John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Benching Robinson Cano against the Marlins on Saturday wouldn't be a cure for everything that is wrong with the Mets these days, not even close.
But for a manager whose neck is on the line it might be the only way he can make a statement that he's going to demand better from one of his so-called leaders. At the very least it would be an indication Mickey Callaway is willing to make his players accountable rather than always telling them everything will be all right.
Above all, it would be an acknowledgement that these Mets are at a crisis point in this season already, and he's not going to just sit around waiting to get fired.
Hey, let's be real, the Mets have bigger problems than Cano's lack of hustle on Friday night, starting with whatever is wrong with Jacob deGrom again. Because if the $137.5 million ace can't find his form on a consistent basis anytime soon, nothing is going to save this team from mediocrity or worse.
For that matter, not hustling is part of Cano's résumé, along with his Hall of Fame credentials and a PED suspension. The Mets had to know there would be a moment like this, when he jogged to first base on a 1-6-3 double play in the seventh inning Friday night, despite the urgency of the moment.
Furthermore, running hard wouldn't have changed the outcome of the play, and, well, if Cano were hitting like an All-Star second baseman these days, it would be a lot easier to forgive his indiscretion.
But here's the thing: Cano must have felt guilty about it, because he apparently went to the manager, at least according to Callaway, to apologize for his jog to first, claiming that he thought there were two outs at the time -- at least partly because scoreboard showed two outs.
Sorry, but I'm not buying it.
Even if Cano did think there were two outs, which is inexcusable in such a big spot in the game, why didn't he react when he saw the pitcher turn and throw to second base? That was sort of a clue, right?
And if Cano truly felt he let his team down, why did he duck the media afterward? Didn't Brodie Van Wagenen bring him here at least in part for his veteran leadership to help set a tone for accountability?
Again, it's not like any of this cost the Mets a game. It's just a terribly bad look for a team that suddenly appears to be in danger of bottoming out before Memorial Day.
Cano has been part of the problem, hitting .255 with a dreadful .692 OPS, suddenly looking old at 36, despite his sweet swing of that makes everyone think he'll eventually get it going.
But at least for now his lack of production makes Van Wagenen's decision to trade for Cano look bad, again raising the question of whether it was influenced by the GM's role as his former agent.
Obviously a big part of appeal was getting closer Edwin Diaz in the deal, but will that be enough to make it worthwhile if Cano is in decline, with four more years remaining on his contract?
To be honest, my only real problem with the trade at the time was giving up top prospect Jarred Kelenic, who is only 19 yet earning raves in the minors this season for his hitting.
As badly as the Mariners wanted out from under Cano's contract, I was convinced that Van Wagenen could have held firm and eventually gotten him without giving up Kelenic. Still, it was hard not to think Cano would be a catalyst for the Mets' offense and thus an important part of the GM's win-now plan.
Van Wagenen also believed Cano would bring veteran leadership, and there is no reason to think he hasn't at least been a steadying influence for the likes of Amed Rosario, even if the young shortstop's defense seemingly has gone backward in recent weeks.
And while not hustling to first base on routine ground balls won't necessarily hurt his standing in the clubhouse, former Yankee hitting coach Kevin Long admitted to me after Cano left the Bronx that it frustrated him and others on those Yankee teams that they couldn't shake him of the habit.
In any case, the timing is what made it look worse than ever on Friday night. You can't give the impression you don't care at a time when your team is falling apart, losing to the lowly Marlins during this must-win portion of the schedule that could well determine the manager's fate.
And look, Callaway has done nothing in his second season to make anyone think he's a better manager than he was last year, other than having a better bench coach. But if his job truly is in jeopardy this early then it's just evidence the Mets should have pulled the trigger in the offseason.
Whatever the situation, Callaway has reached a point where he needs to make a stand, let his team know he's in charge, even if it means doing something as dramatic as benching Cano.
I know, I know, the days of Gil Hodges pulling Cleon Jones from left field are long gone, but it wasn't that long ago that Charlie Manuel sat Jimmy Rollins down a time or two for not hustling. It seemed to work out pretty well for those Phillies' teams.
Callaway needs to do something to send a message to his free-falling team. Cano gave him a layup if he wants to take it.