Robinson Cano Just Has To Be Good

Jeff Sullivan · February 14, 2014 at 5:41 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

This is a bad article. Maybe that’s too mean. That is an article I don’t particularly care for. You can read it, if you like — the link’s right there. But you’re probably not going to learn anything, and you’re probably not going to think about anything in a different way from how you did before. In a lot of ways it’s substance-free commentary.

It’s about Robinson Cano and the Mariners and how the Mariners have been bad and how Robinson Cano can change that. The idea is that Cano ought to become the Mariners’ Derek Jeter. A reliable, high-level contributor who also serves as clubhouse leader and face of the team. Those other responsibilities come along with a contract the size of the one Cano recently signed. I’m not going to argue the fact that Cano will be expected to be a little more than an ordinary player. As an established veteran, he’s going to be looked up to by other guys in the same clubhouse. I don’t even like writing media criticism so I’m going to try to make this about more than just the one throwaway article.

But Felix Hernandez isn’t mentioned. Not even once. Not as Felix, not as Hernandez, not as the King, not as anything else. I didn’t find him upon the first read-through, so I attempted a second read-through. Then I searched the article for his name, specifically. Nothing. It’s as if Felix doesn’t exist; it’s as if Felix isn’t a superstar and an icon. It’s as if Felix isn’t the face of the Mariners, as he has been since Ichiro began his decline.

The Mariners already have their guy. Robinson Cano is another guy, but he isn’t the same, and he can’t be. Know why? Let’s stick with the Derek Jeter parallels. Jeter’s retiring this year, as a Yankee. He was drafted in 1992, by the Yankees. He’s spent his whole career in New York, loyally representing the organization and the city. Felix is entering his tenth(!) year in the major leagues. He was signed by the Mariners in 2002. He’s spent his whole career in Seattle, loyally representing the organization and the city, and he’s under contract forever. Robinson Cano was a free agent who crossed the country after his 31st birthday and took the offer that blew the other offer away.

Cano can fall in love with Seattle, and Seattle can fall in love with Cano. Just because the origin story is all about money doesn’t mean things can’t work out as a warm and mutual relationship. But Felix is already here, and he’s already bent over backwards for a team that has simply refused to surround him with enough good players to build a team worth watching. Felix’s unconditional loyalty is downright mystifying, and it was this way from the very beginning, when he signed with the Mariners as a teenager despite having a bigger offer on the table. Felix is already in love. Has been. And Felix is already loved. Has been.

The guy has his own god-damned rooting section, and it’s the best such section in baseball, with no competition from the rip-offs. Felix is the guy you’d pay to see even if it meant you were also paying to see the rest of the Mariners, and there’s never been any questioning his drive or commitment or desire to pitch this team, this very team, into the World Series. Every game, he’s visibly passionate, and he moved his family to Seattle, and he’s come to Safeco in the middle of winter for FanFest, and he’s volunteered himself to perform area services. He’s great and he’s vocal and he’s never in trouble. Felix doesn’t get bad press. Back in the day, he used to let little mistakes get in his head, but that’s because even from a young age he just wanted to win so badly. That feeling hasn’t waned, and every year Felix talks about how he can’t wait to see October, no matter what the rest of the team might look like, and no matter how the previous season played out.

The problem with the Mariners hasn’t been a lack of leadership. It hasn’t been a lack of a winning spirit. It’s been a lack of winning, due mostly to a lack of enough good players. Sure, there were some years that the clubhouse was in better shape than others, but the problem guys are gone and it’s hard to achieve clubhouse stability when the team’s losing since losing teams are sadder teams and teams vulnerable to roster shake-ups. The team’s had plenty of potential leaders, but at some point you just can’t lead a loser. You can lead a winner, which means a winner has to come first, which means good players have to come first. That, more than anything else, is going to be Cano’s main responsibility.

Cano needs to help the Mariners win, just like how Joey Votto helps the Reds win. Votto’s never going to be the vocal, fiery sort, but he can lead by example and he routinely fills up his line in the box score. The Reds paid Votto because Votto’s really good. The Mariners paid Cano because Cano’s really good. They wouldn’t mind if Cano stepped up to be a leader in the clubhouse, but there hasn’t been a void. The Mariners haven’t been faceless, on the inside or from the outside. The Mariners have Felix Hernandez, and Hernandez is literally everything you could want in a star player. Cano is just another star player, beside him.

