Robinson Cano was chosen as a reserve for the 2016 American League All-Star team. Cano was Seattle's lone selection. He's hitting over .300 with 19 homers and 54 RBI, while starting every game this season.
HOUSTON — The guy who former Mariners coach Andy Van Slyke called the worst everyday player he had ever seen is the Mariners’ lone representative for the All-Star Game.
Robinson Cano was selected as a reserve second baseman for the American League team, with the Astros’ Jose Altuve winning the fan vote as the starter. It will be Cano’s seventh All-Star Game appearance, and it certainly is deserved.
He entered Tuesday’s game having started in all 83 games for the Mariners, hitting .303 with an .894 OPS, 20 doubles, a triple, 19 homers and 54 RBI. Cano ranks second in the AL in Fangraphs’ WAR at 3.1. Altuve leads all second basemen at 4.4.
“For me, it means a lot more,” Cano said. “This year I’m going to be able to bring my son. He’s going to be able enjoy that. I think it’s going to be a great moment having just me and my son there.”
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With such a torrid start, Cano seemed like an easy choice for the All-Star team.
“Obviously, Robby has had a great first half for us and really led our team,” manager Scott Servais said. “He had that home-run binge early in the season, and he’s been out there every day. It’s nice to see him back healthy this year. I’m really excited for him to get this opportunity. He’s certainly deserved it.”
For Cano, the honor and the success this season are a little sweeter after forgettable 2015 in which he dealt with digestive issues early in the season and later played through a double sports hernia on a team that underachieved. He had a miserable first two months of the season, hitting .251 with a .639 OPS with just 12 doubles, two homers and 16 RBI. The awful start broke a streak of five All-Star appearances.
He rebounded after June 1 and finished the season with a .287 batting average, .779 OPS, 34 doubles, 21 homers, a triple and 79 RBI. He underwent surgery after the season ended. But much of the blame for 2015’s failures was leveled at Cano’s slow start.
To make matters worse, he was the subject of an angry rant by former outfielders coach Van Slyke, who said: “He had probably the worst single year of an everyday player that I’ve ever seen in 20 years at the big-league level.” And later: “Your highest-paid, supposedly best player – I mean Robby’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, everyday player I’ve ever seen.”
Cano admitted that the criticism offered him some motivation as he recovered from the surgery and began his winter workouts.
“I don’t have anything to prove to myself,” he said. ” Everybody knows I was hurt. Sometimes the comments bother me, because they don’t care if you are hurt or not. They think you are machine. As a player, I give everything I got. I think some people take for granted how hard I work at the game and I’m out there playing every day. Even in New York, I was criticized that I was lazy. I don’t think if you are a lazy guy you could play at this level for that many games over the years.”
Servais has no complaints from his second baseman.
“He has been a little better (than expected),” Servais said. “When you are there every day, you appreciate it more. I think the biggest thing is the fact that you certainly appreciate the guy that you can write their name in the lineup every day. The defense has been good. I know sometimes fans get a little frustrated ’cause Robby has a certain style he plays with. He makes the game look very easy. I think watching it every day, I certainly appreciate how talented he is.”
Cano has also contributed off the field, something the Mariners hoped to see this season.
“He’s taken on a much bigger leadership role, and I’ve asked him to since the first day of spring training and up until the other day when we had a our meeting,” Servais said. “It’s been good. There’s been a lot of give and take, back and forth, things that he sees and things that I see that I need him to impress upon some of the guys on our club.”
Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager were left off the team. Cruz is hitting .280 with a .901 OPS, 16 doubles, 21 homers and 56 RBI. He seems like a strong candidate as a replacement if there is an injury. Seager has solid numbers: .274 batting average, .874 OPS, 23 doubles, two triples, 16 homers and 54 RBI. But he’s also stuck at a loaded third-base position.
“They both have the numbers to go,” Cano said. “It’s out of my hands. It’s not over yet. We still have another week. People get hurt. I hope they make it. It’s always good to have a teammate there.”