BY Steve Rudman 03:40PM 05/19/2016

Mariners’ Cano on historic pace at quarter pole

Robinson Cano received brutal criticism the past winter — ex-coach Andy Van Slyke called him the worst player he’d ever seen — and has rebounded in near-record fashion.

Robinson Cano leads the majors in RBIs. / Alan Chitlik, Sportspress Northwest

Had it not been for newcomer Ichiro Suzuki, who led the American League in batting (.356) and stolen bases (56), and won Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year awards, Bret Boone would have been the undisputed sensation of the 116-win Mariners in 2001, the last edition of the club to reach the postseason.

Boone that year became the first AL second baseman in the modern era (since 1900) to hit .300 or better (.331) with 30-plus (37) home runs. He took home a Silver Slugger and finished third in the MVP vote. Boone also led the AL in RBIs with 141, becoming the third player in franchise history, following Ken Griffey Jr. (147 in 1997) and Edgar Martinez (145 in 2000) to top that category.

Since Boone’s historic 2001, no second baseman in either league has come close to his 141 RBIs. In fact, only Rogers Hornsby since 1900 – 152 in 1922, 149 in 1920 and 143 in 1925 – ever had more in a season.

Now, Robinson Cano not only has a chance to eclipse Boone’s modern record, he even has a shot at making a run at Hornsby, a Hall of Famer who managed the Seattle Rainiers in 1951.

At Seattle’s 40-game mark, Cano has driven in 36 runs, which projects to a 146-RBI season if he plays all 162 games. Odds are that Cano will slow somewhere along the line. But even if he doesn’t catch up with Hornsby or Boone, Cano still has an opportunity to post one of the best RBI seasons by a second baseman since World War II. This is the top 10 list:

1. Boone’s 141 in 2001; 2. Jeff Kent, 128, 1998; 3. Kent, 125, 2000; T4. Joe Gordon, 124, 1948 and Jackie Robinson,  1949; 6. Kent, 121, 1997; 7. Roberto Alomar, 120, 1999; 8. Bobby Doerr, 120, 1950; 9. Cano, 118, 2011; 10. Boone, 117, 2003.

Of the second basemen listed, Hall of Famer (2009) Gordon produced the most RBIs through 40 games, collecting 43 for the Cleveland Indians. Here is how all of the above players stood at the 40-game mark, with Cano’s season shown for comparison purposes:

Year Player Team 1st 40 Skinny
1948 Joe Gordon Indians 43 148 RBIs 4th in AL; HOF in 2009
2001 Bret Boone Mariners 40 No. 1 in RBIs, No. 3 in AL MVP voting
1949 Jackie Robinson Dodgers 39 203 hits, led NL with 37 steals
2000 Jeff Kent Giants 39 NL MVP led league in runs created
1997 Jeff Kent Giants 37 121 RBIs ranked 5th in NL
2016 Robinson Cano Mariners 36 Only 3 Mariners have led AL
1998 Jeff Kent Giants 27 128 RBIs ranked 4th in NL
2011 Robinson Cano Yankees 27 Hit 28 home runs with .882 OPS
1999 Roberto Alomar Indians 26 Scored 138 runs, tops in the AL
1950 Bobby Doerr Red Sox 25 Led AL with 11 triples; HOF in 1986
2003 Bret Boone Mariners 23 117 RBIs 2nd-high total of career

Cano’s 36 RBIs not only lead the AL, they lead the majors. He also leads MLB in road home runs, RBIs, extra-base hits and slugging percentage, and is second in OPS. Cano had a season-high six RBIs April 26 against Houston and five against Texas April 6. He has delivered seven go-ahead hits, and two game-winners. With eight multiple-RBI games, Cano has failed to drive in a run in only six of Seattle’s 40 contests.

At 33, the six-time All-Star is putting up the best offensive numbers of his career, which must come as a jolt to Andy Van Slyke, the former Mariners coach who was part of the bath water thrown out last winter when new GM Jerry Dipoto ousted manager Lloyd McClendon.

In the first half of 2015, Cano, battling a stomach ailment, hit .251/.290/.370. But in the second half, hampered by a double hernia, Cano rebounded with an eye-popping .331/.387/.540. That didn’t deter Van Slyke from delivering a major gum flap in December.

“Cano had probably the worst single year of an every-day player that I’ve ever seen in 20 years at the big league level,” said Van Slyke, who added that Cano “was just the most awful player I’ve ever seen.”