Players can’t just become Derek Jeter, no matter how much you pay them. Say what you will about Jeter, but his status is undeniable, and New York has been undeniably blessed to have him on their side for two full decades. Jeter has been among the rarest of breeds. A lot like the King. Seattle’s also been blessed, in this particular regard, and we’ve been blessed for more than a handful of months. Cano isn’t Felix, not here, and he never can be.


24 Responses to “Robinson Cano Just Has To Be Good”

  1. Karmasartre on February 14th, 2014 6:06 pm

    Why not put “Felix appreciation” in the blog heading instead of “sigh”?

  2. Goob on February 14th, 2014 6:19 pm

    I don’t think there’s any way I could agree more.

    Though I always feel slightly guilty talking about Felix’s mystifying unconditional loyalty. I mean, if it IS a spell he’s under, it can’t help talking about it, right?

  3. NorahW on February 14th, 2014 6:21 pm

    I completely agree. Also agree with Karmasartre about the blog heading.

  4. B13a on February 14th, 2014 6:46 pm

    Without looking at the “bad” article…was it the Morosi article about Cano? I haven’t read it yet, but my friend absolutely hated on that article today, so I’m looking forward to it.

  5. Longgeorge1 on February 14th, 2014 7:02 pm

    I keep hearing from ex-ballplayers, OK radio – TV types, that pitchers can not be team leaders. I don’t know if Cano can become “The Man”, but it could happen. The M’s could really use a break – really

  6. Westside guy on February 14th, 2014 8:31 pm

    You hear a lot of things from ex ball players… And a lot of it has no basis in fact. They’re extremely athletic guys, very good at hitting, catching, and/or throwing the ball. They didn’t earn a living at baseball because they were insightful.

  7. Nate on February 14th, 2014 10:22 pm

    Yeah, or put something like “Felix is ours, and you can’t have him!”… oh, wait…

  8. Longgeorge1 on February 14th, 2014 11:00 pm

    I realize ball players might not be the best judges of some things. But if someone had a 15 year career and a couple of series rings, they probably have a good grasp of what makes a good locker room. I realize they might just be spouting a corporate line on TV, but they know if anyone knows.

  9. MrZDevotee on February 15th, 2014 1:19 am

    I think all anyone really knows is locker rooms on winnings teams are unique, and on bad teams are equally unique, if different. The same guys who supposedly know what a good locker room is are usually on bad teams too, so if they knew the secrets more than others then why didn’t they fix it? Red Sox won the World Series, two years ago they had (by cliches) the worst locker room in baseball.

    The same Sweeney and Griffey were on the M’s for one of the best locker rooms recently, and a year later, one of the worst M’s locker rooms ever. And they WERE the two guys charged with being “leaders” yet had no answers (and in fact, in Griffey’s case, walked away from the game and retired rather than fixed it).

    I don’t think they actually know anything unique about it, other than they had an inside view to being able to say “yeah that was a good locker room” and then “but this was a bad one”.

    Recognizing something and having a special insight about it aren’t the same thing, despite what Morosi (whose never been a member of a MLB locker room) would pretend to understand in some special and unique way he can’t actually describe, though he (using the “unique insight” formula too) actually makes a living by describing things in words.

  10. MrZDevotee on February 15th, 2014 1:29 am

    (Just as there are people who absolutely believe and swear that the Loch Ness Monster — or Sasquatch — does indeed exist, though they’ve been chasing after it for decades, making a living looking for “this truth”, and still have no empirical evidence to support their firm belief… Beyond their conviction and the statement, “trust me, if anyone knows if they exist or not, it would be me… And they absolutely DO! (with still, yep, no evidence)…”

  11. ripperlv on February 15th, 2014 4:17 am

    Yeah, locker room evangelism is only as good as the evangelist.

  12. SeattleSlew on February 15th, 2014 5:37 am

    To say “the article was bad” is an understatement.

    I was going to comment without reading the other comments but I’m glad I did because I was going to basically repeat what Westy wrote.

    Some writer like to write fairy tales and some people like to read them, making reality unknown to both of them.

    The article made me appreciate the writers who dedicate their time posting here. I guess there is always something good that can come from bad.

  13. PackBob on February 15th, 2014 7:15 am

    If the Mariners have good players, the clubhouse leader will take care of itself. It really doesn’t matter that much. Cano may function as a clubhouse leader but he won’t surpass Felix as the face of the franchise.

