Steve Cohen's Mets are making "baseball decisions" these days, proving that the Wilpon era is mercifully behind us.
I have to admit that I didn't see this coming. Before Sunday night's game, I thought a demotion to Syracuse for Dominic Smith was the most likely scenario. However, it's mighty tough to demote a guy after a 4 for 4. After Dom's big night, I thought it would be Travis Jankowski receiving the pink slip. Jankowski may be a useful player, but he's the last guy off the bench for the 2022 Mets. It sure would have cost the Mets a lot less to release Jankowski. Instead, Steve Cohen instructed Billy Eppler to "make the baseball decision." With those powerful words, Robinson Canó's Mets career came to an inglorious conclusion, and I found myself falling in love all over again.
I don't have anything personal against Robinson Canó, other than the general uneasiness of having a guy on your team who has been caught cheating twice. Canó has fit in well on this team when he's been here. He's not a narcissist in the mold of Alex Rodriguez, his fellow twice-caught steroid cheat. Nor was it Canó who decided to take on 5 years and $100 million left on Canó's contract — after the then 36-year-old had been caught taking a masking agent for PEDs and was suspended for half a season.
I don't even blame former in-over-his-head GM Brodie Van Wagenen for making the move. I blame the baseball people in the room with Van Wagenen, who failed to talk him out of the deal. I particularly blame the two guys named Wilpon, who presumably should have seen enough over decades of owning the team to know that bringing Canó to the Mets was quite unlikely to have a happy ending.
None of that matters much anymore. As wealthy as the man certainly is, it still couldn't have felt good to Steve Cohen to fling almost $40 million into the ether. I'm sure that Eppler and Buck Showalter didn't enjoy telling a guy who was once ticketed to Cooperstown that they would rather keep Jankowski on the bench.
Travis Jankowski has been a useful contributor to the 2022 Mets, but no one is deluding themselves into believing that Travis will maintain that gaudy +.300 batting average all year. Jankowski has a lifetime .241/.323/.318 slash line over 8 MLB seasons, good for an OPS+ of 78, far below MLB average. Albert Almora has slightly higher lifetime numbers, and he couldn't even get a major league job this season. But Jankowski has fit in very well to his role as the last man on the bench for the Mets.
It might have made some sense for the Mets to see if the warm weather — when it eventually arrives — would wake up Canó's slumbering bat. But the real problem was that there weren't enough ABs to go around. Neither Cano nor Dominic Smith was getting to the plate often enough to contribute offense to this club. One of those two had to go. While it reportedly wasn't unanimous, the majority of the baseball people felt that Dom Smith had more to offer than the 39-year-old Canó. Given that, they made the only decision that they could make.
As I said earlier, I thought the decision would be to send Dom Smith down for a couple of weeks, getting him daily ABs while giving Canó that much more time to show he had something left. But Smith's hot night against the Phillies put an end to that scenario. Cutting Jankowski made a lot of sense if Dom wasn't going, but it wouldn't solve the problem of not enough ABs to go around. With Canó out of the picture, Dom Smith and J.D. Davis should benefit from the extra work. Luis Guillorme should garner a few more chances, too.
Dom Smith remaining in New York while Robinson Canó exits stage left doesn't remove all the pressure. Dom will have to prove that his big night against the Phillies was no fluke. Smith had a nice spring, indicating that the 2021 version was an anomaly due to some injuries. Dom doesn't have to match his unworldly .316/.377/.616 line from 2020, but something closer to his .282/.355/.525 2019 production would ensure that Smith stays in this lineup fairly regularly. The 2022 Mets are all about baseball decisions, not sentimentality or "potential."
Please be well and take care. Adios, Robby Cano. Let's go Mets!
Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos.