PHILADELPHIA – Maybe it’s the easygoing personality where he never seems to be in a hurry about anything. It could be the mischievous grin/smile that leaves his face only once in a while and never for extended periods of time. Perhaps it’s the swagger of knowing what he’s accomplished in the game.
Whatever the reason, there is a calm that surrounds Robinson Cano. It’s as if he emits a relaxing vibe that can be felt by anyone around him.
It’s not just something for the down times in the clubhouse pregame. It’s not just for light moments in the dugout. It’s constant. It’s there in the field, on defense or in the batter’s box. The moment never feels too big for him.
And that’s important to the Mariners.
For the first time since the early 2000s, the organization finds itself in a postseason race, playing meaningful, important games in August and hopefully September. Expectations have been raised. Mistakes are magnified. And results – individual and team – have increased meaning.
It’s a new and different pressure they’re experiencing – or not.
Cano shrugs off the mention of “pressure,” saying he just has to be “himself.”
To be Cano means smiling, laughing and playing as if it’s the first week of the season while hitting .329 with 11 homers, 69 runs batted in and an .865 OPS. It’s carefree joy mixed with self-confidence.
“I was always this way,” he said. “This is how I am.”
His manager doesn’t mind.
“He goes about his business every day, and he has fun doing it,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said.
Even when the games mean so much more, Cano won’t change.
“You have to play relaxed,” he said. “It’s like if you make an error, you should want the ball hit right to you again. You don’t want it in your mind that you don’t.”
Perhaps it’s easy for Cano to be so relaxed since he has been in the situation for almost every season of his big-league career with the Yankees. Under the New York spotlight with the expectations of World Series or failure, he never changed his approach. He embraced it, making sure to enjoy it.
“I love those big situations,” he said. “That’s what I like. That’s when the games really matter and when it’s really fun.”
But does it make a difference to his teammates? Does his relaxed confidence help a slew of players who have never been in this situation before?
“I never thought about it, but I hope it does,” Cano said. “That’s how I’ve always played the game. And you should play the game like that. You shouldn’t put extra pressure on yourself. You should play relaxed because it’s still a game.”
The players are feeding off it.
“It definitely helps to have a guy like that as opposed to a guy who’s maybe the exact opposite, an uptight and tense guy,” Dustin Ackley said. “That doesn’t help.”
McClendon wouldn’t get too philosophical on the concept. He’s talked often that Cano’s presence has been a calming, professional influence from the moment he first put on a Mariners uniform. If rookie starting shortstop Chris Taylor, who has all of 22 games of MLB experience, can look to his left and see Cano, who has so much of expected of him playing relaxed and free, then he should too.
“Well, it’s gotta be a positive influence,” McClendon said. “You don’t want to look at the guy next to you and see that he’s nervous. That’s not going to help.”
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