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The Underrated Career And Complicated Legacy Of Robinson Canó

It could be a bit untimely to eulogize the profession of Robinson Canó, the veteran free agent who was formally launched by the New York Mets on Sunday, after being designated for task final week. In any case, Canó might nonetheless garner curiosity from one other staff, which must pay him solely the league minimal, with New York consuming the greater than $40 million that remained on Canó’s contract heading into the season. However after Canó hit .195 with a .501 OPS to start out the 2022 season, it’s clear the tip is quickly approaching for the 39-year-old former All-Star, if it isn’t right here already.

And usually, when a star as embellished as Canó is successfully finished as a participant, we flip our consideration to future accolades just like the Corridor of Fame. However for Canó, that query is difficult. Very similar to one other longtime New York infielder, Alex Rodriguez, Canó is a participant of not solely prodigious expertise and vital achievement but additionally appreciable flaws — ones that make his eventual entry to Cooperstown very questionable, regardless of credentials that belong among the many recreation’s greats.

It didn’t must be this manner. As soon as upon a time, Canó was recognized finest for being a silky-smooth second baseman with one of many prettiest swings of all time, and he seemed to be the pure inheritor to the Yankees’ franchise-player label, with Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera getting older. However after an unpleasant cut up with New York, plus two suspensions for performance-enhancing medication (which price him a staggering 242 video games) and this newest chapter of gathering money from the Mets for barely replacement-level manufacturing, Canó’s profession has now virtually absolutely crashed and burned.

Till a number of years in the past, Canó was cruising alongside at a Corridor of Fame altitude. By way of age 35, his ultimate season with the Seattle Mariners — and the yr of his first failed PED take a look at — Canó had extra profession wins above substitute than 11 different Corridor of Fame second basemen did on the similar age, together with Ryne Sandberg, Craig Biggio and Canó’s namesake, Jackie Robinson. (Granted, Robinson’s profession began slower than Canó’s as a result of he first needed to break the colour barrier at age 28 earlier than accumulating any WAR.) Even now, regardless of the suspensions and different late-career travails, Canó stays one of the crucial productive gamers at his place in baseball historical past.

The truth is, Canó was most likely severely underrated in his prime. Solely a handful of second basemen in historical past had a peak like Canó’s in his finest seasons, when he eclipsed 5.0 WAR — the mark of an All-Star sort of season — on seven completely different events.

Most of that worth was generated as a member of the Yankees. And as a lot as New York followers and writers derided his sometimes nonchalant performs, Canó completed his Yankee profession with the fourth-most WAR at second base of anybody in franchise historical past, trailing solely Willie Randolph, Tony Lazzeri and Joe Gordon. Canó was additionally the staff’s finest participant by WAR in a trio of seasons throughout the 2010s, becoming a member of a historic membership of three-time main pinstriped performers that positioned him in the identical lineage as not solely Jeter and Rodriguez but additionally Don Mattingly, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth.

For a number of seasons, Canó was king of the hill, prime of the heap

Most worthy members of the New York Yankees based on wins above substitute (WAR) by season throughout the 2010s

Season Finest Batter WAR/162 Finest Pitcher WAR/162
2019 DJ LeMahieu ⭐ 5.76 James Paxton 2.97
2018 Aaron Decide ⭐ 5.54 Luis Severino 4.61
2017 Aaron Decide ⭐ 8.40 Luis Severino 5.41
2016 Gary Sánchez 3.07 Masahiro Tanaka ⭐ 5.11
2015 Mark Teixeira 3.11 Dellin Betances ⭐ 3.33
2014 Jacoby Ellsbury ⭐ 3.58 Dellin Betances 3.42
2013 Robinson Canó ⭐ 6.27 Hiroki Kuroda 3.80
2012 Robinson Canó ⭐ 7.87 Hiroki Kuroda 4.59
2011 Curtis Granderson ⭐ 6.50 CC Sabathia 6.04
2010 Robinson Canó ⭐ 7.26 CC Sabathia 5.55

⭐ Workforce’s finest participant general.

WAR is predicated on JEFFBAGWELL — the Joint Estimate Featuring FanGraphs and B-R Aggregated to Generate WAR, Equally Leveling Lists.

