Anticipated Criticisms Of Robinson Cano

Jeff Sullivan · December 12, 2013 at 5:39 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Thursday, officially, the Seattle Mariners introduced Robinson Cano as a Seattle Mariner, with his physical done and with everyone involved with the team back from the winter meetings. There was much happiness and optimism expressed, which always follow any kind of nine-figure agreement between parties, and now that Cano’s name is signed in ink on the line, he’s a part of the family, the family that always embarrasses us but that we say we love anyway sometimes if only because we have to. Now that Cano is a highly-paid Mariner — the highest-paid Mariner, overall — it stands to reason it’s inevitable he’ll attract undue criticism. That’s the way it usually is with stars, and here are the things that I can see coming. There are probably more.

Sometimes he dogs it

I don’t read New York media, because I’m not a complete self-loathing idiot, but still I’ve been made aware that a lot of people around New York would rip on Cano for not always hustling. Lots of accusations of jogging down to first base, and whatnot. There are few things that drive fans more insane than watching a guy not sprint the 90 feet, especially if a ball ends up bobbled or thrown away. Or maybe from time to time Cano watches what he thinks are homers, and then they stay in the yard and he costs himself bases. That second one is just a guess but it wouldn’t surprise me. That doesn’t need to happen often for a guy to get a reputation.

Robinson Cano is not David Eckstein. He’s not a balls-to-the-wall, 110%, grinder, Diamondbacks type. He doesn’t put literally everything he has into literally everything he does, and fans notice, and that’s one of the first wells they’ll go to should things turn sour. But, what does it really mean? Maybe it’s helped Cano stay so durable. It doesn’t mean he’s not committed to the game; if he weren’t, he wouldn’t be what he is. He’s found a way to be one of the very best players in baseball for several years. From time to time maybe he won’t leg out a grounder. Many more times, Mike Zunino will strike out on a pitch out of the zone. It’s never going to be a big deal, and it’s never going to teach all the young players to just be lazy. Sometimes not legging out a grounder is frustration from not hitting the ball well enough, and that’s the opposite of not caring.

He doesn’t hit enough dingers

For $240 million, you expect there to be dingers, and people like to use 30 as a benchmark. Cano’s exceeded 30 one time, by three dingers, otherwise hanging out in the high 20s even spending half the time in new Yankee Stadium. Since the ballpark opened, Cano has hit 16 more dingers at home than on the road, so he might well end up a 20-25-dinger sort. That’s in the short-term, even, and that could look strange to people who just know about all the money.

Over the five years since the ballpark opened, Cano put up a .226 ISO at home, tied for 28th out of players with at least 1,000 home plate appearances. Over the same five years, he put up a .208 ISO on the road, 28th out of players with at least 1,000 road plate appearances. See, Cano also has doubles power, to blend with his dinger power. Also — and this can’t be expressed enough — power is only a part of Cano’s total value. He’s never been a pure dinger hitter. He’s been a quality all-around hitter who plays good defense up the middle. In 2007, he was worth five wins with 19 homers. Last year he was worth six with 27. Don’t expect him to be what he isn’t, because what he is is elite.

He’s too casual in the field

Another way of saying “he’s too casual” is “he makes it look easy”. Like Andruw Jones used to. Or like, you know, Ken Griffey Jr. used to. Cano tends to look extremely…comfortable, around second base, and again he seldom looks as if he’s hustling, but he’s so good the way he is, and some players are just smoother than others. And Cano has worked hard to improve. His first five years at second, he posted a -15 DRS, and a -37 UZR. His last four years at second, he’s posted a +38 DRS, and a +9 UZR. He’s probably not an elite-level defender, like a Darwin Barney or a younger Mark Ellis, but he’s good, and he’s good just the way he is. He already does a lot, because he’s naturally gifted and athletically smooth. One perspective is that “smooth” players should try harder. An opposite perspective is that “smooth” players represent the defensive ideal, where they don’t even need to spaz out.

