Was Mark Canha … stealing home? No, but the moment showed his value to Mets
MIAMI -- If you watched the Mets defeat the Marlins 6-2 on Saturday, you know that Mark Canha had three hits, scored three times, homered and finished a triple short of the cycle.
If you watched even closer, you saw a moment that more precisely defined what Canha brings to the team: Attention to detail, extreme focus, and a baseball IQ that enables him to transcend the sum of his tools.
With two outs in the fourth inning and Omar Narvaez batting, the Mets trailed 2-1. Canha, who had walked, stood on third base.
One detail of the 2023 Marlins is that they have no fewer than four natural second baseman -- Luis Arraez, Jazz Chisholm Jr., Joey Wendle and Jean Segura -- and only Arraez is playing that position. In the first three games, subtle growing pains for the other three were evident.
In this instance, Segura was playing third base for just the 27th time in his 12-year-career. When Canha took his lead off third, Segura was playing further off the bag than is typical.
Canha noticed this, but for the first two pitches of Narvaez’s at-bat, he took no action. Then, as 24-year-old Edward Cabrera prepared to throw an important pitch, Canha dashed nearly halfway down the line before skidding to a stop.
Was he … thinking about stealing home?
“No, no,” Canha told SNY after the game. “I was just trying to -- the third baseman was so far off [the bag]. I didn’t do anything on the first two pitches, then I was like, ‘Maybe I’ll surprise him and he balks or something.’”
Cabrera didn’t balk, but Canha did succeed in drawing Segura closer to the base and away from the spot where he wanted to be. And Cabrera threw a change-up that caught a piece of the outside corner, which Narvaez dunked into left field.
Canha walked home to score the tying run. From there, the Mets controlled the game.
“[Segura] moved, then Narvaez hits the ball and gets the knock,” Canha said. “Anything to get [the pitcher’s] attention a bit. Maybe it takes his focus from making his pitch. If it makes him balk, great. But if you can just get his attention and take his focus off of making the pitch, there’s not much of a risk with how far the guy is off the base.”
Canha and his value can escape notice at times. He’s not the right-handed home run masher that Mets fans seem to crave, and he’s certainly not a shiny new prospect onto whom the public can project its hopes.
But here’s what he is: A left fielder who thinks deeply about where to stand before every pitch. The player who Buck Showalter can trust above all others to be in the right spot during any play, whether or not he is handling the baseball. A hitter with strike zone judgment as sharp as any Met except perhaps Brandon Nimmo. And a person whose Northern California, laid-back demeanor belies an insatiable craving for improvement.
“He just works at it,” Showalter says. “This guy is never satisfied.”
Canha illustrated that point in the hours between Friday’s game and Saturday’s. Hitless through the first two days of the season, he worked on a mechanical fix to his swing.
“I just worked on something a little different today,” Canha said. “I wasn't stressed or anything about not getting hits the first two days. I think I was seeing the ball decently and just kind of waiting for my swing to come around. I was close but had to make a minor adjustment.”
He called the adjustment a “secret,” but did offer that it was “just a little different position to get my body more ready. It’s kind of just getting ready earlier. It’s timing related.”
The exact adjustment doesn’t particularly matter to us lay people. What matters to Showalter, GM Billy Eppler, the Mets and their fans is that they can trust that Canha will put in the work to find it.
And then, when the game begins, they can trust him to see what transpires at every moment as clearly as anyone.