Robinson Cano is coming off a mid-career skid in 2015 that elicited spiteful comments from former Seattle Mariners first base coach Andy Van Slyke in November.
Cano hit below .300 for the first time in six seasons while playing through a sports hernia that required offseason surgery as the Mariners finished 76-86—well below their preseason expectations as World Series hopefuls.
Cano's decline in production prompted Van Slyke to slam the star second baseman in a damning November interview with CBS Sports 920AM in St. Louis. Among the many insults he unloaded, Van Slyke called Cano “the most awful player I’ve ever seen."
On Thursday, though, Cano said the comments hardly fazed him as he recovered from surgery at home in the Dominican Republic in the offseason, per Jose M. Romero of the Associated Press:
Honestly it didn't hurt me. Coming from a guy like him, it doesn't bother me at all because I know how I play. If you hear the comments, first he threw me under the bus and then he was like (saying) what's so great about myself. So you didn't know what he was trying to say. But Andy, I don't know, it doesn't even matter to me.
Seattle jettisoned Van Slyke in the offseason housecleaning that included the firing of manager Lloyd McClendon and general manager Jack Zduriencik.
Yet contrary to Van Slyke's comments, Cano—despite fighting abdominal pain—improved at the plate after Edgar Martinez supplanted hitting coach Howard Johnson in late June:
|Robinson Cano—2016 Statistics|
|With Howard Johnson||G||BA||OBP||SLG||XBH||HR||RBI||SO||BB|
|April 6 to June 20||66||.245||.284||.336||20||2||21||47||14|
|With Edgar Martinez||G||BA||OBP||SLG||XBH||HR||RBI||SO||BB|
|June 21 to Oct. 4||90||.318||.370||.526||36||19||58||60||29|
Van Slyke likely damaged his prospects of landing another gig by spilling gossip on Cano, the Mariners and the dysfunction in Seattle.
In the same interview, Van Slyke also accused Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw of requesting that team president Andrew Friedman trade embattled outfielder Yasiel Puig. Friedman denied those reports.
Cano said he’s 98 percent back to full strength, per Romero, as he enters the third season of a 10-year, $240 million megadeal that will account for nearly one-fifth of the Mariners’ payroll this year, per Spotrac.
Here is a more extensive look at Cano’s press conference Thursday, courtesy of the News Tribune.
The Mariners replaced Zduriencik and McClendon with Jerry Dipoto and Scott Servais, respectively, as they look to reverse their misfortune as the only American League team that hasn’t reached the World Series.
Cano believes the new management has the capability of leading such a charge.
"For a team to win you don't need big names, you just need the right pieces. I think that's what Jerry has done," Cano said, per Romero. "I don't focus on the manager, because they know how to do their job. For me, it's more about getting to know teammates. I think Servais is going to do a great job."
Seattle is the lone team in the AL West that hasn’t reached the playoffs over the last two seasons. The Texas Rangers and Houston Astros are on the rise with young talent and postseason experience from a year ago. Even fighting for a wild-card spot in a league with such parity will be a huge challenge for Seattle.