He’s not a leader

Get paid a quarter of a billion and you’ll be expected to lead a clubhouse. Be an experienced, productive veteran, and you’ll be expected to lead a clubhouse. Cano said himself in his press conference that he’s not a vocal sort, that he prefers to lead by example with what he does on the field and with how he prepares. Lloyd McClendon has already said, in an unrelated press conference, that he’s not looking for leaders in the clubhouse, that he can do that. He’s looking for leaders on the field, and that’s where Cano comes in, as a guy who prepares well and plays extremely well.

Ichiro caused a bunch of local stirs by not being a vocal leader sort, but it’s fair to say Ichiro was a little more withdrawn than Cano presumably will be. Also, those stories were overblown, and Ichiro did a tremendous job of leading by example, even if he was quiet and sort of on an island. Ichiro always did his job, and it was the rest of the team that didn’t. But anyway, this isn’t about Ichiro. This is about Cano, and the team isn’t signing him to give inspirational speeches. That isn’t a part of the plan, so it can’t be a valid criticism later. And as for on-field leadership, how in the hell are we supposed to evaluate that? If the team’s winning, no one will care about this stuff. If the team’s losing, people will care about this stuff, but there will be more glaring performance-related reasons for the losing. Robinson Cano is getting paid a lot of money to be a good baseball player.

He can’t hit in the playoffs

Over 217 career postseason plate appearances Cano has batted .222 with a .686 OPS and I would personally love nothing more than to be able to think about these numbers in the 2014 season to come.


24 Responses to “Anticipated Criticisms Of Robinson Cano”

  1. Kyle in Illinois on December 12th, 2013 5:56 pm

    Can’t argue with any of this–I think you nailed it. Although you missed a great opportunity for a Russell Wilson reference…

    “This is about Cano, and the team isn’t signing him to give inspirational speeches LIKE THE RANGERS ARE DOING WITH RUSSELL WILSON.”

  2. MrZDevotee on December 12th, 2013 6:53 pm

    From reading NY blogs the main reason they criticize him is that HE’S NO LONGER A YANKEE!!! (Ha ha ha… Ahhhhhh… Ha ha ha…)

    Sorry. I had to do it, just once.

  3. Milendriel on December 12th, 2013 6:54 pm

    I bet Yu Darvish can throw a great spiral.

  4. Gritty Veteran Poster on December 12th, 2013 7:05 pm

    Not being able to hit in the playoffs. That was a joke, right? Certainly not an issue in Seattle.

  5. MrZDevotee on December 12th, 2013 7:09 pm

    Maybe that was a selling point…

    “And Robbie, the whole ‘can’t cut it in the playoffs’ thang? That won’t even be a problem for you out here in Seattle… October is one of the most relaxing months of the year for our players…”

    Cano: “Wow… THAT sounds nice. $240 million, you said?”

  6. Breadbaker on December 12th, 2013 7:10 pm

    I’ll try it a different way: if his career totals in playoff plate appearances exceed 217, we made a good deal regardless of the price.

  7. Westside guy on December 12th, 2013 7:45 pm

    Cano is a great player – he won’t get any criticism from me for his play. I may launch into occasional diatribes regarding the team Zduriencik quite possibly surrounds him with, though.

  8. Paul B on December 13th, 2013 9:04 am

    It will be mildly interesting to see if he gets the ARod in Seattle or Texas or Boston treatment when he plays in NY.

  9. sstadnicki on December 13th, 2013 10:27 am

    I just assume that ‘too casual in the field’ means ‘doesn’t look like Derek Jeter’. It’s an unconsicous way of shunting off dissatisfaction with Jeter’s fielding to other players so they don’t have to acknowledge the deficiencies of an icon.

  10. Westside guy on December 13th, 2013 11:43 am

    It will be mildly interesting to see if he gets the ARod in Seattle or Texas or Boston treatment when he plays in NY.

