8/3/2014 12:31 A.M. ET
Cano puts pinstripe days in rearview mirror
All-Star second baseman looks to lead Seattle to first postseason berth since 2001
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
BALTIMORE -- The balance of power shifted once again in the American League East on Thursday when the Rays traded ace left-hander David Price to the Tigers in a three-way deal that netted center fielder Austin Jackson for the Mariners.
But this season's first and most significant shift of power came this past winter when Robinson Cano left the Yankees for Seattle, signing a 10-year, $240 million contract.
That's been the real game-changer.
Cano has been having his usual stellar season, batting .330 with eight homers and 62 RBIs. Meanwhile, the Yankees have been scrambling all season, trying to find a replacement for the six-time All-Star, and their collective second basemen are batting .239 with eight homers and 31 RBIs.
"I'll take it," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said before Saturday night's 6-3 loss to the Mariners at Camden Yards. "I'm glad he's not still in New York and we have to face him 18 times. We're playing the Mariners seven times and the more you see of them the more you're glad he's out there. He's a splendid player."
Cano has spent his career doing damage to the Orioles and as if to punctuate the point, the lefty-swinger powered a three-run homer over the right-field scoreboard in the fifth inning, giving Seattle a 4-1 lead they never relinquished. He has 212 career big league homers and that was his 29th against the Orioles -- his most against any team -- 15 of them at Camden Yards.
"Well, I don't think he's picking on us, he's done that against a lot of people," said Showalter, who had a chance to intentionally walk Cano with first base open, but opted against it. "I felt comfortable that we wouldn't make a mistake there against him, but we did."
Cano confided before the game that he hasn't paid much attention to what's been going on in New York, where he played his first nine seasons, making the playoffs seven times and winning the 2009 World Series.
He said he didn't know that Stephen Drew, acquired on Thursday from the Red Sox, was playing out of position at his old spot nor that he followed the likes of infield plug-ins Brian Roberts, Kelly Johnson, Yangervis Solarte, Scott Sizemore and Dean Anna, just to name a few.
Like Cano, all of them have since moved on, but not by their own volition.
"Wow, I didn't know about that, I just focus on what's going on around here," Cano said. "I'm not that interested in the Yankees right now. I'm here and we're just trying to make it to the playoffs."
Ironically, both the Mariners and Yankees are in a very similar place. Both have just about the same record and both are a few games from the second AL Wild Card spot. Despite their infield shortcomings, the Yankees are still within hailing distance of the Orioles in the East, five games back. Despite Cano bringing his athletic prowess and budding leadership skills to Seattle, the Mariners are seemingly out of it, 11 1/2 games in arrears of the A's as Oakland and the Angels battle for first place in the West.
While Cano's absence from the Yankees lineup may give Showalter some solace, the fact that the Mariners might miss the playoffs is a source of some consternation to Cano, whose undefeated Dominican Republic team streaked through the World Baseball Classic, winning the 2013 tournament. Cano is used to winning, although he missed the playoffs last year with the Yankees, too.
"I would say every player would like to be in the playoffs every year," Cano said. "After you go once or twice, you get used to that. We're close. I don't want to say what our chances are. I don't want to jinx it. There are too many games left. We're not going to count ourselves in or out. Things are hard in life. Sometimes teams do the impossible. Anything can happen. We just have to keep fighting. See what happens."
The Yankees and Mariners have intersected a few times before. The club that Cano signed with has only made the playoffs four times in its nearly 38-year history, three times playing the Yankees. The Mariners won an AL Division Series in 1995, but haven't been back to the playoffs since the Yankees knocked them out of the AL Championship Series for the second consecutive October in 2001.
Cano came to Seattle to fix all that, turning down the Yankees' first and only overture of seven years, $175 million to change uniforms, divisions, cities and coasts.
"I'm going to try," he said. "I mean, we have a great group of young, talented guys, guys who can play this game, future All-Stars, maybe even Hall of Famers."
Cano, with a .311 lifetime batting average, might be bound for Cooperstown, himself. He came up as a 22-year-old in 2005 as a rookie on a team that was ruled by Derek Jeter and managed by Joe Torre. He's 31 now, arriving in Seattle as a young veteran on a squad guided by first-year manager Lloyd McClendon.
A World Series winner isn't built with one deal, even as costly a deal as Cano signed. They all must grow together.
"He's been everything we hoped for and maybe more," McClendon said about Cano. "He's a great teammate. He's a tremendous competitor. He's been great in the clubhouse. Little things like [catcher Jesus] Sucre running with the pitchers every day to stay in shape. That's influenced by Robinson Cano and you guys don't see it. Those are the intangible things he brings to the table that makes your team better. It's much better coming from a peer than a coach or the manager. From that respect he's off the charts."
Cano had the best player in the business to learn from in New York, the Yankees shortstop and captain whose 20-year career is winding to an end at the close of the season.
Cano played next to Jeter for the last time, during the first three innings of the All-Star Game on July 15 in Minneapolis. Cano is the game-changer now, but in Seattle, not New York.
"I don't want to say that I'm the Jeter here," Cano said. "I just try to help these guys as much as I can. I'm just trying to impart all the little things I learned my first nine years in New York, just pass it along to them."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.