Ex-Seattle Mariners coach Andy Van Slyke blasted Robinson Cano, blaming the star second baseman for many of the M’s dysfunctions during 2015.
Former Seattle Mariners coach Andy Van Slyke blasted Robinson Cano on Wednesday, blaming the star second baseman for many of the M’s dysfunctions during 2015 that led to the firing of general manager Jack Zduriencik, manager Lloyd McClendon and the rest of the coaching staff.
In a radio interview for CBSSports 920 AM in St. Louis, Van Slyke basically torpedoed his chances of future employment, spilling gossip not only about the Mariners but also the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Van Slyke was in charge of Seattle’s outfielders and also served as an assistant hitting coach for part of the season until Howard Johnson was fired and Edgar Martinez was brought in to replace him. Along with much of the coaching staff from the last two seasons, Van Slyke was not brought back for this year.
In the third segment of his radio appearance, he started off by saying the Dodgers’ highest-paid player — implying Clayton Kershaw — told L.A.’s general manager to get rid of Yasiel Puig. Van Slyke’s son, Scott, is an outfielder for the Dodgers. Van Slyke was then asked about Jason Heyward and where he would hit him, but he started talking about lineup protection and he mentioned Cano and Nelson Cruz.
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Then he just kept rolling into talking about the Mariners. He pretty much skewered his former organization, specifically Cano, labeling him as the reason for the team’s failures and the firings of general manager Jack Zduriencik and McClendon, and by extension the coaching staff.
Here’s the link to the segment. The Mariners talk starts about three minutes into the conversation.
Here’s a partial transcript:
Van Slyke: “In Seattle, we had (Nelson) Cruz, who was probably the most dominant hitter that I’ve ever personally seen for four months and Cano hitting in front of him. So you would think that Cano would have had a terrific year. But he had probably the worst single year of an every day player that I’ve ever seen in 20 years at the big league level.”
Host: “How did that happen?”
Van Slyke: “He was just the most awful player I’ve ever seen.”
Host: “It wasn’t work ethic. He tries.”
Van Slyke: “He does sometimes.”
Host: “So what happened there, so much promise for your club after you and Lloyd McClendon joined two years ago. What happened last year?”
Van Slyke: “Well our bullpen blew up. Fernando Rodney was horrible. He blew nine of the first 18 chances. Your highest paid, supposedly best player – I mean Robbie’s not a bad guy, let me say that before I say anything bad about how he played. But Robinson Cano was the single worst third-place, every-day player I’ve ever seen – I’ve ever seen for the first half of a baseball season. He couldn’t drive home Miss Daisy if he tried. He couldn’t get a hit when it mattered. He played the worst defense I’ve ever seen at second base. I mean I’m talking about the worst defensive second baseman ever – I’ve ever seen in 20 years in the big leagues. He couldn’t catch the ball. No, I take that back. Any ball that was hit to him was an out. Any ball that he had a chance to turn a double play, he’s still maybe the best in the game today. He’s got a great arm. But I’m telling you, Frank: Robinson Cano cost the GM his job. The hitting coach got fired because of Cano. And the manager and the coaches got fired because of Cano. That’s how much impact he has on the organization. He was the worst player and it cost people their jobs in the process.”
Then conversation then turned to the hitting coach position and Edgar Martinez when the host asked if the hitting coach was fired midseason.
Van Slyke: “Howard Johnson was a joy to work with. This guy, I’m telling you, he is a wonderful person. He loved his job. I didn’t coaches could care – I wish I cared about the players as much as he did. This guy took every at-bat personally. The guy was unbelievably joyful when a guy got a hit or a home run or we won a game because of the offense. He took total responsibility when we lost because we didn’t score enough runs. He lived and died every night with those players.”
Host: Did they force Lloyd McClendon or pressure him to fire Howard Johnson?
Van Slyke: Here’s what happened. Edgar Martinez wanted to get back into baseball and there were teams inquiring about him for their hitting coach. Now how would it look like if the offense that struggled for a year and a half in Seattle let Edgar Martinez walk to some other organization when Howard Johnson is the hitting coach and you can’t score runs. He was fired from upstairs, not the manager’s office. And Edgar Martinez walked in the next day and had a job and will have a job in Seattle as long as he’s breathing air because he’s Edgar Martinez. Let me ask you this: ‘Are you going to fire Edgar Martinez when he has a restaurant in the stadium and an exit ramp to the stadium with his name on it. He has a lifetime contract with them.”
What’s mildly amusing is that Van Slyke goes on to say that the hitting coach position has very little role.
Let’s get to his criticisms.
Cano was awful in the first two months of the season. There’s no debate about that. The numbers ….
But if that’s the worst he’s seen in 20 years of baseball. Well, then he hasn’t been watching closely. Yes, based on what Cano makes, it’s awful. But from a baseball standpoint, this is an organization that started Jose Lopez, Dustin Ackley and Chone Figgins at second base for extended periods and went with a tandem of Jack Wilson and Brendan Ryan and second base and shortstop. To be fair, Cano was dealing with some intestinal issues from an offseason virus and was having trouble eating and holding food down. I think that was a factor along with horrible pitch selection and a pull-happy approach. So he was bad for two months.
Now we know that Cano picked it up, specifically starting around June. Here are the numbers from June 1 on:
Let’s not forget that Cano also played the final two months with hernia issues that would require double hernia surgery. Here are his numbers after he came back from the injury.
Cano has had better years and his failures early hurt the team along with several careless/thoughtless base-running miscues on a team that committed far too many. But to sit and blame one guy as the only reason the general manager and manager and coaching staff lost their jobs is hyperbolic.
Failure in baseball over 162 games is far from an individual thing. One person wasn’t the sole cause of the Mariners’ 76-86 record this season. A flawed 40-man roster construction, massive bullpen regression highlighted by27 defeats in their opponents final at-bats and 12 walk-off losses, failures at catcher, injuries to two key starting pitchers and poor performances were all factors.
Also, Lloyd McClendon and the coaching staff lost their jobs because a new general manager was brought in. And most times when a new GM comes in, they want to put their own people in those positions. And for Jerry Dipoto that desire was even higher based on what transpired in Anaheim.
Zduriencik was fired for the organizational failure. And saying Robinson Cano was the reason why is grossly overlooking the previous seven years, poor trades, failed drafts and a sagging farm system to go with a general lack of a coordination.
The 2015 Mariners were a collective failure. Perhaps Robinson Cano had a bigger role in it than others. But he wasn’t the sole reason for it.
So there’s the Van Slyke interview and a few thoughts. You can make of it what you will.