While Robinson Cano defended his decision to lollygag to first base on a ground ball, his justification was an honest, but lame excuse over an acceptance of responsibility.
Instead of reprimanding his mistake, Mets manager Mickey Callaway opted not to bench Cano and plugged him into the Mets lineup for their game against the Marlins on Saturday afternoon. The fiasco may seem inconsequential in the short term, but it sets a bad example for a young Mets team.
The Mets second baseman dug into the box in the seventh inning of the Mets’ 8-6 loss to the Marlins on Friday. The team was in the crux of a potential rally after J.D. Davis launched a two-run homer to cut the Mets’ deficit to 7-3.
With two runners on base and just one out, Cano hit a grounder to the pitcher and jogged listlessly to first base. Since Cano decided not to run out the ground ball, the Marlins were able to easily turn a 1-6-3 double play to end the inning and kill the Mets’ rally.
Cano was immediately anguished at first base after he realized his mistake. The All-Star second baseman thought there were two outs instead of one when he hit the grounder. He took his helmet off and grimaced at his mental lapse.
Callaway later told reporters the scoreboard at Marlins Park incorrectly read two outs when Cano was at the plate. Cano, a 15-year big-league veteran, trusted the scoreboard and ran, or rather crawled, with it.
“I have been running hard the whole year,” Cano told reporters on Saturday. “In that situation like anybody I made a mistake, but it’s not my mistake. There were two outs on the board. That’s why I didn’t run it out.
“If I know it was two outs, it’s a different story for me. I would’ve run my ass off. I will be the first one to motivate this team and the last guy not to run it out.”
The Mets skipper, already on the hot seat in regards to his job security, stayed true to his character and went easy on Cano.
“We talked about it and he understands that can’t happen again,” Callaway told reporters on Saturday. “You don’t just reprimand people to send a message to the rest of the team.”
Except, that’s exactly what managers should do. No matter the reason, in this case Cano trusting the scoreboard over being prepared for his at-bat, Callaway’s immediate forgiveness of his second baseman’s mistake is a misguided set of actions.
To be sure, Cano is a leader in the Mets clubhouse. Many young players — including Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, Pete Alonso and Amed Rosario — approach the highly respected second baseman for advice.
When the Mets watch Cano lacking hustle when running out a grounder, two outs or not, it sends a message to the team. And for Callaway to let the mental mistake slide, it makes the example admissible.
Pete Alonso mashed his 14th home run of the season on Friday. The Mets rookie leads the league in a number of prominent rookie batting categories.
Alonso leads all rookies in homers (14), RBI (34), slugging (.595) and walks (17). And his early-season numbers rank high among baseball’s superstars.
The 24-year-old’s 14 homers in his first 43 career games are tied for the seventh-most in major league history dating to 1908. First baseman Rhys Hoskins had 18 home runs in his first 43 games for the Phillies in 2017.