Mets’ Robinson Cano wants to clean up his PED-tainted image

Robinson Cano came into spring training facing many uncertainties. But of one thing, he was sure: The 39-year-old had to make amends. Before arriving in Port St. Lucie, he reached out to a handful of Mets teammates, including Pete Alonso, Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, Brandon Nimmo and Francisco Lindor.

“I called them and apologized for what happened,” Cano told The Post. “As veteran players, they deserve that respect.”

But what he is apologizing for is the elephant in the room. The second baseman cannot address it, citing legal reasons. In November 2020, the eight-time All-Star was suspended for 162 games after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. This was his second offense from him and cost him in many areas, including his once-secure spot in the Hall of Fame.

Now, he has two years and $48 million left on his contract with the Mets — a team that has embraced him back into the fold.

“What are we supposed to do?” Mets manager Buck Showalter said during spring training. “We’re not planning to beat up on him every day. I mean, what’s the return there? He’s wearing our colors.”

Cano during spring training 2022
Cano during spring training.
Anthony J. Causi

Cano said he’s “grateful” for the reception, as he embarks on an unofficial apology tour that extends to fans and teammates alike.

It’s unfamiliar territory for the two-time Gold Glove winner. Throughout his Major League Baseball career, which has taken him from The Bronx to Seattle and now to Queens, he has played alongside polarizing or outsized personalities who courted both the sports and gossip pages. But Cano, who still sports a .302 career batting average, has always preferred to stay under the radar and communicate with his heroics on the diamond.

“I never open up to talk to people to tell how much I love baseball. For me, the less that I can talk the better. I came here to play the game and not just go around and say what I like and what I don’t like,” he said.

Robinson Cano opened up about his suspension for PEDs
Robinson Cano opened up about his suspension for PEDs.
Stephen Yang

But if ever there is a time to show the human behind his megawatt smile, it is now.

Upon his arrival at spring training, he first addressed the team as a unit.

“It’s a hard moment. You have to sit in front of your teammates and apologize and talk to them. It’s harder than playing baseball,” he said. “This is something you don’t prepare a statement for. You have to say it from the heart. I am happy to be back and I want to be here to help this team. My biggest thing was not to be a distraction for the team. Especially this team, they have some new faces. They want to win. They spend the money. I don’t want to be like a stranger where no one wants to talk to me or the guys are waiting, ‘When’s he going to apologize?’ ”

Cano said he was devastated when he learned of his suspension and “disappointed in myself,” adding that he “failed” his fans, his native Dominican Republic and young players who looked up to him.

“To be honest, that’s something you don’t have the words to describe how bad you feel, not only as an athlete but as a person. You want to disappear,” he said.

He returned to his hometown of San Pedro de Macoris for a year of purgatory and penance, which he spent working out, playing winter ball, being a full-time father and fighting his first bout of melancholia.

“Now I know what it feels like when someone has depression,” he said of a sentiment so unfamiliar, he fumbled for a minute to find the word in English.

Robinson Cano opens up about his depression during his suspension for PEDs
Robinson Cano opens up about his depression during his suspension.
Stephen Yang

Cano declined to seek professional help or tell his loved ones about his mental health battles.

“No, I don’t want to speak to nobody. I don’t want to tell anybody. I didn’t want my family to see me like that. I’m the happiest guy always smiling. I don’t want to take that away. I don’t want my kids to see me like this. When I am with my kids, I try to be the happiest man in life, ”he said, crediting his children of him, Robinson, 11 and Galia, 5, with helping him emerge from his emotional slump of him.

He followed the 2021 season closely, tuning in for every Mets game, often alone in his bedroom.

“Every day, I sit down and watch the game. It’s hard to watch on TV and know that you have the talent and ability to be out there. Not only performance but being a leader in the clubhouse,” he said, adding, “sometimes I cried.”

He was buoyed by calls from former manager Luis Rojas, who would reach out, occasionally looping in his teammates on FaceTime.

“Sometimes he puts the guys on and I said, ‘Hi, how are you doing? Keep fighting. I’m rooting for you guys.’ ” In one call with a bullpen coach, deGrom hopped on the phone. “It meant a lot. He could say ‘I don’t want to talk’ or walk away. That was really cool.”

Cano prepared for the cold shoulder at home or worse, confrontations out in public.

“I would say ‘Robby, if someone says something just keep walking. Don’t pay attention’. That starts to go through your head,” he said comparing it to tuning out aggressive fans in Boston or Philly.

Robinson Cano got into the waste management business, buying a fleet of trucks to clean up his hometown
Robinson Cano got into the waste management business, buying a fleet of trucks to clean up his hometown.
RJC Clear

But none of that transpired. He said he was stuck close to his extended family and barely left his house initially, only to train and shuttle his kids around.

“One thing I learn from this is how to be a father. With my kids, I am always playing, so I never had a chance to take them to school. Those were the moments that I really enjoyed in the last year, ”he said, adding that he’ll be living in Long Island so his children will have a yard when they visit.

He built a religious workout regimen, waking every morning at 5:15 for speed workouts at the track and adhering to a regular yoga practice. He spent time at his father’s baseball academy, which trains teen prospects from all over Latin America. And he played winter ball, including in the Caribbean Series.

Nearing the twilight of his career, Cano, who has one World Series ring, has started to lay the groundwork for his post-baseball life. He is looking to build a sports complex for disadvantaged youth — an accompaniment to his RC22 Dream School, which teaches 3- to 5-year-olds. And in an unorthodox move for a ballplayer, Cano also got into the waste management business.

“My town is known as one of the dirtiest towns in the Dominican. I hate to say that,” he said of San Pedro de Macoris, which has produced an overwhelming number of major leaguers, including Sammy Sosa and Alfonso Soriano. “I was sick of that. [Now] people say they never seen it so clean in the last 20 years.”

He purchased a fleet of 28 trucks, emblazoned with his initials “RJC” that can be spotted all over his hometown. Additionally, I have invested more than $16 million in a recycling facility.

“I want to do something when baseball is over. I don’t want to be on the field right away. I did my research and we have this plastic recycling company.”

When it comes to baseball, Cano knows he cannot just deploy one of his trucks to clean up his reputation — like he did his town. He’ll have to do that with actions on and off the field. He’s hitting just .217 early in the season, though he homered in the home opener on Jackie Robinson Daythe trailblazing player for whom he was named.

“You don’t think about your legacy. You don’t have the time to think about anything. All you want is to be playing again. That’s something I will leave to the fans,” he said. “I will do whatever is in my hands to make them clap and cheer for Robby again.”


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