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Should Robinson Canó be in the Mariners Hall of Fame?

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How many position players have the Mariners had that you genuinely think were better than him?

Washington Nationals v Seattle Mariners Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Let’s just address it right off the rip.

Robinson Canó cheated. He cheated at baseball by taking one of MLB’s banned substances and testing positive for it. He broke the rules and did his punishment for it, serving an 80-game suspension during one of the Mariners’ few seasons ever in which they were contending for a playoff spot. That sucks.

For many of you, that is an automatic disqualifier. I can’t really argue with the way you feel inside your own heart. But if I’m looking into the deep recesses of mine, I can tell you with immense clarity that I do not care. The only crime he committed was a crime against baseball. The Mariners, like every other professional sports franchise under the sun, have employed people who were much, much worse morally and did much, much worse things than taking furosemide.

This was mostly a victimless offense, with the only possible exception being the pitchers who faced him. You could also say that his teammates were victims, as they lost an important player in their pursuit of a shared goal and certainly had their trust in him violated, but the 2018 Mariners also never would have been in such a good situation if Canó had never signed with Seattle in the first place.

Finally, you can argue that fans were the victims of his suspension. I hear you. I really do. My brain just doesn’t work like that. When the news of Canó’s suspension broke I was bummed, sure, but I didn’t feel like he had personally wronged me. Maybe that’s the product of an apathy and detachment that’s indicative of a larger problem outside my sports fandom, maybe it’s just because someone I’ve never met getting in trouble at work really has nothing to do with me.

From a pathos standpoint, I get why you’re upset. From a logos standpoint, I think that he just made a mistake, as humans so often do. You could even twist it all the way back around and say that taking a banned substance comes from a desire to play better and put a good product on the field for the same fans who cried victim.

Hell, Nelson Cruz technically was a cheater too, his cheating just happened before he got to Seattle! I don’t see how you can raise a stink about Canó while still happily cheering for Cruz or Dee Strange-Gordon. For the record, I love all three of those men and am forever grateful for what they did as Mariners. These were work crimes, not real-life crimes. If you’re a person who immediately discounts their accomplishments because they did something MLB didn’t like, or decided that you couldn’t root for them the same way you root for Johnny Game Respecter, I’ll kindly ask you to stop being such a rule-following nerd.

Robinson Canó (2014-18)

Seasons w/ SEA PA AVG OBP SLG OPS HR RBI wRC+ bWAR fWAR
Seasons w/ SEA PA AVG OBP SLG OPS HR RBI wRC+ bWAR fWAR
5 3,050 .296 .353 .472 .826 107 411 127 23.3 20.7

Roughly a .300 hitter across five seasons in Seattle, Canó remained mostly in line with his career numbers in New York, posting a nearly identical on-base percentage while taking an understandable dip in slugging after moving away from the sluggers’ paradise at Yankee Stadium. A lot of these doubles – and many of the outs, as well – are easy homers in the Bronx.

Robinson Canó Mariner spray chart (courtesy of FanGraphs)

The power jump finally came in 2016 when Canó enjoyed one of the best offensive seasons in Mariner history, full stop. Aside from the obvious contributions he made on the field, Canó’s sheer presence legitimized the Mariners as an actual force to be reckoned with rather than the languishing afterthought they’d been for most of the 21st century. The Mariners Hall of Fame seems to take things like that into account, as evidenced by Dan Wilson’s inclusion for merely being a steadying presence during the glory years and Alvin Davis’ nod for being the Mariners’ OG, so we can’t just throw out the impact Canó’s signing had on the Mariners’ culture. The same can be said of Cruz too, but as it stands right now he’d need to play one more year in Seattle to be eligible for the team’s Hall of Fame.

Minnesota Twins v Seattle Mariners Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Put as simply as possible, if you told any Mariner fan in 2013 that the team would acquire a player who hit .296/.353/.472 over the next five years, averaged 25 homers and 95 RBI per 162 games, and helped the team re-enter the playoff picture for the first time in over a decade, they would have told you that the M’s are getting one of the best players they’ve ever had. The fact that he put up those numbers at second base – making him one of the most productive players in the league at his position – only strengthens his case, in my opinion.

