|Robinson Cano with the Mets in 2019.|
On Monday morning, the Mets released infielder/designated hitter Robinson Cano on Monday morning, in a somewhat expected move, as they had to trim their roster from 28 players, which was meant to make up for the truncated spring training, to the normal 26.
To paraphrase Yankees announcer John Sterling from his Cano's time in The Bronx, "Robbie Cano, don't ya now, it's time to go."
The Mets took a chance bringing Cano back this season after he was suspended for the entire 2021 season for violating Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
The incentive was to hope to get something out of him in the final two years of his contract, instead of paying him $40.5 million to get lost.
Although, with Owner Steve Cohen's pockets, that became too tempting an option as Cano has been the one Met, along with another ex-Yankee, Adam Ottavino, who has done nothing to help them to their National League-best 16-7 record.
Cano hit .195 this season, as he had just eight hits in 41 at-bats, which included 3-for-15 at Citi Field.
The one highlight he had this season was that he homered on Opening Day, which was incidentally Jackie Robinson Day due to the season starting late because of the lockout. It was billed as fitting that he homered that day, as he's named for the Dodgers legend, but his being a steroid cheat kind of took away the wholesome nature of that narrative.
What also made this move obvious was the performance of Dom Smith, who had four hits and three RBI in the Mets' 10-6 win over the Phillies on Sunday night. That brought the primarily first baseman/designated hitter's average to .250 on the season (10-for-40), and he has 7 RBI, while still waiting for his first home run on the year.
Smith was a one-time top Mets prospect who went through plenty of growing pains when he came to Queens in 2017 and 2018, when he hit .198 and .224 respectfully, and found himself in 2019, upping his average to a superb .282 with 11 home runs and 25 RBI in 89 games, primarily used as a utility player, shifting to left field due to Pete Alonso taking over at first amidst his Rookie of the Year campaign, and a dangerous weapon off the bench, as his on-base percentage was .355.
The Mets acquired Cano in the offseason heading into what looks to be a pivotal 2019 season in terms of how the Mets are composed now. Cano came along with closer Edwin Diaz in a move that then-General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen hoped would provide the team some spark on both sides of the ball. That season, it neither, as the team won 87 games despite Cano hitting just .256 in 107 games, and never really being at 100 percent, and Diaz being less than reliable, notching just 26 saves, a tad down from the 57 he had in Seattle in 2018.
Diaz, entering his fourth year as a Met, has shown that top reliever form, as he notched 32 saves last season, and he already has four this season, with a 1.80 ERA, allowing just 2 runs and 4 hits in 10.0 innings pitched. His biggest moment this season came on Friday night when he struck out the side to close out the combined no-hitter over the Phillies.
On a larger point, this is basically the end of Cano's career, one that was bound for the Hall of Fame, as he made five All-Star teams in his nine seasons with the Yankees before he made the fateful, and, to be blunt, stupid, decision to leave the Yankees for the Mariners.
In 2005, Cano stepped right in to playing at second base everyday for the Yankees, still amidst their Derek Jeter-led dynasty years, and sharing the middle of the infield with the Captain at the age of 22. , and was quickly acknowledged as just as much a slugger as Alex Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield in that lineup, as he hit .297 with 14 home runs with 62 RBI in 132 games. Overall in his time with the Yankees, he hit .309 with 204 home runs and 822 RBI, as well as an on-base percentage of .355, a .504 slugging percentage, and when that's put together, and OBP (on base-plus-slugging %) of .860.
This was just three years after he led the Staten Island Yankees to a New York-Penn League title in 2002, and this is what Neil Allen, who was the pitching coach for that team, had to say about working with Cano, when he was at Citi Field in 2019 for a Mets alumni weekend event:
"We had a good lineup and we had good pitching, but Robbie stuck out over everybody, though, he was just so special," Allen said. "He had those hands and that plate presence - the way you see it today - that kid had that at 16, 17 years old. That wasn't just something he worked into, it was there, and he was so good, and so far ahead of anybody.
"He was just so special, and he had that swing. He had all those tools as a young kid in the extended program and Staten Island, he had it all going."
Allen continued, "Robbie was a kid that had gifted hands and tremendous ability, you knew he was going to be something special. But, sometimes when we were down in the extended program with the Yankees, and he was so confident and so good and so nonchalant with routine plays at times, that we'd have to sit him down, and we would sit him down for a day or two, maybe just to say 'Robbie, you can't be doing that,' but granted, we knew he could make the play.
"He was that good. We knew he had tremendous hands - 16, 17-year-old, he had those hands, but we had to sit him down to teach him a lesson that 'Robbie, you can't be doing that,' and sure enough, he'd go back out there and he'd be great for a couple weeks, make a beautiful play in the hole and kind of just routinely make it look great, but we had to bench him again because 'Robbie, you can't be doing that.'
"You take every ball and get it over to first base. Well, now, Robbie had to look at it a little bit and then vrooom (giving the motion Cano would use to throw it) underhand. And we were kind of going, 'he knew, he knew!' but it almost was like, it was so doggone hot down there in the extended program, and sometimes I think he did it to get out of the lineup for a day because it was so damn hot and we hadn't left yet to go to New York or Staten Island or anything, so I would think that sometimes he would get hot, which all the young kids would and go, 'maybe I need a day off.' He was so good and such a great human being."
Cano made his debut with the New York Yankees in 2005, and Allen said of him making the jump to the majors from Single-A Staten Island in a few years, "I'm shocked it took that long, but they were trying to slow him down. We knew he was going to be there shortly, and they did a good job of holding him up because when I got to the big leagues as the bullpen coach - that's the year he came up. He came up and asked me about the lineup. We were good friends and talked about a lot of things.
"To have him here and to see who he still is to this day, as the kid that he was at 17 years old, he's just an older version, but he was always that good, that confident."
To read the original piece on Neil Allen from May 4, 2019, including about being traded for Keith Hernandez, click here.
It is ironic that Cano, known by some New York baseball fans for his time with Staten Island Yankees, is released by the Mets one day ahead of the Staten Island FerryHawks independent team making their home debut. The Yankees chose not to keep the affiliate when the minor leagues were consolidated in the past few years.