Jay Z told us Robinson Cano was going to be baseball's Michael Jordan. Hip-hop's ultimate tastemaker told us that Cano had a charisma and marketability that transcended the game.
That's why Brooklyn's rap ruler made the Yankees All-Star second baseman a cornerstone client of his newly-formed Roc Nation Sports a few years back, despite the fact that Cano had spent nine seasons starring in the world's largest media market for the most lucrative franchise in American sports and still never even reached Scottie Pippen status.
Jay Z would have you believe that moving to Seattle of all places, was going to take Cano to the next level of self-branding ? Seems implausible.
But because Sean Carter -- the same guy who had the gall to say, "I make the Yankees hat more famous than a Yankee can," anointed Cano the second coming and boosted his cred among non-baseball fans by associating him with the mythical Roc-A-Fella brand, people bought it.
The Shadow League didn't.
There's something called "riding the hype" and that's what Seattle did last season. Cano's record-breaking signing and his relationship to music mogul Jigga was the sexiest splash of the 2013 summer free agency rush. It stole headlines everywhere and small market proponents were ecstatic that he shunned The Evil Empire to go to Seattle for a whopping $240 million and help put the Mariners back into championship contention. It gave the impression that Seattle was a serious financial MLB player moving forward and looked to follow the old Yankees blue print and buy their way back to respectability.
Roc Nation got Seattle's ownership to mortgage the franchise on Cano. The move wreaked of desperation and star-snatching, but to some it made sense. Seattle is one of the worst franchises in MLB and perennial losers. Since the late ‘90s-early 2000’s when Ken Griffey Jr. and A-Rod were battling the Yankees for AL supremacy, Seattle’s franchise has become a classic example of one that can’t get out of its own way. They have had three winning seasons in the last decade and after winning just 71 games in 2014, we were all eager to see if Cano truly did have a Jordenesque way about him.
Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen are guys that would have a Jordanesque flair and potential. Cano is a cut below those cats at this point. Talent aside, he doesn't appear to share Jordan's competitive fire or leadership abilities either. Back in 1626, The Indians were robbed. They were conned into selling Manhattan for $24 of trinkets. It was the worst financial maneuver in history and Seattle just repeated it. It's a deal that after a season and a half is already looking like the albatross we told you it could become.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not hating on the situation.
When it went down, we gave Jay and Co. their propers for crafty negotiating and pulling off the heist.
Cano kept with Jay Z’s blueprint of success and took the money. This signing has several gripping effects and lays the groundwork for a slew of future maneuvering. Jay Z has established his agency as a group who will demand exorbitant salaries for their clients, push them as media marketing monsters and won’t bow down to any entity, even the most powerful pro franchise in America.
Jay was trying to impress his hip-hop principles upon a MLB baseball situation. Set a tone in a game in which he was a novice with the same thirst for success as when he was a broke battle rapper spitting flames on the benches of Marcy Projects. While he gets respect for pulling off the deal in music mogul fashion, the realities of baseball have already set in. Big time players who fall short of expectations can't just be dropped from the label and written off in taxes. They linger with hefty, debilitating salaries and often you watch them deteriorate slowly right in front of your eyes in a matter of years. It gets to the point where the fans can't wait to rid themselves of a player they once clamored for.
Truth be told, Cano's early returns were profitable for all parties involved. His presence resulted in a 16-win improvement in the standings and 302,673 more tickets sold at the gate than the previous year. The Cano hype was at an all-time high. But that's still a far cry from the 3.4 million fans Seattle averaged between 2001 and 2003 when they won a MLB record 116 games and followed that up with two 93-win seasons.
Robbie hit a smooth .314 in his first Mariner's season, but his power dropped off the map as he hit just 14 homers after averaging 28.4 blasts in his last five years with the Yankees. This season, his batting average has dipped to .260 and if not for a recent power surge (He has five homers this month, two of them coming in the same game against the Yankees) his total of nine home runs would be more egregious. He has the lowest OPS of his career (.700). He failed to make the All-Star squad for the first time since 2010, which tells you how quickly the fans have forgotten Cano. He's almost getting treated like a one-hit wonder, but he's actually got 1,931 career hits after going 3-for-4 in a 11-9 Mariners win over the floundering Detroit Tigers on Tuesday night.