Sources: Baseball-Reference.com, FanGraphs

Canó’s divorce from the Yankees was messy. Workforce brass refused to budge from a relatively smaller provide than Canó’s market worth most likely warranted — a choice that doesn’t precisely look unhealthy in hindsight, although it could have foreshadowed the staff’s present unwillingness to spend prefer it used to — whereas Canó stated he felt disrespected earlier than in the end turning to Seattle to get what he needed. That’s how free company works, however it was additionally symbolic of how Canó’s greatness was by no means absolutely appreciated in New York.

On paper, Canó and the Bronx appeared like a match made in heaven. However he got here alongside at a transitional level in franchise historical past — having his finest seasons as the ultimate embers of the Nineties dynasty have been burning out, and lacking out on the subsequent era of contending Yankee groups by a number of years. (Canó additionally did himself no favors within the postseason, with an OPS 174 factors decrease than his profession regular-season common as a Yankee.) When Canó left New York the primary time, it’s clear each staff and followers alike noticed him as expendable, regardless of his nice numbers.

At first, Canó’s run in Seattle appeared to make the Yankees remorse letting him stroll. He was roughly pretty much as good in 2014, his first season as a Mariner, as he had been with New York the earlier yr, and after a nice (if merely OK by his requirements) efficiency in 2015, Canó loved the most effective seasons of his complete profession in 2016 — hitting for an OPS 38 p.c higher than league common whereas main the league in defensive runs saved at second base and incomes 7.07 WAR general on the age of 33. One other stable season adopted in 2017, and Canó was within the midst of an excellent 2018 when he was suspended 80 video games for utilizing furosemide, a banned diuretic that can be utilized to masks the proof of PED use. Though he truly hit higher upon returning to the staff in August than he had earlier than serving his suspension, the harm to Canó’s fame was finished.

Not that it stored the Mets, helmed at the moment by Canó’s former agent Brodie Van Wagenen — who, extremely, was then New York’s basic supervisor after having initially negotiated Canó’s megadeal with Seattle — from buying and selling prized prospect Jarred Kelenic (amongst others) to the Mariners for the veteran second baseman, plus nearer Edwin Díaz. To that time, Canó’s efficiency had backed up his contract surprisingly effectively. However though Canó’s reunion with New York Metropolis had some excessive factors, together with a hitting renaissance (143 OPS+) within the pandemic-shortened 2020 marketing campaign, his time with the Mets was primarily related to a excessive wage and relative lack of manufacturing, his ties to Van Wagenen’s disastrous run as GM in Queens and a second PED suspension (this time for 162 video games) that destroyed no matter shred of status remained in Canó’s profession.

As was the case with A-Rod, it’s potential that steroids have been central to Canó’s complete enjoying document, since we will’t really know when he started utilizing them. (Canó was linked to Rodriguez’s Biogenesis scandal within the spring of 2013, although he was not formally investigated by MLB on the time.) However he performed practically his complete big-league profession throughout the period of MLB’s Joint Drug Prevention and Therapy Program, which usually topics gamers to testing for banned substances, and he had not failed a take a look at till the 2017-18 offseason. Meaning it’s very potential, if not outright possible, that Canó constructed a robust Corridor of Fame resume over greater than a decade earlier than throwing all of it away on PEDs within the twilight of his profession.

If that’s the case, it makes Canó a tragic determine in baseball historical past. Although some PED-linked gamers, akin to David Ortiz, made Cooperstown regardless, most haven’t — and there are many variations between Ortiz’s circumstances and Canó’s, anyway. (Not least of which being that Canó’s failed assessments got here after PEDs have been explicitly outlawed by MLB, whereas Ortiz’s failed take a look at was meant to be a part of an nameless pilot program earlier than steroids have been banned, however his title was later leaked in The New York Instances.) As an alternative, Canó appears destined to finish up in a class like our Corridor of Fairly Rattling Good Gamers, a touchdown spot for nice skills who nonetheless received’t be awarded their sport’s highest honor.

That’s a disappointing destiny, given the place Canó’s profession path gave the impression to be taking him just some years in the past. However irrespective of how you are feeling about his a number of failed PED assessments and late-career struggles, all of us have to understand the wonder and magnificence with which Canó performed the sport at his peak — and that’s one thing that may by no means be taken away from him.

Take a look at our newest MLB predictions.

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