    I’ve watched a few Yankee games – everybody on the opposing team gets that treatment! 😀

  11. qwerty on December 13th, 2013 2:30 pm

    No one gets the ARod treatment except ARod because the ARod treatment uniquely comes from deep within the soul.

  12. TumwaterMike on December 13th, 2013 4:33 pm

    The problem with ARod is that he stated he signed with Texas because they were going to be contenders and it wasn’t about the money. They weren’t contenders until he left.

  13. SeniorMariner on December 13th, 2013 5:56 pm

    Robinson Cano is a Mariner.

    Robinson Cano is a Mariner.

    Robinson Cano is a Mariner.

    I don’t know what you people need.

  14. diderot on December 13th, 2013 7:29 pm

    There was a word used in the news conference that struck me–‘effortless’. I think that’s absolutely accurate…and can lead to the idea that he’s lazy.

    But you know who else did everything ‘effortlessly’?–Griffey.

    We can only hope.

  15. matthew on December 14th, 2013 12:03 am

    Oh Seattle Times, you love the drama.

    Originally published December 13, 2013 at 8:02 PM
    Yanks say Cano got respect, just not $200 million

    Originally published December 13, 2013 at 9:27 PM
    Yankees say Cano got respect, just not $240 million


  16. LongDistance on December 14th, 2013 1:56 am

    Whenever I talk to people who are interested in baseball, which is on a near daily basis, there are two reactions to what’s happened in Seattle:

    1. Wow! Seattle did THAT? and…

    2. But NOW what are they going to do with it?

  17. Westside guy on December 14th, 2013 12:30 pm

    Oh Seattle Times, you love the drama.

    I’m not sure what your point is, unless you’re simply trying to indicate their revision-management system sucks.

    I’ve seen this before when they’ve updated a news story. If you happen to have a link to the older version, it stays functional (and continues to point to the older version of the story).

    But NOW what are they going to do with it?

    Here’s hoping this isn’t the team Jack Z intends to go into April with…

  18. eddie on December 14th, 2013 12:43 pm

    I saw a report from one sportswriter that said Cano IS a leader, that he was a vocal leader of the D.R. team in the World Baseball Classic. On the Yankees (the poor Yankees, I feel sorry for them!) he deferred to Jeter, it was Jeter’s team.

    So maybe he’ll take his fellow D.R.’ers (Peguero, Almonte) under his wing and up their performance level a smidge.

  19. stevemotivateir on December 14th, 2013 1:31 pm

    But you know who else did everything ‘effortlessly’?–Griffey.

    Griffey made a lot of plays that appeared to have taken incredible effort!

    Ichiro fit that stereotype well; Guti in 2009.

  20. stevemotivateir on December 14th, 2013 1:34 pm

    Here’s hoping this isn’t the team Jack Z intends to go into April with…

    I’ll second that!

  21. killeverything on December 14th, 2013 7:29 pm

    “Here’s hoping this isn’t the team that Jack Z. intends to go into April with.”

    It isn’t, he hasn’t signed Nelson Cruz yet and it’s all over the place that’s what his intentions still are. The contract will probably be like Granderson’s 4/60. Cruz is 33 and had the benefit of being a mediocre player on a good team. He hit a couple of homeruns in the postseason which included RBIs and unfortunately that is the most amazing thing Jack Z ever seen.

    Expect the announcement shortly.

  22. Westside guy on December 14th, 2013 11:45 pm

    I’ve heard those rumors too, but I’m choosing to ignore them because that would just be too absurd.


    PLEASE tell me I’m right…

  23. mossi on December 15th, 2013 2:03 pm

    There’s nothing being said here about ‘roids, so I’m chuffed. No one is perfect, but Robi is pretty close. Anyway you slice it, he is an incredibly positive addition to a fairly lousy situation.

  24. killeverything on December 15th, 2013 4:40 pm

    Mossi, I think you are right it’s just the paradox of being an M’s fan.

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