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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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Cano’s Conversational Company

With his third home run Tuesday night, Robinson Cano assured himself of qualifying into perpetuity for a conversation that isn’t about disappointing veteran acquisitions that cost us the potential inherent in promising youth. For an evening, our new pal Robbie didn’t need to be lumped in with every wayward American League expatriate from Joe Foy to Roberto Alomar. Instead, his company resided in the rarefied air of Page 394 of the current Mets Media Guide. You could look it up, specifically under:

Historical Records.
Home Runs.
Individual, Game.

On Page 394, it says “3 (13 times)”. That notation will need to be revised upward at least once in advance of the 2020 edition, as Robinson Cano projects to take his chronological place atop a list that in print…

• counts down from Yoenis Cespedes’s pair of power trios (“at Philadelphia, 4/11/17”; “at Colorado, 8/21/15”);

• grabs the eye’s attention when it reaches Kirk Nieuwenhuis (the first Met who received a “vs.” instead of an “at,” tacitly implying his three homers off D’Back pitching flew above Flushing rather than Phoenix, 7/12/15);

• high-fives four members of the franchise’s 50th-anniversary all-time team (Carlos Beltran at Colorado, 5/12/11; Jose Reyes at Philadelphia, 8/15/06; Edgardo Alfonzo at Houston, 8/30/99; Darryl Strawberry, 8/5/85);

• nods reverently at a couple of other sluggers for all seasons (Gary Carter at San Diego, 9/3/85; Dave Kingman at Los Angeles, 6/4/76);

• and lands where it all started (Jim Hickman at St. Louis, 9/3/65).

Filling the Historical Records skies with three home runs apiece somewhere in between are Lucas Duda, Ike Davis and Claudell Washington. Duda had more of the Mets career that Davis was supposed to have. Washington’s Mets career was basically the June afternoon in Los Angeles when he thrice went deep. Claudell was only around for a few months in 1980. A few home runs in one game outweighs the production of plenty of Mets who lingered longer.

Cano is up to nine homers as a Met. He wasn’t brought here to hit home runs, exactly. It was figured those would be part of a broader package of offense that would spark, bolster and lift the Mets in 2019 if not beyond. He was Robinson Cano, after all…“was” being the operative word until Tuesday night. Until Tuesday night, he was Cano who we mentioned with Foy, Fregosi, Baerga, Alomar, maybe Samuel. He was Cano who used to be really something, before the Mets saw fit to trade two high-ceiling minor leaguers, among others, to secure his and Edwin Diaz’s services. Diaz has saved 22 games and blown what feels like a thousand others. It’s probably not quite that many.

In that same vein, it feels as if Cano — before he drove in all five runs on those three homers to fuel Jason Vargas’s 5-2 win over National League Rookie of No Month Chris Paddack and the Padres at Citi Field — had done absolutely nothing. Or more harm than good. Certainly less than expected. Not enough hitting. Not enough range. Surely not much in the way of running from home to first. But, because fairness compels us toward accuracy, Cano had been good for literally more than nothing, having been better than bad of late, even prior to Tuesday. If you read and listened closely, you learned Robbie the teammate was helpful in ways box scores don’t directly reflect. Keon Broxton credited Cano for valuable advice when he delivered a big hit in early April. Yeah, I know, Keon Broxton didn’t exactly deliver anything else, but player-coaching is player-coaching. At least twice Michael Conforto expressed similar sentiments after wins. When Mike Francesa asked Pete Alonso why he thought his defense was so much stronger than anticipated, the rookie sensation said he was helped immeasurably in Spring Training by his wise and experienced left-side partner Robinson Cano; after he captured the Home Run Derby trophy, Pete volunteered Cano was a genuine asset in preparing him to compete.

