Buck Showalter Is Why Robinson Cano Must Go
One of the biggest mistakes the New York Mets made in their history was trading for Robinson Cano. It wasn’t just about who they gave up. Really, it was about acquiring a 36 year old infielder coming off a PED suspension with just about the worst contract in baseball.
Cano’s first year in Queens was a disaster for him, but he did rebound in 2020 to look like the player the Mets thought they were getting. As we discovered, Cano was using PEDs that season. As a result, he was suspended for the entirety of the 2021 season. During that 2021 season, the Mets were forced to move in another direction.
Now, Cano is back and was always going to get chances because of the contract. Yes, the Mets have acknowledged the sunk cost by at least making Cano a part-time player, or really a semi-regular. That said, they seem to be letting that contract get in the way of some decision making. To the point, it is difficult to discern reasons other than Cano’s contract as to why he is getting the playing time.
To a point, there is the Billy Eppler and Buck Showalter consideration. Eppler has a relationship with Cano from their time with the New York Yankees. With respect to Showalter, with respect to Cano’s return, he said, “We’re excited about having him back on the club and contributing..”
Now, words are words, and actions are actions. With respect to Cano, the actions are what’s troubling.
First, we need to acknowledge the Mets are in a difficult pot with Cano. They have one month to determine if he can be a viable Major League player. They need to decide if it’s worth carrying one fewer pitcher or designating Travis Jankowski, or another viable player, for assignment. As a result, Cano is going to be forced into the lineup even when it doesn’t make sense.
However, it doesn’t make sense for Cano to be batting ahead of Jeff McNeil. It also doesn’t make any sense why he is up for key at-bats late in games.
Before addressing that point, it should be noted Cano is hitting .184/.225/.263 with a homer and three RBI. After Cano went 2-for-3 on Opening Day, he has been 5-for-36 (.143) since.
Cano is chasing everything, He’s having issues with velocity and breaking pitches. This may be due to a number of factors. He was away from the game for a year, and there’s bound to be some rust. He’s also older. There’s also the presumption he’s no longer taking PEDs.
You can take a look at that and justify giving him chances to start. After all, back in 2006, a 36 year old Jose Valentin came to the Mets looking like he was done as a Major Leaguer, and his hitting .136 over the first month of the season seemed to confirm that. Of course, Valentin emerged as a key piece to that 2006 team. That was only possible because the Mets stuck with Valentin.
However, Valentin was a part-time player to start, and he was not force-fed into late inning game situations like Showalter did with Cano against St. Louis.
Revisiting the game. Giovanny Gallegos was on the mound. There was one out in the inning, the Mets were down 2-0, and Eduardo Escobar was on first. A double play ends the game. Cano is among the slowest players in the majors, and he is hitting the ball on the ground 57% of the time. Long story short, this was a situation primed for an inning ending double play.
On the bench, the Mets had Dominic Smith. Yes, Smith is off to a slow start, but right now, he’s a significantly better hitter than Cano. Certainly, he gives you a better chance. The same goes for Luis Guillorme. Really, it is the case with anyone on the Mets roster.
Instead, Showalter stuck with the veteran Cano. He put Cano above trying to win the game. He stuck by the veteran over opting for the best player. It was in this moment it was clear having Cano on the roster is a detriment to this team because Showalter will stick with him instead of making the moves that need to be made to win a game.
No, it’s not necessarily Cano’s fault Showalter has stuck by him. In the end, that doesn’t matter. So long as Showalter is going to prioritize Cano over winning games, the Mets need to remove Cano from the equation. The Mets won despite this decision, but they may not be so lucky the next time or the time after that.