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The return of Robinson Canó

Haters to the back, please

“It’s not impossible they remain in the playoff hunt, especially with the favorable schedule they face over the next month. But their pitching is a liability, their offense is now without one of its strongest weapons, and the clubhouse has lost its leader. I would expect Gordon Beckham to continue to fill in for now. The suspension is without pay, meaning Seattle, cynically, suddenly has another $12 million or so to work with this year should they choose, but if the team begins to slip in the standings this may be a clear turning point in the trajectory of the franchise, and even the jobs of both Scott Servais and Jerry Dipoto.”

It’s been 90 days since Robinson Canó’s suspension for using a masking agent, and so much has changed since John wrote this final paragraph. Servais and Dipoto’s jobs are no longer in question, with both having recently signed contract extensions, and, blessedly, Gordon Beckham has not had nearly as much play time as many of us initially feared. That extra $12 million was, in large part, responsible for the acquisition of Denard Span and Alex Colomé, a move that’s had a major impact, and the team has remained squarely in the playoff hunt. One thing that hasn’t changed is the Marinerswin percentage, which was .575 when Canó was suspended and which, somehow, was .575 for the last 80 games without him.

Assuming Canó plays every game left in the regular season, he’ll finish the year with 81 games; prior to this year, the fewest major league games he’d played in a regular season was 122, in his 2006 season. In all likelihood, this may be the longest he’s been away from a baseball field, during the season, since he was a child in San Pedro de Macorís. To be a professional baseball player, you’ve got to at least enjoy the game to some extent. By all accounts, Canó doesn’t just love baseball - he lives it, breathes it. His identity has been shaped by baseball and he, in turn, has shaped the game.

He’s a future Hall of Famer, and I’m not particularly interested in arguments to the contrary. By fWAR he bests current and future HOFers Vladimir Guerrero, David Ortiz, and Orlando Cepeda; bWAR is even more generous: only three active players in baseball best his 67.6 career bWAR, and those players are all Hall-bound. By the time he’ll be eligible, I expect Barry Bonds to already be in, and the PEDs point will be moot.

Off the field his training has somehow been both the stuff of legend and wildly underrated. Jean Segura calls him his “angel,” and credits Canó with helping him recover after the death of his son and retooling his swing to revive his career. Eduardo Nuñez, Edwin Encarnación, and Albert Pujols are just a few who he’s invited to train with him and his father down in the Dominican Republic.

There’s been some speculation that Canó’s return will disrupt the clubhouse chemistry, but I can’t imagine anything further from the truth. He’s been a central figure in the clubhouse since signing with the Mariners in 2014, teammates spoke only words of support following his suspension, and some have already taken to social media to welcome back the (possibly former) second baseman. Beyond that, the team is in the thick of a playoff race, and today they will essentially add a generational talent whose mind and body are fresher than they’ve ever been at this time in the season.

He may struggle in his return, particularly in adjusting to a new position at the major league level, but at the very worst he’ll be taking away at-bats from...Ryon Healy? Dee Gordon? Andrew Romine? There are worse fates.

If the Mariners make the postseason they’ll be without Canó once again, but playoffs are far from a given and this team can use every bit of help possible in these next 41 games.

I, for one, cannot wait to see one of the sweetest swings in baseball again.

Jose Rivera