Getting this out of the way first: I think the extent to which Major League Baseball penalizes the use of performance enhancing drugs is extreme, and there’s far more gray area to the topic than is given voice. Also, good lord is it stupid for MLB players to pop a positive test in 2018.
All that makes Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano’s suspension for Furosemide, a banned diuretic used to mask the intake of PED’s, so goddamn infuriating. Cano, the biggest star in an unusually strong Mariners lineup, had been playing great to start the season, pacing a Mariners team that was looking to make its first playoff appearance in 17 years. Now, after breaking his hand and withdrawing his appeal of the suspension, he will be out for the next 80 games. Let’s break down all the reasons this sucks and is bad:
Cano, who signed a mammoth $240 million dollar deal with the team five years ago, has been the rare big money free agent to live up to his deal. Not to get too deep into the weeds in free agent value, but by Baseball Reference’s Wins Above Replacement metric, Cano has already been worth 24 wins to the Mariners in 4+ seasons. Given that on the open market it’s generally accepted that these days it costs around $10 million for a win, Cano has somehow already almost earned his massive contract with the team. Not only that, but he was off to the hottest start of his entire career (and steroid jokes aside, given that he apparently popped the positive test before the season, was almost certainly doing so clean). Even though he broke his hand, the team was actually adequately well-positioned to weather a short term absence from Cano because of the depth in the rest of the lineup. Basically the only way he could have messed this up was injuring himself while revealing a positive drug test in the same week… and here we fucking are…
Also, Cano had, by balling out for the Mariners over the past few years, all but clinched a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame. His statistical resume stands alongside the likes of Cal Ripken, George Brett and Adrian Beltre through their age 34 seasons. Given the Hall of Fame voters propensity to punish steroid abusers even if they were maybe the best player of all time (see: Bonds, Barry) Cano is now at best an extreme longshot for the Hall.
Beyond the impact on Cano’s individual career and legacy, this is a devastating blow to a Mariners team that had been looking very frisky of late. While certainly not out-and-out favorites to make the postseason with the Astros, Red Sox and Yankees all in dominant form, they were as good a bet as anyone else to get the second Wild Card slot. Without Cano for half a season, the 2-3 projected wins lost due to his absence could well prove crucial, and infuriatingly it is the rival Angels who stand as the team most likely to benefit. Even worse, were the Mariners to make the postseason, breaking the longest current drought in all of American professional sports, Cano would be ineligible to participate even though he would have finished his suspension by that point.
If there’s a silver lining to this whole thing it’s that since Cano’s hand is broken, he was going to miss 30 of the 80 games he’s suspended for anyway. Also the team will recoup some of his salary, and could hypothetically pour that into replacing his production in the form of taking on the salary of another infielder or some pitching depth. But we’re really grasping at clouds to find a silver lining here.
Which is to say this all sucks, top to bottom. It’s stupid, it’s bad and I hate it. It’s somehow the most Mariners of all the tragedies to befall the Mariners in recent years because it was unforeseeable, and its effect is so comprehensively catastrophic for the team both on and off the field, and in both the long and short terms. It’s long been said of Mariners fandom that there is no floor, and today was a stark reminder of our cursed, constantly falling existence.