The path to Cooperstown was there.
305 career homers, over 1200 RBIs, closing in on 2500 hits, Robinson Cano has put together one of baseball’s best ever careers as a second baseman, And with over 5 years still left on his current $24 million per year contract with the Mariners, those numbers are sure to inflate. He has been respected as much for his smooth defensive ability as for his offensive prodigy, and looked to be a lock for the Hall of Fame when he decides to hang up the cleats. All of that disintegrated Tuesday as news broke that Cano was to be suspended 80 games by Major League Baseball for violation of the league’s anti-drug policy, effective immediately.
While the personal loss of almost $12 million, 80 games of statistics, and a chance at ending the Mariners’ 17-year playoff drought, the biggest hit Cano took was to his reputation. He will never be looked at in the same way by baseball writers, the gatekeepers of baseball’s prestigious Hall of Fame. His reputation is forever tainted as it’s hard to know just how much of Cano’s numbers were a product of his use of performance-enhancing drugs and how many were produced by natural ability. As a lifelong Mariners fan looking for our first playoff run in almost two decades, it’s disheartening. As a lifelong baseball fan who’s fascination with the game is rooted in the difficulty required to play it, it’s enraging. And finally, as a fan of Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame, I am further reminded just how difficult it is to reach baseball immortality. Tremendous natural ability has to be coupled with longevity, production, and a little bit of luck, all traits essential to a Hall of Fame baseball career. Cano seemed to be embodying these traits and looked to be on his way to joining the 323 other Hall of Fame players. But anyone who’s ever been linked to PEDs has never been elected to the Hall of Fame. Anyone who has this tainted past is immediately written-off by writers as ineligible and Cano will be no exception.
Robinson Cano was sure to be someone remembered for his unusual power, smooth left-handed swing, and gracious roaming of the middle infield. He had all the makings of a surefire Hall of Fame player. But now, he’ll be remembered for his use of performance-enhancing drugs, forever overshadowing any successes he’s had on the field. He just another one of the game’s cheaters, glorifying those who’ve done it clean. He was supposed to be in the Hall, but the inside of those walls are reserved for those who did it the right way, and unfortunately, Robinson Cano is not one of those people.