It’s July 4th, the second big checkpoint for baseball teams to evaluate how their season is going. The Seattle Mariners find themselves at a somewhat surprising 47-38, good for third in the very tight AL West. If the playoffs started today, they’d be in and the New York Yankees would be sitting at home. Who’s happiest about that? You guessed it: Robinson Cano.
When Cano left New York and signed a 10 year, $240 million contract with the Mariners in free agency, he was portrayed as a selfish, money-grabbing sellout by Yankee fans. The fans who once idolized and cheered for him were now yelling things like, “Have fun in last place while we’re winning championships!” Seattle hasn’t made the postseason since 2001, when Ken Griffey Jr., Bret Boone and Ichiro were dominating in the Emerald City. Most grumbled that the All-Star second baseman was putting money over winning with a move like that.
Fast forward to today. Cano is hitting .323 with six home runs and 51 runs batted in. In Safeco Field, one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in the bigs, the dropoff in homers was expected, but he’s still producing enough to be a lock for this month’s All-Star Game. The team is winning and everything is running smoothly, with the offense starting to pick it up and the pitching staff continuing to be excellent.
The people who deserves the most credit for Seattle’s strong play so far are the front office men who put the team together, led by general manager Jack Zduriencik. While Yankee fans may disagree, Robinson Cano’s decision was about much more than money. The Mariners knew they needed a solid recruiting pitch to land one of the best players in the game, and they were spot on. They utilized ace pitcher Felix Hernandez in the recruiting process while also promising to get the pieces necessary to make Seattle a contender. The most important of those cogs, closer Fernando Rodney, has 24 saves, good for fifth in the majors. The “supporting cast,” a term we hear so much in regard to NBA teams, has been fantastic in complementing Cano, and that’s one of the main reasons he chose to be a Mariner.
His former team can’t help but be envious. The Yankees sit at 42-42, third place in the weak AL East and on the outside of the playoff picture. The men they agreed to pay a combined $238 million to, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann, have not lived up to the money so far. Ellsbury’s numbers aren’t terrible, but fellow outfielder Brett Gardner is outperforming him despite making 1/4 of his salary. McCann has been simply atrocious, batting .224, 50 points lower than his career .274 average. When he signed with the Yankees he was called a “perfect fit” for Yankee Stadium. The stadium has inflated his home run numbers, but that’s pretty much it.
Not to mention Cano’s replacement at second, Brian Roberts. Roberts, once a top-three second baseman in the league, has struggled mightily this year. While he deserves credit for staying healthy this season (he missed 456 games the last four years due to injury), he can’t hold a candle to Cano; a .237 batting average with a .309 on base percentage is obviously not going to cut it. While the Yankees knew not to expect much production from second this year, Roberts has been nothing more than a placeholder so far.
Robinson Cano felt disrespected by the Yankees during contract negotiations, and while there’s still a lot of baseball to be played this year, he has to be smirking right now. Not only is he having fun and winning in Seattle, he’s making the Yankees pay for not paying up this winter. He knew he was worth the money, and now he’s getting his revenge. Will he still be laughing in October?