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‘Superstar’ Cano Shows Leadership In Mariners' Strong Start

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Elaine Thompson
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AP Photo
Seattle Mariners' Robinson Cano looks up as he prepares to run onto the field for player introductions before the Mariners' baseball home-opener against the Los Angeles Angels, Tuesday, April 8, 2014, in Seattle.

KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel called the Mariners' $240 million, 10-year contract with Robinson Cano is "stupid, but necessary." He also said the Mariners were "not ready" for the regular season, plagued by injury and subpar performances in spring training.

But the Mariners have started the season with a bang, and that has Art — and many jaded fans — "letting a little hope in."'Something Cool Might Happen Here'

Art says the Mariners' 5-3 start to the 2014 season is "intriguing," which hasn't been the case for the past several years.

"You'd watch the Mariner game expecting failure. Now, you look at this team and suddenly you're saying 'You know, something cool might happen here,'" he said.

Cano, Like Felix, A Reason To 'Stop What You're Doing'

Art says fans are a little more hopeful about this season due, in large part, to Cano being here.

"He's kind of got the playing position equivalent of Felix Hernandez — a reason you would stop what you're doing to watch the man perform. And that's part of the attraction for fans," he said.

Lifting The Other Players

Art says it's not so much what Cano will do this year, because it's widely expected he will perform well. It's what the other guys have to do — guys like Dustin Ackley, Kyle Seager, Brad Miller, Michael Saunders, Mike Zunino and Justin Smoak.

"All of these players who are on the uptick in their careers, or should be, need to deliver for the Mariners to have a successful season," Art said. "And a successful season in my view would be at least .500, and maybe have a game that might be relevant in September."

"There are signs that each of those guys seems capable this year of doing better than he has. And if they can get to, broadly speaking, a Major League average, the Mariners might have something," he said.

Cano Clearly A Leader

Art says Cano has emerged as a true leader.

"There is an aura about a superstar that is rare, and it is clearly visible with him," he said. "The way he conducts himself and the effortlessness that is part of his game, both in the field and at the plate, is an object of wonder. I think it elevates everyone's game, as Felix Hernandez elevates the pitching staff."

Leadership Starts With The Manager

The Mariners are off to a strong start under new manager Lloyd McClendon. Art says he has a "cool toughness" about him that seems to be working.

"It's clear that he has this quiet resolve that gets everyone's immediate attention. He's in command of himself, he's in command of the game," Art said. "I think (former manager) Eric Wedge had an edginess about him that suggested he was a little bit out of control. But Lloyd just compels these guys to do their jobs to the best of their ability. And I think the players respect it, and it looks good as far as hiring a quality leader to guide this team."

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You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest and Crosscut.com.

Kirsten Kendrick has been hosting Morning Edition on KNKX/KPLU since 2006. She has worked in news radio for more than 30 years. Kirsten is also a sports lover. She handles most sports coverage at the station, including helping produce a two-part series on the 50th anniversary of Title IX and the ongoing series "Going Deep."
Art Thiel is a co-founder and writer for the rising sports website Sportspress Northwest. In 2003 Thiel wrote the definitive book about the Seattle Mariners, “Out of Left Field,” which became a regional bestseller. In 2009, along with Steve Rudman and KJR 950 afternoon host Mike Gastineau, Thiel authored “The Great Book of Seattle Sports Lists,” a cross between historylink.org and Mad Magazine that has become mandatory reading for any sports fan who has an indoor bathroom.
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