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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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That Cano Has Sailed

I had come around on Robinson Cano in 2020, a man we learned Wednesday won’t be a Met in 2021. I had come to not automatically grimace at the sight or thought of him in a Mets uniform. I even got over my distaste for No. 24 being taken out of informal retirement on his behalf in deference to his having been named for Jackie Robinson and 42 not being available. Willie Mays wore 24. Then, save for the Kelvin Torve hiccup of 1990, only Rickey Henderson wore it thereafter. Nobody’d touched it for nearly twenty years. It was reserved for legends whose backstory merited it. Robbie, at his best, wasn’t quite in the Willie/Rickey stratosphere, but he’d been fairly close. We saw evidence that he could still resemble his younger, outstanding self, the perennial AL All-Star whose path to 3,000 hits and probably Cooperstown would require only decent endurance and a little forgiveness from a previous suspension time might sweep down the memory hole. After 2020, he’d have three seasons to build out his statistical portfolio and enhance his reputation anew.

Once he found his Met footing, Cano’s revitalized offense and the universal appreciation he seemed to elicit from his younger teammates for his informal coaching and words of veteran wisdom made me forget what an absolutely asinine trade had been executed to bring him and the shall we say inconsistent Edwin Diaz to Flushing in exchange for our top outfield prospect about ten minutes after the kid was drafted. I’d even decided to overlook that Cano viewed running the 90 feet to first base as purely optional.

Maybe it started with the three-homer night against San Diego and the hot streak he carried into an unfortunate infield injury in the summer of 2019, just as the moribund Mets were coming to life. The amazing part wasn’t that he was tearing up a hamstring just as he was tearing up a new league. The amazing part was that he picked right up where he left off when he returned in September, and essentially kept it going once baseball returned ten months later. Wow, I had to admit, Robinson Cano can still hit.

Insert here your own rhetorical question of gee, just how, as he approached 38 years old, did he manage to effect such a renaissance?

I guess the proof is in the positive.

Robinson Cano has been suspended for 2021 after testing thumbs-up for Stanozolol, previously known to us as the steroid of choice for fallen mid-2010s closer Jenrry Mejia. That makes it two suspensions in less than three years for Cano; the first was for the diuretic Lasix and cost him half a season. Cano forfeits his $24 million salary for next year, which is quite a paycheck to risk under an otherwise guaranteed contract. Perhaps it speaks, perversely, to a desire to win at all costs. Or tells us athletes, no matter how undeniably veteran or presumably wise, believe they are impervious to niceties like testing for banned substances.

The Mets themselves didn’t owe Cano all $24 million for ’21, incidentally. The Mariners were on the hook for a percentage. So call it merely a ton instead of a spit ton of money the Mets are off the hook for in the coming year, a welcome savings even for a franchise now connected to plenty deep pockets. And call it good fortune that the Mets are deep enough in perfectly viable second basemen — Jeff McNeil, Andrés Giménez — so that there is nothing glaringly debilitating from a competitive standpoint as one begins to construct hypothetical lineups for the season hopefully ahead. And if the Mets want to take a run at a free agent like DJ LeMahieu, hey, look — about $20 million just got freed up!

The news is not a terrible bruise to the Mets’ aspirations, but it’s too bad anyway. Cano was part of the team we came to embrace in 2019 and gave us a lot of hitting in 2020, hitting that added up (.316/.352/.544) and hits that still count as having happened. I watched him closely at FanFest last January, the last time I was inside Citi Field. He impressed me just by showing up and then by being one of the guys. I expected aloofness. I witnessed warmth. (With his contract, why shouldn’t he always beam?) I entered a George Foster post-1982, pre-July 1986 mindset with Robbie. The commitment to an aging star had been proven overly optimistic, but here was a once top-flight player now and again reminding you why he was considered it worth it — or in Cano’s case, worth it to a general manager who has since been relieved of his duties.

We don’t know how much of his 2020 production was Stanozolol-enabled and how much was simply good old baseball knowhow and residual reflexes remaining in working order. I understand it’s nearly impossible to say anything positive about a player who has just tested exactly that for a second time without sounding naïve or Pollyannish about the whole thing. Still, I came to kind of like the guy, and, as I’ve grown older, I’ve hesitated to be overly judgmental about people’s mistakes, especially if they don’t particularly hurt anybody else. We’re all capable of making them more than once. We’re all capable of learning from them eventually.

That said, yeesh. I can hear Norm Macdonald’s voice reporting, “Experts have announced they’ve discovered a way to NOT forfeit $24 million in guaranteed salary after testing positive for PEDs: DON’T use PEDs.”

Also, don’t trade Jarred Kelenic.

Cano has two years on his contract lingering lavishly beyond 2021, carrying him through his age 40 season. One wishes to believe the new regime can negotiate and easily cover a buyout. Once that deal is done, please deposit No. 24 at the front desk on your way out.

20 comments to That Cano Has Sailed

  • Seth

    Speechless. Too bad there’s no steroid to fix stupidity, eh?

  • Matt in DE

    Stinks for the younger players to lose that veteran guidance, but I kind of see it as addition by subtraction.

