May 21, 2018

Robinson Cano, the HOF and roiding

Robinson Cano
Three years ago, I wrote a piece about how Seattle Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano might have been overpaid in his big free-agent contract, with the first signs of slippage that weren't uncommon to second basemen, given that they suffer more defensive pounding than anybody except catchers.

I noted that Roberto Alomar's last good season was at age 33. Bobby Grich and Lou Whitaker, both of whom should be with Alomar at Cooperstown, were only part-timers at the second sack after 35. Ryne Sandberg's last really good year was at age 32, his last semi-good one at 33, and his first retirement one third of the way into his age-34 year. Rod Carew had more WAR at second, but moved to first at age 30. Frank Frisch's last good season was at age 33, and last decent one at 36. Plus, between days off and time at third base, he was a 3/4 time second baseman by 33.

Even the cream of the cream in the Hall aren't all immune. Rogers Hornsby hit the wall at the end of his age-35 season. Nap Lajoie had a terrific year at 35, but was a two-thirds time player after that.

Cano eventually righted that slippage boat and looked like he might join  Eddie CollinsJoe Morgan and Charlie Gehringer by playing into his later 30s, though even they had a harder decline before age 40.

And now we know why Cano started looking semi-ageless.

Last week, he got an 80-game suspension for a masking agent used to cover up the use of various performance-enhancing drugs. And MLB waited until it thought it had proof of intent before issuing the suspension.

Cano's old Yankees teammate, Mark Teixeira, says we shouldn't be surprised. Tex listed Cano's connections to Biogenesis, which helped both Alex Rodriguez and Melky Cabrera, both of whom got suspensions themselves. Tex goes beyond saying we shouldn't be surprised to strongly hinting that he thinks Cano did it.

Before this, Cano seemed to be punching his ticket for not just the HOF, but first-ballot entry to Cooperstown.

Has he now joined the likes of Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and Manny Ramirez? Jerry Crasnick says very possible. Smarter HOF voters who, like me, know the generally early age-out history of second basemen, will likely see Cano's post-32 numbers as proof he was roiding, and taking good stuff.

I would agree. And, in light of the points Tex noted, now I'm not surprised, either. And, maybe we shouldn't be surprised that the Yankees didn't come close to matching the M's offer, either.

Speaking of, at the time I wrote that old piece, Jonah Keri didn't have Cano's deal in his list of worst contracts for teams. At that time, I questioned that. Now I know he should have.

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