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Mets: Robinson Cano’s recent success makes first half struggles more alarming

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JULY 23: Robinson Cano #24 of the New York Mets hits a fourth inning home run against the San Diego Padres during their game at Citi Field on July 23, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JULY 23: Robinson Cano #24 of the New York Mets hits a fourth inning home run against the San Diego Padres during their game at Citi Field on July 23, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Robinson Cano has finally heated up for the New York Mets. However, the late arrival says a lot about his first-half struggles.

On July 23, 2019, Robinson Cano made history by becoming only the third New York Mets player to ever hit three home runs in a home game. Even though he can be credited for single-handedly winning their series opener against the Padres that night,  Cano has had his fair share of ups and (mostly) downs since he put on the orange and blue jersey at the start of 2019.

Despite getting off to a hot start during Spring Training this year, Cano only hit .222 through the first 81 games of the regular season. In those first 81 games, Cano did miss roughly twenty of them due to injury, however. Even so, he only managed to hit five lousy home runs and drive in only 17 RBI in that first half of the season despite batting third in Mickey Callaway‘s line up for the majority of the time.

Watching Cano day in and day out during his struggles, nothing seemed to change much regarding either his eyesight, his sweet swing or his batting stance from prior years. That same smooth stroke as well as that lightning-quick bat speed through the hitter’s zone that he possessed since his rookie year was still there.

So why the all-time lows in several major statistical offensive categories?

In a word, I believe it was complacency.

The idea that Cano is already on the fast track towards making the Hall of Fame, coupled with the fact that he already has both postseason success as well as a championship ring (thanks to the 2009 Yankees) and is making over $20 million a year playing in a city that he never really wanted to leave in the first place has all lead to him not taking his time as a New York Met very seriously.

Everything seems to be tailor-made to his personal comfort at this point in his career. I believe this has caused him to put his efforts on the field into “cruise control” and just ride out his remaining years on that monster contract the Mariners gave him back in 2014.

This fact was never more evident than during the Mets’ mid-May series against the Florida Marlins where they were swept by the fish. In the opener of that series, Cano hit a sharp liner back to the pitcher with one out in which he didn’t bother to run hard down to first base and ended up hitting into a game-altering double play.

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Just two games later Cano hit a soft tapper right in front of home plate and didn’t even bother to move out of the batter’s box as the catcher was able to easily pick the ball up, throw to second and then the second baseman on to first base to complete the double play. I remember Gary, Keith, and Ron getting on Cano for his doggedness and lack of hustle shortly afterward.

It also doesn’t help that neither Mickey Callaway nor Brodie Van Wagenen sent the 15-year veteran a message by either publicly reprimanding him afterward or benching him because of his ineffectiveness. Keep in mind that one of the major reasons Robinson Cano was brought back to the Mets was to bring a veteran leadership and a steadying influence on the youngsters of this team.

Unfortunately, Cano’s lack of hustle and the lack of accountability that followed was just making things worse on a ball club that was seeing their division-winning hopes slip away just as that Florida series did.

I know myself, as well as many other Mets fans, sports news, and social media outlets started to let Robinson Cano have it after that terrible Marlins series. A non-stop barrage of off-colored remarks and harsh jokes about how yet another star second baseman came to the Mets to “die” were prevalent throughout social media and sports talk television. Yet Robbie continued to waffle about as if nothing majorly alarming was occurring.

But then three weeks ago something started to change. Back to back games with multiple hits, more and more solid contact at-bats being made (even when recording outs)  as well as other signs that Cano was starting to show glimpses of his former All-Star self began to emerge. Since June 28th, Cano has been hitting close to .390 with 5 home runs and 10 RBI.

What has changed all of a sudden?

I believe the scrutiny of both the news and the fans on social media finally got to the eight-time All-Star. Cano has always been revered by the fans and media here in New York because of all the success he had as a New York Yankee. This was even despite the fact that he lacked hustle down the first baseline constantly on routine ground balls he hit as a Bronx Bomber.

Cano’s all-world talent mixed with his laid back personality and affable smile were just too much for a little lack of hustle to overcome.  He was forever cherished and looked upon in high regard by both Mets and Yankees fans alike, even when he left for Seattle.

But not anymore. The one great thing about the fans in this town is that if you don’t produce currently, they will let you have it. The past is the past. If you haven’t done much for the team you are on now, you won’t have much of a grace period to ease your burden, no matter what the sport.

Robinson answered in a post-game interview right after his 3 home run game as to why he started to put it all together over the last few weeks. His answer had nothing to do with improving health, or getting acclimated to playing in a new league, but rather he was “tired of getting ridiculed by fans and the media”.

As a fan, I find this answer alarming. He is basically telling us that he could have played this well all season long if he chose to. He just decided that now was the time he would start taking things seriously because he didn’t like criticism. When we are 8 games under .500 and going nowhere this season. Just terrific.

Is this what leadership is in 2019?

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If this is the type of attitude, thinking, and effort we have to put up with in just the first year of his massive contract, I am not sure any of us should or could take any more of Mr. Cano in the four seasons he has remaining with us. Something has to be done so he gets the message. I don’t see this type of problem from him going away anytime soon.