John Blanchette: Robinson Cano forces Mariners into another dose of reality
Tue., May 15, 2018
What a great day for the Seattle Mariners.
They got themselves a Gold Glove second baseman and saved $12 million.
Can the Sporting News go ahead and mail M’s general manager Jerry Dipoto the Executive of the Year award right now?
Take it from a half-full – or a full-of-it – kind of guy: As with any curveball, you have to put the best spin possible on moments like this. Otherwise, you’re left mulling the same-old, same-old – and that’s the Mariners’ chronic affliction of being unable to get out of their own way.
Just consider: On Sunday, Robinson Cano takes an 88 mph fastball from Detroit pitcher Blaine Hardy on the pinky of the right hand and suffers a fractured metacarpal. By Monday, Cano is on the 10-day disabled list. Surgery is imminent.
In haste, the fan base goes into hand-wringing that surely fractured more metacarpals. Spooked by the arm-ageddon that ravaged the pitching staff in 2017, they sense disaster when the team’s best and most durable player goes down.
Could things get any worse?
Does Tuesday follow Monday?
Tuesday was when it was revealed that Major League Baseball had suspended Cano for 80 games for a violation of the Joint Drug Agreement, having tested positive for the banned substance Furosemide during the off-season. Instead of missing their second baseman for two to four weeks – the time frame Dipoto cited on Tuesday – the Mariners must make do until his return date, Aug. 14.
Oh, and if they should sell their souls at a Safeco Field yard sale and manage to end their 17-year playoff drought, Cano will not be eligible to be on the postseason roster.
That’s so Mariners.
Actually, it really is. Cano makes for a third JDA delinquent on the M’s roster. Nelson Cruz served a 50-game suspension with Texas in 2013 for involvement in the Biogenesis scandal, and steroids cost Dee Gordon 80 games with the Marlins in 2016.
You just can’t beat veteran influence in the clubhouse.
And like nearly every player nabbed by the pee police, Cano’s excuse was that a dog ate his banned substances list.
Do they drill this stuff into these guys in the low minors along with hitting behind the runner?
In this case, Cano’s scripted boilerplate emphasized that Furosemide, a diuretic, is not a performance-enhancing drug, that he’d been given it by a licensed doctor in the Dominican Republic to treat a “medical ailment” and that he didn’t know it was banned and rued not being more careful.
Or as Dipoto put it, “He said he wishes he’d read the small print.”
If only they’d put a Mr. Yuk picture on the label.
But using a diuretic isn’t enough to get a player suspended. It takes an investigation by an independent administrator to assess whether its use was meant to mask another banned drug. That MLB imposed the 80-day hit – and Cano dropped his appeal, reportedly before breaking his hand – suggests such evidence was found.
Cano’s contrition might be sincere, but his explanation will always seem disingenuous. Dipoto understands that, even as he offered public support of his player – predictable in light of the $120 million the M’s will be paying him through 2023.
“Robby made a mistake,” Dipoto told the “Danny, Dave and Moore Show” on KIRO radio in Seattle. “A generation of baseball players made mistakes that put the public in a position to judge these things in a more jaded way.”
But he also said, “One thing I can’t support is not knowing.”
It can be easy to weary of sporting America’s drug moralizing given all the painkillers it has urged its warriors to take to stay on the field. But baseball’s JDA was collectively bargained – spurred not just by embarrassed owners but by players who didn’t want to risk PED use just to keep up with the guy at the next locker. Dipoto called the JDA “wildly successful,” even as he dealt with this transgression, whether you think it felony or misdemeanor.
His options? The immediate one is reacclimating Gordon, acquired by trade and converted into a center fielder, back to his Gold Glove position of second base, and he was taking ground balls in batting practice Tuesday. And Dipoto will then look for outfield help – maybe using some of the $11.8 million Cano won’t get paid the next three months.
He even suggested this episode could “galvanize” the Mariners. And, hey, you’ll recall that in Seattle’s watershed season of 1995, Ken Griffey Jr. broke a wrist in May and didn’t return until Aug. 15 – Alex Diaz and Rich Amaral holding the fort in center until his return.
“We’ll be fine,” insisted manager Scott Servais.
The spin is on. Like Robinson Cano, swallow it at your own risk.
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