    If Cano becomes the clubhouse leader and Smoak/Ackley/Saunders still don’t hit and Walker/Paxton need more work, Cano will go down in flames with the rest of the team. If everyone plays at or above their projections then Cano will join them on the wave.

    Clubhouse leader is more a social thing than a performance booster.

  14. Typical Idiot Fan on February 15th, 2014 8:05 am

    Yeah, it’s a bad article, because it is essentially Morosi attempting to write an article relevant to the Derek Jeter grand sendoff gala parade that will dominate major league baseball journalists this season, without actually writing an article about Derek Jeter and his grand sendoff gala parade that will dominate major league baseball journalists this season. It also ties into a lot of Yankee sentiment and resentment about Cano, both that he left and that he wasn’t “Derek Jeteresque” as a leader figure anyway.

    In other words, this article was written for Yankee fans, not the rest of America, because we don’t matter.

  15. ooter on February 15th, 2014 9:58 am

    So Felix is our Jeter. Does that make Cano our Alex Rodriguez?

  16. tranebc on February 15th, 2014 10:39 am

    Heard him on kjr yesterday. Softy brought up Felix and morosi said oh yeah he’s great but pitchers can’t be team leaders because they ding play every day.


  17. henryv on February 15th, 2014 1:42 pm

    I would agree. But I think it should be stated as “Cano needs to be Very Good, Or Else.” He doesn’t need to be a team leader. He needs to be good. For a long time, or this team will be in some serious dire straights for a long time. It look the Rangers 10 years to recover from the mismanagement of the team during the late 90s and early 2000’s. I’m wondering if this organization could overcome the Felix and Cano contracts if either of them become a 5 year albatross.

  18. californiamariner on February 15th, 2014 3:27 pm

    I think chemistry is definitely a thing. However, it is completely impossible to measure or predict so there’s really no point in talking about it.

  19. Longgeorge1 on February 15th, 2014 6:08 pm

    Some of the context of my comments were regarding the M’s lack of offense the last few years and how a pitcher is not really in a spot to take charge in being an offensive example. Yes hard work can be a leadership trait, but can a pitcher take an underperforming batter to the side and “get his attention”. I agree that Felix is the face of the franchise, but it is not what I am thinking of as a team leader. I don’t think we have had an effective one since “The Bone”.

  20. Edgar Suzuki Jr. on February 17th, 2014 12:04 pm

    Yeah I’m siding with the belief that pitchers aren’t likely to be the clubhouse leader. I think a lot of guys, even position players, look up to Felix but I don’t think he’s that guy that can get everyone to have the “Let’s go!!!” mentality.

    I’m not sure if Cano has to/will be that guy either….

  21. rowlandice on February 17th, 2014 4:24 pm

    Question: I know the M’s can trade the competitive balance pick at the end of the 2nd round. They’re already lost a 2nd round pick for Robbie. Wouldn’t it make sense to trade the competitive pick prior to signing anyone else such as Santana or Cruz? If I understand it correctly, if they sign one of the QO players, that would be the next pick to go.

  22. abun24 on February 17th, 2014 6:53 pm

    I logged in to state that the article written to trash the bad article is similarly useless. USSM has better standards. C’mon Jeff, you can do better.

  23. dogkahuna on February 17th, 2014 8:13 pm

    Right f***ing on, Jeff! Viva el Rey Felix!!!

  24. goalieump413 on February 17th, 2014 10:11 pm

    Yeah, Morosi (formerly from the PI, oddly enough) mailed it in.

    But I have to say that if the national perception is that the M’s suddenly have a shot at the AL West, just because Cano wears the cap, that’s fine by me. The more bluster the M’s get beyond southern Alaska the better. It might tip the scales next year for another splash free agent signing.

    Look, the M’s have the money, even if Jack Z and company don’t believe they do. They can afford to go on a shopping trip or two. The bad contracts are long since gone, and there are enough regulars under team control to set aside the cash.

    And as for leadership… Come on man! Of course Felix IS the clubhouse leader. The absence of his name in the article shouldn’t offend baseball fans or writers, for that matter. We know he’s earned the title of King, so what’s the problem?

    And, who cares what other people think? Felix stayed because he loves it here, and we love him. Cano’s presence isn’t going to reduce that one bit. We, the fans, are just still in the reaction phase of Cano’s signing, and since spring training games haven’t started yet, there’s no new release of this curiosity.

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