The baseball world was turned on its head Tuesday afternoon with the news that Seattle Mariners All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano will be suspended 80 games for PED use.
Hector Gomez was the first to report the possible suspension early this afternoon.
Gomez’s report was then confirmed by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic and Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
Cano was already due to be placed on the disabled list by the Mariners due to a fractured right hand, but the suspension means that Cano will miss even more time now. According to Rosenthal, the time Cano spends on the disabled list will count towards his suspension.
Cano quickly accepted the suspension and also provided an explanation for his positive test. According to the statement, Cano was prescribed Furosemide, which is a diuretic used to treat various medical conditions. However, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) considers Furosemide to be a masking agent used by some players to hide any potential PED use. Therefore, Furosemide is listed as a banned substance by Major League Baseball, which is why Cano’s suspension is being treated as a PED suspension.
If we assume that Cano is being completely forthcoming, the suspension is devastating not just for his 2018 season but for his entire career. Cano will now miss a large chunk of the 2018 season, which will be a massive loss to a Seattle Mariners team that is currently just 1.5 games out of first place in the American League West. He had also been off to a solid start for the Mariners, slashing .287/.385/.441 with four home runs and 23 runs batted in.
However, as ESPN’s T.J. Quinn pointed out on Twitter, we can’t necessarily just take Cano’s word for it:
Losing a player of Cano’s caliber will be damaging to the Mariners, especially given how heavy the competition in the American League West is this year. The Mariners are attempting to keep pace with the Los Angeles Angels and the defending World Series champion Houston Astros.
There is another consequence of Cano’s suspension that could prove to be crucial for the Seattle Mariners. Due to a policy change made back in 2014, players who are suspended for PEDs during the regular season will not be eligible for the playoffs that season. While the division lead may be a stretch for a Cano-less Mariners team, the Wild Card is certainly within reach. Seattle currently stands 1.5 games out of the second Wild Card spot, 2.5 games ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays. The Mariners have a legitimate shot at securing the second Wild Card spot and playing in the win-or-go-home game at the end of the season — a game for which Cano would be ineligible.
It is only May, and there is a lot of baseball yet to be played, but it is also hard to ignore the steep price that the Mariners might have to pay. It is also hard to ignore the impact this suspension will have on Cano’s career and his eventual Hall of Fame case. Cano has a career .304 batting average, 305 home runs, and over 2,400 hits at just 35 years of age. It is more than likely that Cano will reach the 3,000 hit plateau given his track record and his ability to stay healthy, according to the statistics provided by Greg Johns of MLB.com:
However, this suspension immediately impairs Cano’s Hall-of-Fame candidacy, regardless of whether he actually used PEDs. The Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) still holds the power when it comes to voting for the Hall of Fame, and they do not look kindly on players who have been suspended for PEDs. One simply needs to look at the cases of players such as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, two of baseballs greatest stars, who are still not in the Hall of Fame. Both of these players are only suspected of using anabolic steroids, but neither ever failed a test or did anything else that got them suspended by MLB. Despite the lack of suspensions, the majority of BBWAA voters have looked at Bonds and Clemens as “steroid guys” and refused to vote for them.
This is where the problem will arise for Cano. While we don’t have any definitive proof that Cano took steroids or other PEDs, but this suspension will still go down in the books as a PED suspension, according to Major League Baseball. Members of the BBWAA may not be so trusting of Cano’s testimony claiming that all he took was a diuretic, especially since the substance he took is known to be used as a masking agent for steroids.
Cano is likely several years away from hanging up the cleats — he still has more than five years left on the 10-year contract he signed with Seattle in December 2013 — and he will have plenty of time to not only rebuild but also add to his Hall of Fame resumé. It will then be another five years after Cano retires before he is first appears on the Hall of Fame ballot. Time has a way of healing all wounds, and attitudes towards PED suspensions and suspicions could very well shift during that time. However, there is no denying that Cano has marred his Hall of Fame candidacy; how much so remains to be seen.