The Mariners shocked the baseball world this winter by ponying up $240 million to lure Robinson Cano away from the Yankees. In a perfect world, landing Cano would vault the Mariners into contender status, breathe some life into their perennially moribund offense and give Seattle instant credibility and notoriety. In a more realistic world, Cano’s signing would at least kickstart each of those processes.
The results so far? NOPE, NOPE and NOPE.
Through 21 games in 2014, the Mariners are 8-13, in fourth place in the AL West and just recently snapped an eight-game losing streak. They are also dead last in the majors with a wRC+ of 74. Cano, for his part, has only posted a .280/.333/.354 slash line and a wRC+ of 84. Add it all up and it is the same old Mariners, including the part where nobody really seems to care or notice.
Seattle being bad and unable to hit is actually the least surprising part of all this. The M’s should be better than they were the last few years with the addition of Cano, but the rest of the moves they made last off-season to enhance Cano’s supporting cast left a lot to be desired. It was unreasonable to think that a bad team could sign one superstar and a few questionable role players and suddenly become the class of a very competitive division. That’s probably why so few experts actually bought into the hype from the Cano signing and almost universally predicted Seattle to finish third or fourth in the AL West.
What is surprising though is that there has been nary a peep in the national conversation about how central Cano has been to Seattle’s lack of progress. As a Seattle resident myself, I can tell you that the struggles of Cano and the Mariners aren’t even a leading topic of conversation. There is nobody shouting Cano down as a bust or haranguing ownership for forking over such a massive contract. People here are far more concerned with Russell Wilson’s recently announced divorce and the results of the latest Seattle Sounders match.
At no level is there a rush from pundits to bury Seattle for their “reckless, irresponsible and short-sighted” spending in the same way that the Angels were slammed when Albert Pujols struggled out of the gate in 2012 when he signed a nearly identical contract to that of Cano or the same way that the Blue Jays were criticized when their massive trade with the Marlins blew up in Toronto’s face almost immediately.
For Cano, that has to be the kind of situation where he views it as a feature, not a bug. He gets all the crazy cash and escapes the media spotlight of New York. One has to think that Cano would be getting spit-roasted by the New York media right now if he had this kind of start for the Yankees this year. For the Mariners though, it probably actually is a bug. If you buy into the “there is no such thing as bad press” mantra, the fact that Seattle can spend all that money on a legit superstar and still not elevate their profile enough for the media to even bother pointing out how terrible they are has to be disappointing on some level.
Maybe there is a silver lining here. Perhaps we’ve finally achieved a level of enlightenment where people don’t freak out over a small sample of performance. 21 games for the Mariners and 90 plate appearances for Cano hardly qualifies as concrete evidence that they are terrible and will be terrible all season long. We all should give them the benefit of the doubt that there is still a ton of games left for them to turn things around and at least partially justify the pre-season hype they built for themselves. Call me a cynic, but the popularity of First Take and Bleacher Report gives me very little reason to believe that the level of conversation around such things suddenly got so elevated overnight.
The Occam’s Razor explanation is that people just don’t care about the Mariners. They didn’t care about them before the Cano signing and until Cano can find a way to get that new Mariner stank off of himself and start hitting like he used to, people are going to keep on not caring about the Mariners. Even then, they still might not care, especially if Cano’s inevitable resurgence fails to pull the rest of the team up by their bootstraps.