  • Greg Mitchell

    His stupidity–or Brodie’s? I know most on this board strongly questioned the trade from the beginning. First-guessing, correctly. Well, that sews up his first-ballot election to the HOF–the PED HOF–where he’ll join Bonds,ARod, Sosa, Palmiero, Clemens etc. Not of talent there, no doubt! “There ya go, Robbie Cano.”

  • 9th string catcher

    I wonder if he started taking it to stabilize his physical self. Steroids can wreck havoc on a body. Why else would someone with a guaranteed contract and a pronounced apathy to hustling or playing defense stay on them?

    From NIH: People who misuse steroids might experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop use, including:

    loss of appetite
    sleep problems
    decreased sex drive
    steroid cravings

    He might not be able to get off of them easily. Hard to know.

    • Addiction crossed my mind, though I didn’t do the due diligence of bothering to look it up as a legit possibility as you have (thank you for doing so). I would guess if that were at the heart of the issue, he’d be checked into rehab of some sort and MLB/the Mets would frame this as a player needing support.

      So I don’t really think that’s it, but I don’t even play a doctor on TV.

      • 9th string catcher

        I gather Cano is a pretty proud guy, and would rather be suspended than admit he can’t get an erection. If this was the case, I doubt that the Mets would even know, and that Cano would have told anyone about it. Roids are horrible, horrible things and make monsters out of normal people. Again, just conjecture. He might just have starting using to treat injuries or to jumpstart his offense when he started to slide. Maybe he wanted to get his HOF numbers up. Or maybe he never really stopped and just got caught.

  • I’m picturing Luis Guillorme slumped in the margins of this post with his second baseman’s glove, looking vaguely like a woebegone, big-eyed child from a velvet painting as he forlornly wonders, “Why doesn’t Greg like me too?”

  • mikeski

    Sandy should re-hire Brodie so that he can fire him again.

  • eric1973

    I always thought Cano was lazy, and that he unfairly made Callaway’s job tougher than it needed to be. Sure, Callaway was a complete phony and well deserved his ultimate fate, but that part was all Cano’s fault.

    I was very surprised to see Cano playing well with the Mets, after seeing how he started out. But it never occurred to me that he was taking steroids again.

    As it turned out, you didn’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to figure that out.

  • The King

    What sage advice was he dispensing to the young ‘uns? No need to book it to first? Please.

    • Conforto, Alonso, Rosario and Giménez each vouched for their elder teammate helping them along. Keon Broxton, too.

      • Daniel Hall

        Keon “Three Prospects into the Woodchipper” Broxton, too? That’s some credits! :-P

        • For completism’s sake, Guillemo Heredia as well.

          After hitting an insurance home run in his second game as a Met Tuesday night, Guillermo Heredia talked about how special it was to be in New York — because of Canó.

          “(Canó) has been like a father figure to me since I’ve been here in the United States,” said Heredia. “It was dating back to our days in Seattle when I signed there. As a rookie being in the clubhouse with big-time figures like Robinson, I was pretty timid and kind of starstruck at the time. But Robinson saw me and he embraced me. We were just like regular people.”

  • Daniel Hall

    When I read the news late last night, I tested negative for sadness.

    I learned a while back that 35-year-old middle infielders are reason enough for chronic depression. What about 38-year-old middle infielders?

    Also, more dosh to spend in the Bauer/Springer/Realmuto aisle of the free agent market! We don’t *really* need LeMahieu, at least not nearly as much as any of those three.

  • open the gates

    Note to whomever the new Mets GM will be: Stay far, far away from aging middle infielders named Robbie. We’ve been burned twice, and as they say in baseball, three strikes and yer out.

    That being said, we have found yet another reason to rejoice over the regime change. I’m sure there will be many more in the days/years to come.

  • Ed Rising

    It is like an addict – oh they aren’t going to catch me – no way – ooops! Big oops! $24M of oops. I hope the Mets can negotiate to mark off the balance of his contract. If we need a veteran presence then re-sign our good buddy Todd Frazier! Losing Cano is not a loss for the Mets it only clears the infield for Gimenez and McNeil to move into 2nd and 3rd. Moving on and for any of you other Mets who may be using – get off the stuff now!

  • Ken K. in NJ

    My first reaction was: “They test all year round?” And if so, why would he need it in November or whenever the test was given?

    I don’t know enough about this stuff (in fact I know next to nothing about it) to know whether one can use it just when needed (i.e during the baseball season) or if it has to maintained in the off season to be effective.

    Or, unless, as has been speculated and pretty much shot down here, he’s addicted.

  • Ed Rising

    Ken K – I would guess-timate that he and users like him need to take this stuff year round for balance sake? Sort of like viagra LOL!

  • chuck

    I can’t tell Steve Cohen his business, but I would suggest one of two things:

    Trade him to the American League, where he can play out his declining years as a DH (I pray to All That Is Good And Right, and Bartolo Colon, that the NL doesn’t break down and accept this miscarriage in the CBA talks). Eat as much of his salary as he can.

    Or, if the kids really like him that much, tell him to retire and eat some of his salary in exchange for a spot on the coaching staff. That might recover some of his dignity.

    I wouldn’t mind slapping Seattle’s ownership for giving him such a long contract.