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The importance of Robinson Canó: All-Star

Celebrating the possibility of an otherwise meaningless accolade following Robbie’s show-stealing homer.

88th MLB All-Star Game Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

It may not have the glamor of winning the fan vote, but Robinson Canó’s 8th All-Star selection mattered. It mattered to him, undoubtedly, as a sign of respect he’s earned around the league. It mattered to the Mariners, who get to continue billing Canó more credibly as a star in his age-34 season. It ended up mattering in the game itself, as the All-Star reserve came off the bench to deliver the game-winning home run in the 10th inning and took home the All-Star Game MVP.

It certainly mattered to the players in Miami, many of whom have been influenced either directly or tangentially by the magnanimous Mariner. Miguel Sanó, who shares syllables and a home town with Canó, had Robi in his corner during the entire Home Run Derby, even as he ran into the whirring buzzsaw affixed to Aaron Judge’s gavel bat.

88th MLB All-Star Game Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

It also mattered for Canó’s chances at immortality. With eight All-Star appearances, Canó has continued to close his circle of company among all-time greats, even as he opens his sphere of influence in the modern day. There have been 32 players in MLB history to make it to exactly eight All-Star Games. 17 are in the Hall of Fame, including names like Greg Maddux, Duke Snider, and Eddie Murray. The 15 who have not are listed below:

8 All-Star Games, No Hall of Fame

Player Name Position bWAR
Player Name Position bWAR
Del Crandell C 28.5
Harvey Kuenn OF/1B 25.2
Walker Cooper C 29
Gil Hodges OF/1B 45
Roy Halladay SP 64.7
Bob Johnson OF 57.2
Chipper Jones 3B 85
Robinson Canó 2B 64.3
Marty Marion SS 31.6
Yadier Molina C 34.3
Tony Oliva RF 43
Lance Parrish C 39.3
Ted Simmons C 50.1
Vern Stephens SS/3B 45.5
Darryl Strawberry RF 42

Canó sits third on the list in WAR, and should surpass Roy Halladay by the end of July. Only Chipper Jones, who will enter the Hall once eligible, sits above him. Yadier Molina is the lone other active player, and may be trapped like so many of his catching bretheren, but Canó seems likely to press on. When the threshold is lifted to nine All-Star Games, the total number becomes even more favorable - 17 total, 11 in the Hall, plus Carlos Beltrán, who is still alive and crawling towards the finish line. At 10 ASG’s it’s a near shoo-in. 19 players have achieved it, with only poor Steve Garvey left out of the Hall once Ichiro, Albert Pujols, and *grits teeth* David Ortiz are voted in. In the next decade Canó may face stiff competition from a deep pool of 2nd basemen in the AL or see his competition thinned as he shifts to 1B or DH. While none of these shifts are indicative of talent per se, they matter when looking back on a career, and they matter when votes are cast.

Robinson Canó still has time. At the All-Star Break of a disappointing season for the Mariners, Canó has neither been a flop nor flung the team upon his shoulders. His .275/.332/.481 line contains his worst batting average since his miserable 2008 season, yet his power numbers continue to support him as he ages. After a career-high 39 homers in 2016, Canó is again on pace for 30 long balls, and his .206 Isolated Power suggests his bat is continuing to age gracefully, even as Canó sees his other skills decline and his overall value becomes shrouded in uncertainty. He is three hits away from 2,300 and five HRs from 300. The milestones are not yet on the level of those Pujols and Adrián Beltré are ambling after, but one day they likely will be.

A little over 3.5/10ths of the way through his contract with the Mariners there is plenty of reason to debate the wisdom of the window of the team’s core, but Canó is here and still has greatness in him. Whether he enters the Hall with an S and a compass rose or the most popular hat in the world on his bust may come down to if the Mariners find playoff success (read: the playoffs) during Robi’s tenure. Canó built this team and its culture, however, as much as Jerry Dipoto or Scott Servais. The Mariners are his. His Mariners are ours, and his march to Fame is ours now, too. And when you manage to steal the show like Canó did with last night’s game-winning home run?

Everyone’s a fan.