Back in November, former Mariners first base coach Andy Van Slyke ripped Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano in a radio interview, saying that he was “the single worst third-place everyday player I’ve ever seen, for the first half of a Major League Baseball season.” He also blamed Cano for the sea change in the front office and the coaching staff, saying, “He was the worst player and it cost people their jobs in the process.”
Cano shone some light on what started the tension between the two in an interview with 710 ESPN Seattle’s Brock and Salk.
“I want to say one thing that I never say. There’s one time I had this conversation with Brad Miller,” said Cano. “I say, ‘Hey, Miller, I think you can be a leadoff (hitter) and sometimes you can help us if you’re hitting second if you could take a pitch for us hitting behind you … We can see what was the movement was on that pitch.”
Two days later, Cano said he had the following exchange with Van Slyke:
“Andy came into my locker. ‘Hey, I wanna talk to you.’ I said, ‘Oh, yeah, go ahead, Andy, what’s up?’ He was like, ‘I’m gonna play the bad guy.’ I said, ‘Bad guy of what? What happened?’ (Van Slyke said) ‘I know you talked to Miller, but I mean, you know, he’s a guy that you cannot say anything.’ I said, ‘I didn’t say anything to him. I just said what is good for the team.’ He said, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, I get it, but when it comes to hitting don’t talk to him.’ I said, ‘That’s how you feel like it, perfect.’ After that day…”
In almost every other clubhouse, a star player lending advice to a prospect would be seen as a positive. It’s unclear why Van Slyke took issue with this. Perhaps he felt like Cano was infringing on his turf as a coach. At any rate, it didn’t work out, as Miller was used as a utility player last season before being sent to the Rays in a trade last November.
Cano, for what it’s worth, had a really good second half, batting .331/.387/.540 with 15 home runs and 49 RBI. But the Mariners’ winning percentage only marginally improved, as the club had a .461 winning percentage in the first half and .479 in the second half. The stats seem to indicate that the Mariners’ problems didn’t have as much to do with Cano as other sources, like the bullpen.