So Robinson Cano sucks right now. Well, not right now – he’s been hugely productive for the last couple of weeks, and keyed the Seattle Mariners’ dramatic 11th inning win Tuesday night. But he’s still batting a measly .252/.291/.371 on the year – a whole fifteen percent worse than the average major league hitter.
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There’s been a lot of speculation on what’s been driving Cano’s struggles. Is it poor instruction? Is his bat getting slower? Is he getting unlucky? When any player struggles the natural response is to look for answers, but with Cano there hasn’t been any sort of obvious explanation. Which is particularly frustrating, given that he’s still got another EIGHT YEARS left on his deal, priced at $24 MILLION APIECE.
Stands to reason that you want to know why Cano’s been so bad. We all want to know. We may not really fully know, but as of late, we know a whole lot more than we did before. Cano has been battling a thing or two in private, and it could have been affecting his on-field performance since last August. During a recent interview with USA Today’s Jorge L. Ortiz, Cano did some serious opening up:
“Sometimes you drink water and it makes you feel like vomiting. I can’t eat the same way I did. It’s hard to deal with, especially being the first time this has happened to me. Sometimes I eat only once a day before playing, because I feel full. And you just don’t have the same energy.”
That’s Cano, publicly discussing his nearly year-long struggle with acid reflux. The stomach ailment has been bugging him for a while, and reportedly it often will just completely drain him of all his energy. He started to notice something hurting in his stomach last August, but didn’t get it checked out until October. He was diagnosed with a parasite and put on antibiotics.
While the parasite issue appears to have been cleared up, the ailment and the treatment left behind the nasty, unwanted side effect of acid reflux. He’s said to have changed his diet, cutting out red meat because it takes too long to digest. He’s been placed on medication. He’s tried to get rid of this ailment, but despite his best efforts the issue persists.
So why haven’t we heard about this until just now? Cano knows what’s expected from him, especially considering the role he played on this team a year ago. To Cano, admitting his problem was akin to making an excuse. Even if it was a good excuse, it still felt to him like citing his ailment was unacceptable. So the public wasn’t made aware until Monday.
Let’s acknowledge and accept this before we’re tempted not to: nobody can know for sure whether this stomach issue is driving Cano’s offensive struggles. It certainly might be – seems likely enough that the two things could be related. But we just can’t say for sure. Even Cano can’t say for sure, and so he doesn’t. No excuses, remember? We say that this is definitely the cause, and that fixing Cano’s stomach will fix his offense.
It does certainly raise the question of why he’s been playing so much. If there’s a chance that a healthy stomach means a better player, then why play the guy when he’s hurt? It doesn’t seem like Cano kept his condition a secret from the team. The Mariners organization should be committed to the health of their should-be best player. If he’s messed up, why not give him some time off? Why not let Cano spend two weeks resting on the DL?
This is the same organization that signed Franklin Gutierrez and then immediately watched injuries and gastrointestinal issues destroy his career. If anyone knows about how serious stomach ailments can be, you’d think it’d be the Mariners. Over the years the team learned how to exercise caution with Guti. That was a $20 million investment. This is a $240 million investment. You’d think they’d go in twelvefold on protecting what they have.
Maybe these two players and their struggles are different enough that the comparison is unfair. Maybe the M’s have been using what they learned with Gutierrez to inform what’s going on with Cano. We don’t know this, and won’t know this until the M’s start to talk about it. As of now, we don’t have a lot to go on. Just information indicating that Cano’s likely been dealing with a performance-stymying digestive issue.
There’s a chance the Seattle Mariners aren’t doing enough to help Robinson Cano recover from what sounds like a pretty nasty, long-lasting bout with acid reflux. There’s a maybe-equal chance that the team has done all it can do. All we know is that Cano hasn’t been right, and we might finally have a good reason why. All we want is for Cano to be better, both digestively and offensively. Hopefully he’s already well on his way.