Items that don’t show up in the box score or make themselves evident on TV cover less ground than a slowing second baseman. Dave Kaminer, an extremely insightful FAFIF reader who’s been watching the Mets since the days of Jim Hickman, recently suggested that if Alonso is the Polar Bear, then Cano — “a veteran who doesn’t hustle, doesn’t hit, and who seems uninterested in the field” — ought to be called the Polar Opposite. I’ve been itching to co-opt that brilliant line since Dave shared it with me during the All-Star break, but it hasn’t seemed to fit as much. Now, or at least until the glitter from his epic performance fades, it doesn’t fit at all. That’s the problem with deciding where a player fits into the scheme of things while the scheme is still working itself out. I have a good friend who loyally and hopefully clung to Cano for his fantasy team throughout this season’s first 99 games of mostly misery before waiving him Tuesday morning, just in time to not benefit from Robinson’s four hits, three homers and five RBIs. That friend calmly referred to himself Tuesday night as a “moron” and “idiot,” which I can confirm he’s definitely not. (I can also confirm I maintain minimal interest in anybody’s fantasy team, even that of a good friend.)

Was Cano as washed up as it appeared prior to his breakout game? Were his fourteen seasons of Hall of Fame production prior to 2019 the true leading indicator of what his 36-year-old mind and body had left? Were we hasty to judge and deny all appeals because we’re so used to Joe Foy batting .236 while Amos Otis goes on to make five All-Star teams? The world champion Mets thought Foy was the third baseman who would solidify their 1970 title defense. Otis was expendable in that particular thing-scheme. Two years later, with Foy long gone, Jim Fregosi was the new key to the hot corner, while Nolan Ryan’s hard-to-harness heat was deemed expendable.

A generation or so after, former second baseman Juan Samuel from the Phillies was too good to pass up, so we got him to play center, sending away Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell in the process. Somewhat tarnished Tribesman Carlos Baerga would not all that much later be seen by the front office as a bargain at the price of Jeff Kent and Jose Vizcaino. And who would pass up Robbie Alomar if the Indians were going to practically give him to us? None of these deals is exactly analogous to what Kelenic/Dunn/et al for Cano/Diaz has been even if the results seem to have trended in the same direction (though Alex Escobar never quite tore it up for Cleveland the way Amos Otis did for Kansas City). But you know how we are. We love our apt-enough precedents and we wear transactional doom like a comfy old hoodie, holes and all. Just a couple of years ago, I struck up a conversation on the LIRR with a Mets fan who was still stewing that we gave up on Hickman in 1966 and Jim made the All-Star team in 1970.

Robinson Cano may yet escape the conversation he’s been assigned to since it became apparent the rest of the National League East wasn’t prioritizing the coming and getting of us. Because he has (deep breath) another four years on his contract, we don’t know for sure that Robbie is necessarily the stuff of Foy, Fregosi and the others who populate our cabal of eternal regret. On the other hand, he’s definitely, within the Mets Media Guide Page 394 context, of a caliber equal to Carter and Strawberry, Reyes and Beltran, Cespedes twice and Nieuwenhuis inexplicably.

Y’know, Joe Foy once went 5-for-5 as a Met, driving in five runs and homering twice — the second time in the tenth inning — to beat the Giants at Candlestick Park. It doesn’t come up often when Foy’s name stirs in Met lore, but it did happen, just like that night Robinson Cano socked three home runs to crush the Padres.

3 comments to Cano’s Conversational Company

  • Ken K. in NJ

    I just re-watched the 3 Cano homers on MLB, in a bang bang bang one clip video. If you throw the exact same meatball in the exact same location three times, even to a 36 year old over the hill 2nd baseman, the result for the Padres pitchers is not going to be very good. I’m not ready to give Cano the Comeback Player of the Month award (I assume there is one).

  • Left Coast Jerry

    On May 25, 1935, 40 year old Babe Ruth hit 3 homers as a member of the Boston Braves. Five days later he retired. One can only hope the same will happen with Mr. Cano.

  • Pete Smith

    Great to get a reference to Dave K!