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Take 2

A different spin on sports by The Seattle Times staff and readers.

June 27, 2014 at 5:08 AM

How Robinson Cano changed the course of Mariners’ season

Robinson Cano, shown after hitting one of his four home run this season against the Yankees, has meant far more than numbers to the Mariners this season.  Dean Rutz / Seattle Times staff

Robinson Cano, shown after hitting one of his four home runs earlier this month, has meant far more than power numbers to the Mariners this season.
Dean Rutz / Seattle Times staff

BY SAM THOMSEN

Check the Mariners’ demerit list. Send the lineup through the scanner. Call analyst Tim Kurkjian for an evaluation.

Still have complaints about Robinson Cano?

Cano’s stat line entering June 27 games:

.324, 4, 43.

Any fan who mutters “He only has four homers, what a waste of money!” is ignorant about the the dynamics of what has occurred and how remarkable Cano’s performance truly is.

Sure, Cano only has four home runs. Heck, even the Mariners’ Dustin Ackley has four home runs.

In fact, more than 150 Major League players have more than four home runs.

You know how many players are hitting .324 or higher?

Eight. The fact that Cano is hitting .324 — which would be his best since he batted .342 in 2006 — in a lineup where he has little protection shows his pure ability to hit the baseball. To pound this point home, just like Cano pounds out base hits to bring base runners home, on June 20, the rest of the Mariners hitters had a combined .233 batting average. (Insert grimace here).

Pitchers attempt to pitch around Cano, and dare the rest of the .233-hitting lineup to produce.

Last year, Cano hit in a far superior Yankees lineup. Hurlers couldn’t throw around him. In addition to Cano, they had to face Alfonso Soriano, Ichiro, at times Mark Teixieria, Russell Martin and Curtis Granderson, among others. Opposing pitchers couldn’t just put Cano on base, and then induce a ground out from an excuse-for -a-cleanup hitter.

If Cano hit in a more capable lineup and saw pitches from the middle of the plate to the inner half, I suspect his stat line would be closer to:

.346, 14, 45.

Cano is an opposite-field single waiting to happen.

But, for these Mariners, he’s more.

Look further than the home run and you’ll notice how Cano changes the Mariners persona.

“He’s stabilized and solidified this lineup. He’s given guys more oomph in their step, more pump in their chest. And that’s something nobody outside this group can know,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon was quoted as saying by Bleacher Report’s Scott Miller earlier this week.

Cano changes the dynamic of the entire lineup. He changes the way opposing pitchers approach the Mariners hitters.

“He’s a very good leader. He’s been a very good power source,” McClendon said. “And I’m not talking about power as homers. I’m talking about a source of electricity.”

Cano is the game-altering, atmosphere-changing, base-hit-producing superstar the Mariners haven’t penciled into their lineup since Ken Griffey Jr. was in his prime. He not only produces on the field, but he mentors young players, and makes everyone around him better.

He’s worth the $240 million the Mariners shelled out for him. Because if the Mariners would have been reluctant about writing a paycheck that big, if they had let another team make the headlines and sign Cano, they would be exactly where they were a year ago today.

Eleven games under .500.

Optimism would be next to empty beer bottles in the trash can. Disgust in the fan base would have set in. Instead of beating the Red Sox 12-3 after Felix Hernandez allowed several runs in the first three innings this week, the team would have given up and lost, 3-2.

Local sports-talk radio stations already would be filling their shows with Seahawks talk. They’d be talking about training camp. About how the Seahawks would handle playing in the national spotlight against the Packers and 49ers.

Instead, the Mariners captured that atmosphere-altering superstar, and instead of being 34-45, they are 42-37 and would be tied for the final American League wild-card spot if the playoffs started today.

They wouldn’t be there without Cano. Say what you want, but Cano’s production is one powerful reason the Mariners have a chance to be in the playoffs. His presence is why the M’s don’t sit 11 games under .500, with disaster and frustration setting in.

So look beyond his home runs.

Cano has done exactly what he was brought in to do. Hit. Get on base. Instill fear in opposing pitchers.

But, most important, he has changed the way the Mariners do things.

Sam Thomsen, who will be a junior this fall at Liberty Bell High School in Winthrop, is passionate about baseball, the Mariners and writing. He has been following the team since he could walk and urged the Mariners to sign Robinson Cano eight months ago, more than a month before they acquired the former Yankee. 

Want to be a reader contributor to The Seattle Times’ Take 2 blog? Email your original, previously unpublished work or proposal to Sports Editor Don Shelton at dshelton@seattletimes.com or sports@seattletimes.com. Not all submissions can be published. Opinions expressed are those of authors, and The Times reserves the right to edit and publish any submissions online and/or in print.

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