By most objective measures, Robinson Cano has a résumé with enough illustrious comparisons and gaudy numbers to coast into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.
Only one piece of news could kill his chances, and Major League Baseball delivered it by email to the media at 2:15 p.m. ET on Tuesday.
Two days after suffering a broken hand on an errant fastball from Detroit pitcher Blaine Hardy, Cano felt the pain from a different hammer. He has been suspended 80 games for use of the diuretic Furosemide, which can be used as a masking agent to conceal PED use.
Cano’s time on the disabled list will count toward his suspension, but he will lose about half his $24 million annual salary and be ineligible for the All-Star Game and the postseason, should the Mariners reach the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
Cano was contrite in his apology and said he received the Furosemide from a licensed doctor in the Dominican Republic to treat a medical ailment, and he now wishes that he had been “more careful.” But no amount of rationalizing or explaining will absolve him to the extent he desires. Perhaps he’s sincere and was simply guilty of bad judgment. But we’ve heard too many of these types of apologies to react with anything more than cynicism. That has been truer than ever since Ryan Braun stood before a bank of microphones in 2012 and vehemently denied using steroids.
— Robinson Cano (@RobinsonCano) May 15, 2018
Baseball writers continue to grapple with the issue of PED use, and they remain all over the map in filling out their HOF ballots. Pudge Rodriguez, Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell crossed the 75 percent threshold to Cooperstown amid a cloud of suspicion. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens have the suspicion without the contrition, and they’ve stalled in the mid-to-upper 50s.
For sake of comparison, a positive test or admission of guilt is a death knell. Manny Ramirez, who failed two drug tests, has yet to appear on more than 23.8 percent of the ballots in two years of eligibility. Mark McGwire confessed to Bob Costas in a 2010 televised interview and topped out at 23.7 percent in 10 attempts. And Rafael Palmeiro, who dropped off the ballot with 4.4 percent of the vote in 2014, is now scratching his itch to play at age 53 with the Cleburne Railroaders of the independent American Association.
Barring the mother of all goodwill tours or a radical shift toward forgiveness on the part of the electorate, Cano now resides among that ignominious group. He will not be going to Cooperstown even though:
• He’s one of only 16 players with a career .300 batting average, 2,000 hits, 1,000 runs, 500 doubles, 300 homers and 1,000 RBIs. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Stan Musial are among the headliners in that club.
• He’s an eight-time All-Star and the second-most prolific home run-hitting second baseman in history (with 305) behind only Jeff Kent. And he’s on a short list with Musial, Gehrig, Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera as one of five players to amass 300 homers and 500 doubles by age 34.
In his 2018 Handbook, Bill James gave every indication that Cano was on his way. James has devised a point system based on selected milestones and statistical achievements and determined that Cano entered this season with a career total of 130 points. In comparison, Craig Biggio finished his career with 114 points. Of all the second basemen who’ve played major league ball since 1961, only Rod Carew, Roberto Alomar, Ryne Sandberg and Joe Morgan rate higher than Cano on the James Hall of Fame scale.
All that changed Tuesday, when Cano exited their company, whether as a cheater or a player so recklessly oblivious to the consequences that he single-handedly torched his legacy. It makes for a sad story either way.
There was a time when Cano’s biggest sin was being overpaid, and his second biggest was a failure to run out routine grounders a few times each season. Now he’s just collateral damage from a drug-testing program that MLB considers the most stringent in all of professional sports.
Would Cano have gone into Cooperstown as a Yankee or a Mariner? The point is moot. But it would have made for a heck of a debate.