t grovel,” God says. “One thing I can’t stand, it’s people groveling.”
GOD: And don’t apologize. Every time I try to talk to someone, it’s ‘sorry this,’ and ‘forgive me that’ and ‘I’m not worthy.’
What are you doing now?!
ARTHUR: I’m averting my eyes, O Lord.
GOD: Well, don’t. It’s like those miserable Psalms — they’re so depressing. Now, knock it off!
ARTHUR: Yes, Lord.
Get the picture? Being sorry is understandable, but it gets no one anywhere. Explaining how you’ve suffered is, well, insufferable. Just be honest and get on with it, man.
Pleading ignorance? Depressing as the Psalms.
Even general manager Jerry Dipoto said so. In an interview after the suspension was announced, he said, “One thing I can’t support is not knowing. We have the ability to check into that; pick up the phone and call the people in our high-performance office.”
Cano didn’t care enough to want to know. Despite the fact that he hadn’t before been busted, and despite claims he was under care of a doctor (publicly unidentified) in the Dominican, he is a member of a union that has agreed to play by the rules, and is hired by a club willing to help him do so.
But he ignored the stop signs and crossed the railroad tracks. He and the Mariners are still picking up the pieces. It’s a tribute to players and management that the club was playing better in his absence. But it’s a long season, and a team doesn’t survive its length easily losing a .287-hitting infielder with power. From June 2 to July 3, Gordon’s primary replacement in center, Guillermo Heredia, hit .138.
Cano returns from suspension Aug. 14 a chastened man without a position, given Gordon’s superior play on defense. Players and fans are entitled to decide the degree of re-embrace. Manager Scott Servais need show him no deference regarding playing time.
After news broke about the suspension, Cano could have done them all a little favor by being direct and honest with why he did what he did. That would allow those who choose to do so, to move on to enjoying his play as part of an entertaining season.
In fact, he still has time to take another swing at it.