Cano underwent surgery for the first time in his career following the season and now here he is, threatening, at least through one quarter of the season, a record set by Hornsby 94 years ago. Van Slyke has yet to be heard from on Cano’s rebound and the significant impact it has had on the Mariners.

Since 2004, the Mariners have ranked among baseball’s worst in scoring, on-base percentage, slugging, OPS, and hitting with runners in scoring position. Focusing only the past five years, the Mariners have never finished higher than third in the AL West. But this is how they rank among the 15 American League teams in key offensive categories this season vs. how they ranked in the previous five:

Year Manager Runs HR OBP SLG OPS Div. Standing
2016 Scott Servais 4 3 7 5 5 1st
2015 Lloyd McClendon 13 5 11 9 10 4th
2014 Lloyd McClendon 11 10 15 11 15 3rd
2013 Eric Wedge 12 2 13 10 10 4th
2012 Eric Wedge 14 11 14 14 14 4th
2011 Eric Wedge 14 13 14 14 14 4th

Robinson Cano isn’t the entire turnaround, but he’s the headline.


  • 1coolguy

    For some reason Steve left out Boone’s ROID use as the reason for the huge season.
    As a result, Boone’s numbers are bogus and an embarrassment to the organization. He had 3 big season’s (all in a row) in 14 seasons. He’s a phony.

    • John

      The backend of the height of the steroid era my friend. That was baseball in the 90’s & early to mid 2000’s. There’s * all over the record books, or there should be.

      • whidbeytom

        putting and * next to all the steroid records is an insult to the *

      • art thiel

        Please provide your confirmed list of perps besides those publicly admitted or wer econvicted.

    • art thiel

      Eager to see your proof.

      • 1coolguy

        Art – Google “bret boone steroids – There are an endless number of PAGES concerning Boone and steroids. They all point out his weak numbers through age 31, the year before he was traded to the Mariners, then at 32 had possibly the BEST offensive season at 2B in the history of the league – he showed up 20 lbs heavier than the year before and was physically ripped. His BA went from .251 to .331 and HR’s from 19 to 37, in one year.
        He had 3 top offensive seasons, then the league announced it would test for steroids the next year (2004) and, whoa, just like magic, his numbers plummeted, back to his pre-Mariners numbers. BA: From .295 to .251.
        Did Boone ever admit it? No.
        MLB did not test til 2004, so he didn’t fail a test in his Mariners years.
        So no, there is no hard proof, yet no one disputes his steroid period.
        Here is one of the many hundreds of articles on Boone’s suspected roid use, followed by his lifetime stats, which carried a .266 BA.

        • jafabian

          Your articles only show a decline in statistics. If that’s your basis then every player in the history of MLB was a steroid user.

        • art thiel

          As you said — suspected. I’m not saying I believe Boone, but I can’t know. Neither can Bleacher Report nor other media outlets, nor the writers voting for HOF.

          Boone says in his new biography “Home Court” that he never took steroids because he was afraid of getting caught, He also was drinking heavily his final year with the M’s, had bad knees and retired at thirty six. He eventually went through alcohol rehab at a facility and dried out.

          I’m as skeptical as anyone about the steroid era. But I’m fairly certain that lots of relief pitchers that no one suspected were PED users because the drugs improved endurance and durability. They never looked ripped like Boone, but would have had they been a fitness freak as he was at his peak.

    • Jeff Shope

      bull puckey prove it.

      • 1coolguy

        Denial is not a river in Africa……….

  • Bayview Herb

    C’mon guy, cough up Van Slyke’s e-mail address. We have issues to discuss.

    • art thiel

      At least you’re on point with the column about Cano.

  • Bayview Herb

    While not joing the steroid argument, I’ve often wondered why the abrupt fall off of Brett Boone.

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    • jafabian

      He addressed that in several interviews over the years. After his amazing year he had a bad drinking problem on par with Vin Baker’s. Not long after he just lost his passion for baseball. Looking at his career stats his decline IMO is remarkably similar to Baker’s.

      • art thiel

        J is right. Boone has owned up to his alcohol problem.

  • Old Goat

    I’d hope we could avoid speculation and innuendo usually reserved for politics. Without proof I choose to accept Boone’s success for what we know it is, not the negative conclusions some prefer. We have accept the 2001 series loss to the Yanks the same year with some Yankee players admitting and apologizing for steroid use. Try and get a Yankee fan to apologize for that! Same thing, Boonies season is what it is.