Canó vs Current HOF Position Players

Player Seasons w/ SEA PA AVG OBP SLG OPS HR RBI wRC+ bWAR fWAR
Player Seasons w/ SEA PA AVG OBP SLG OPS HR RBI wRC+ bWAR fWAR
Alvin Davis 8 4,892 .281 .381 .453 .834 160 667 126 20.1 21.2
Jay Buhner 14 5,828 .255 .360 .497 .857 307 951 124 23.0 22.4
Edgar Martinez 18 8,674 .312 .418 .515 .933 309 1,261 147 68.4 65.5
Dan Wilson 12 4,500 .262 .309 .382 .691 88 519 80 13.5 14.2
Ken Griffey Jr. 13 7,250 .292 .374 .553 .927 417 1,216 139 70.5 67.6
Robinson Cano 5 3,050 .296 .353 .472 .826 107 411 127 23.3 20.7

You don’t need a golden calculator to tell you that Robinson Canó is better at baseball than Dan Wilson was. Any working set of eyes should do the trick. Still, it’s pretty funny to see how much more valuable Canó was to the club than Wilson. He did this while playing fewer seasons, and without the luxury of being a catcher, which tends to inflate Wins Above Replacement totals.

Oakland Athletics v Seattle Mariners Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Like we’ve seen when examining James Paxton and Hisashi Iwakuma’s Mariner Hall of Fame cases, a fairly short stint in Seattle hurts Canó a bit. If he had played eight seasons like Alvin Davis, I think he catches him in home runs and RBI. If we look at wRC+, the only current Mariner Hall of Famers ahead of Canó are Griffey and Edgar. If we look at WAR, Canó brought virtually the same value to the M’s in five seasons as beloved bald man Jay Buhner did in 14. Again, the only two position players in the Mariners Hall of Fame that were unequivocally better than Canó are Ken Griffey Jr. and Edgar Martinez, who were better than almost everyone who’s ever picked up a bat.

Canó’s Ranks in Mariner History

Stat Amount Rank in Mariner History
Stat Amount Rank in Mariner History
AVG .296 7th
OBP .353 15th
SLG .472 11th
OPS 826 12th
HR 107 11th
RBI 411 14th
wRC+ 127 7th

This part of the exercise is fascinating because it shows us:

  • How relatively easy it is to be one of the best Mariners ever in a certain category (see: Sorrento, Paul and Phelps, Ken ranking in the top six of OPS)
  • How much better Canó was than Davis, Buhner, and Wilson in certain areas (Alvin Davis’ slugging percentage is closer to Russ Davis’ than Canó’s. Buhner isn’t even in the top 50 for career batting average. Canó has the seventh-best Mariner wRC+, Wilson has the 80th)
  • Why Alex Rodriguez absolutely deserves to be in the Mariners Hall of Fame too (not why we’re here though)

A bunch of rankings in the teens slightly hurt Robi’s campaign until you realize many of the people ahead of him in on-base (Phil Bradley, Mark McLemore, Joey Cora) and slugging percentage (Mitch Haniger, Richie Sexson) played even fewer games in a Mariner uniform than he did. If we look just at wRC+ and move the threshold to 2,500 plate appearances, only Edgar, Nellie, The Kid, and A-Rod were better than Robinson Canó.

Beyond the Numbers

The truest version of coolness is when it’s effortless, as if zero time was spent trying to be anything or convey any sort of image. If you ever have to ask yourself how to be cool, you’ve already lost. It is innate, revealing itself only when situations call for it or certain actions demonstrate it. If all of that combines to create true coolness, then consider him Miles Davis.

Robinson Canó batted like he was in a rocking chair. He played defense like he had a cigarette in his mouth. He watched his contemporaries fling their bodies all over the infield or take massive, uncontrolled swings and thought “I can do all of that without breaking a sweat”. Then he went out and did that every single night. It was awe inspiring. He was the epitome of nonchalant in an otherwise chalant world. Canó was never over his skis, never seemed rattled for even one second. Whether it was setting up one of the most electric moments in Safeco Field history, throwing across his body like an unbothered paperboy, or flashing his impossibly white smile, he was a vessel of everything we wish we could be.

Some of you are going to gripe about him jogging to first base like he had oatmeal in his socks or whatever, which you have every right to do, but also complaining about a cool person being cool is one of the least cool things you could ever do. Sorry for your luck.

Should He Be In?

Yes. Saying that Dan Wilson is more deserving than Robinson Canó is like saying that three McDonald’s cheeseburgers is better than one filet mignon.