Now Cano is in his grind mode and trying to live up to the billing. Eventually, reality sets in and the honey moon is over. Cano's just getting his bat wet and the Mariners have already taken a step backwards and sit in dead last place in the AL West, posing as doormats for serious teams pursuing real championship dreams. Meanwhile the Yankees are thin at second base but plentiful in other areas because of the money they saved. After an 85-win struggle in 2014, the Yankees are holding down first-place in the AL East (51-41) and appear headed to the playoffs.
I feel bad for Mariners fans because they were bamboozled by Nintendo of America and GM Jack Zduriencik, who orchestrated this deal purely for headlines and immediate gratification, with no real vision for the future or plan of action if the deal was a bust. That's always a possibility when you sign players who are pushing past 30 and have been in the league for close to a decade already to lucrative, long-term deals. They are almost certainly on the downside of their careers and even if they produce, they can't hit, pitch and field for you.
Former Texas Rangers manager Tom Hicks tried the same thing back in 2001 when he peeled off $252 million greenbacks to sign free-agent shortstop Alex Rodriguez to a 10-year contract, the richest in the history of U.S. team sports. The sum is $2 million more than Hicks paid for the Rangers, The Ballpark in Arlington and 270 acres adjacent to the stadium in 1998.
Unfortunately, Hicks went for the celebrity appeal and emptied his stash on A-Rod which made it impossible to field a team of significance around The Dominican Don. A-Rod fulfilled his end of the bargain, winning an MVP, smashing 50 homer-seasons and revolutionizing the shortstop position. However, while A-Rod shined, the Rangers hit rock bottom, averaging 72 wins a season, before salary dumping him on the Yankees in 2004.
The year after A-Rod left, Texas was able to fill out a real roster, went 89-73 and finished three games out of first-place in the division. You'd think Seattle would be the last team to make the same mistake.
Cano doesn't even have to play poorly for the deal to be considered a bust, although he's done a sensational job of sucking since joining Seattle.The area was lit upon his star-studded arrival. The headlines read:" Seattle Beats The Big Fish on a Big Fish." Cano was doing the Schmoney Dance with Jay Z all the way to el banco and garnering the praise of every Fortune 500 business mindset in the country. Problem is, after those sheep go back to whatever they are doing and baseball fades from the radar, true MLB fans are left with a guy who appears to have been carried by the talent around him in NY way more than we realized.
He's just not that dude.
Jay-Z lied and the baseball world overrated Cano. It doesn't mean he's wack. I saw him in his prime in The Bronx destroying pitchers like a baseball bulldozer and captivating fans with his flawless glove. I also saw him piss fans off with what appeared to be a laziness and lackadaisical attitude towards the game. Some say he's unfairly criticized for making the game look easy and effortless in the same manner Darryl Strawberry did in the 80s. Their grace can sometimes be mistaken for lack of effort.
So in Cano's case we always just said, "Numbers don't lie," and left it at that when discussing his place among MLB's elite ballers. Not too many people outside of Yankees Nation bitched and moaned about the scratch that Seattle gave Cano, but he's not living up to the hype.
He hasn't become a magnetic personality overnight. There's still not anything about his personality that jumps out at you. His English is no more than decent and his hard stroke has gone flacid. Cano needs to admit that it was a bad move for his baseball future to leave The Yankees. Best believe, if he continues to swat like this, he will be completing the final years of his contract with another club.
Cano used to be somebody. He rocked the confident smirk of a champion and the gear of baseball's legendary franchise. He played in "The House That Ruth Built." Every year he was in the playoffs and impressing his stature on the history books. Then all of a sudden, he abandoned a sure fire Hall of Fame career to move up on that Forbes List and play in baseball oblivion. That was Cano's deal with the devil. It's like moving to Iowa from New York, getting a huge raise and purchasing a mansion. The crib is on fleek, but nobody you know is ever going to see it ! Iowa's irrelevant.
I love it when fans say," I respect dude. He got his money," as if that's a justification for not earning your paper. As if they were the ones who would get to enjoy the private jets and yacht parties with Maxim models and double-teaming Sanaa Lathan in the back of the Bentley limo as she gets her THOT on around some new money.
Sure Cano and Jay Z have proven to be good businessmen, but the Steinbrenner's understand the game of baseball a bit better. Instead of getting fleeced by Cano for a 10-year $300 million contract extension and being stuck with and cap-strung by an aging player with decreasing production, the Yankees offered Cano a seven-year $160 million contract during the 2013 season, but he wasn’t having that.
Instead he got with The Roc, got his chips and his props and...kind of fell off the face of the baseball earth.