Among plenty of other things happening off the field this winter concerning Major League Baseball, we have our annual discussion on the Hall of Fame ballot. The ballot for the 2021 class was released earlier this week, but little did we know there would be an additional discussion about someone's chances of one day landing in Cooperstown. That one involves the now-twice-suspended-for-PEDs Robinson Cano.
We are going to argue two points here. First off, Cano's statistical profile is that of a Hall of Famer; but secondly, his second suspension for performance-enhancing drugs means he's not getting in.
If Cano had no suspensions and retired right now, he'd be a worthy Hall of Famer. The eight-time All-Star second baseman has won five Silver Sluggers, two Gold Gloves, an All-Star Game MVP (which isn't a huge deal, but has a small bit of cachet) and a World Series ring. He's a career .303 hitter with 2,624 hits, 571 doubles, 334 homers, 1,302 RBI and 1,257 runs.
Among players whose primary position was second base, Cano ranks 17th in runs, 10th in hits, fourth in doubles, second in homers, fifth in RBI, 20th in average, ninth in slugging (.492) and ninth in OPS+ (126; and this is among Hall of Fame qualifiers).
Cano has 68.9 career WAR and the average Hall of Fame second baseman sits at 69.5. In JAWS, he's seventh all-time at the position, trailing only Rogers Hornsby, Eddie Collins, Nap Lajoie, Joe Morgan, Charlie Gehringer and Rod Carew.
Cano never won an MVP, but he finished third once, fourth once, fifth twice and sixth once. The star/fame factor many crave? Cano has that in spades. Even casual fans are very familiar with Robinson Cano. He was one of the best -- if not the best -- second basemen in baseball for quite a while.
If this all wasn't enough, consider the suspensions and what they did to his counting stats.
Before we get into the fallout with the BBWAA Hall of Fame voters, we must discuss what Cano potentially lost in a season-and-a-half from his two suspensions combined.
Keep in mind that Cano is under contract through 2023 and that he's currently 38 years old.
- Cano is 376 hits away from 3,000. The only players with 3,000 career hits not in the Hall of Fame are Pete Rose, Albert Pujols, Adrian Beltre, Alex Rodriguez, Ichiro Suzuki and Rafael Palmeiro. This list features someone with a permanent baseball ban, a few PED-related players and a few others who aren't yet eligible but will make it to Cooperstown.
- This number doesn't carry near the same weight as the hits, but Cano is 29 doubles away from 600. Only 17 players have reached that plateau and, again, all are in the Hall except those carrying baggage or not yet eligible: Rose, Pujols, Beltre, David Ortiz and Barry Bonds.
- Cano had a real shot at 1,500 runs and 1,500 RBI. Only 38 players in MLB history have gotten there and, again, it's all Hall of Famers or players easily explained for not being in. Zero of those players are "he's not a Hall of Famer because he wasn't good enough" guys (full list here). Also, the only second basemen on the list are Lajoie and Hornsby, pre-integration all-time greats.
Instead, Cano is likely to miss on hits and it's hard to see him getting to 1,500/1,500. Even if he does get to 600 doubles, the suspensions likely cook him.
We've seen how PED ties have kept Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds out to this point, but both are over 60 percent of the 75 percent of the vote they need. We've seen how PED speculation from the voting body has kept some players out for a few years only to see them get in a few votes later (Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell come to mind). Gary Sheffield and Sammy Sosa are long shots who would've already been in the Hall if not for their ties to steroids.
None of these cases are like Cano's, though.
There is one case that comes close, and it's bad news for Cano: Manny Ramirez.
Ramirez was objectively one of the greatest hitters in baseball history. He hit .312/.411/.585 (154 OPS+) with 2,574 hits, 547 doubles, 555 homers, 1,831 RBI and 1,544 runs. He won two World Series rings and actually has the all-time record with 29 playoff home runs. He sits above the Hall of Fame standard in JAWS among left fielders. This is a Robinson Cano article, not a Manny Ramirez article, so we'll just stop there.
Simply: Manny Ramirez's statistical resume says obvious Hall of Famer.
But. Like Cano, Ramirez was popped for PED suspensions twice in his career.
Here are Ramirez's voting percentages through four years on the Hall of Fame ballot:
- 23.8 - 2017
- 22 - 2018
- 22.8 -2019
- 28.2 - 2020
Now, there was a rise in the percentage, but I'm finding it hard to believe the changes in the voting body are going to pave the way for him to rise to 75 percent before he goes through his 10 years on the ballot. I also think, as things stand, Ramirez has a better Hall case than Cano.
As noted, the voting body is changing and becoming more "new school," though some of those voters, myself included, still won't vote for the likes of Ramirez or Cano. My rule will be I'm not doing any judging unless a player was suspended after there was a testing system in place. So while I'd be a yes on Bonds and Clemens, I'm a no on Ramirez and Cano. I don't think I'm alone here.
If Ramirez can't get above 50 percent, Robinson Cano is never getting in via the BBWAA route. It's also hard to see a path via a veterans committee for players suspended multiple times.
Simply, Cano probably already had a tough road to the Hall due to his first suspension. This second one has sealed his fate regarding Cooperstown. He's not a future Hall of Famer. Not anymore.