By Jason Keidel
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His mom took a big chance.
Think about the odds of naming your child after an icon and then seeing your progeny turn into a prodigy himself.
Now Robinson Cano, named after Jackie Robinson, is rolling the dice again, using his name, game and Jay Z to milk, if not bilk, the Yankees for $300 million. Cano may have hit the genetic jackpot, but he’s a day late and a dollar short for this turn at the bargaining table. It’s not trendy, but rather toxic, to ask anyone for a 10-year deal these days.
Dustin Pedroia is the best player on the best baseball team on earth. For his leadership, performance and persistence, he will make about $108 million over the next eight years.
Cano thinks he’s three times better than Pedroia, at least if these things — and they usually are — are measured in money. Cano is demanding three times the Laser Show’s checking account.
Cano’s power is palpably better, but the rest, both tangible and intangible, is negligible.
If we wanted to be cynical, we could note that Cano is older than Pedroia, doesn’t possess the second baseman’s clubhouse aura and has a .220 batting average in the playoffs.
In 2013, Pedroia had 73 walks. Cano had 65. Pedroia had 42 doubles. Cano had 41. Each had 193 hits. Pedroia has a lifetime .372 on-base percentage. Cano has a .355 OBP.
And for all the frothing praise of Cano’s fielding, Pedroia won the Gold Glove at second base in 2013. Pedroia has more Gold Gloves, MVP awards and World Series rings.
We understand that there’s an inverted reality in pro sports in general, and in Yankee Universe in particular. Even without his PED and Page Six maladies, A-Rod performed the ultimate mutiny, opting out of his contract during a World Series that he wasn’t in. And the Yankees punished him by pumping nearly $300 million into his 401(k).
So you’d like to think that the Yankees have matured a little, developed some
fiscal discipline or at least some logic that would preclude them from making it rain on Cano.
Too many 10-year deals have crippled baseball clubs once ink caked on the contract. If anything, Cano suffers from woeful luck. Two years ago there would have been a conga line of drooling general managers with garbage bags of cash swung over their shoulders, begging Cano to take their money.
There’s this notion that without Cano, the Yankees would crumble in ticket sales and in the standings and lose advertising revenue. Yet they suffered in all three areas with Cano having a typically splendid season. While he’s worth his weight in $100 bills at the plate, he’s just not the draw that we saw from his more bejeweled brethren, like Reggie Jackson, Derek Jeter, Donnie Baseball and A-Rod. For better or worse, Cano just doesn’t move New York’s needle the way his more celebrated predecessors have.
Compounding the problem, Jay Z has been waxing rhapsodic, his latest a cappella placing No. 24 next to No. 23. Comparing Cano to Michael Jordan shows a certain silliness, if not stupidity.
Exaggeration is an agent’s second nature, but if Shawn Carter is to be taken seriously in his new industry, he needs to step away from his old industry, where vulgar language, obscene gestures and machismo are spiritual skin tags. A more corporate cadence would do his client justice.
Though it may read that way to the most jaded Jeter and A-Rod apologists, this is not a knock on Cano. I’ve met him several times, and sincerity is not one of his problems. Nor is enthusiasm.
His ebullience, wide smile and almost preteen glee over the game is sincere. His skill, will and savant’s swing, and his standing in baseball and in the dugout is unquestioned. They say it’s better to be lucky than good. Luckily, Cano was born both. Soon we will see how much so.
Cano is a transcendent talent. The Yankees are a better team with him than without him. But that doesn’t mean you break the vault to keep him at the expense of starting pitching, catching and the myriad holes that need to be filled on an oddly deficient lineup. He definitely has the game, if not the gravitas, to lead the Bronx Bombers for the next six years.
Just not 10.
Follow Jason on Twitter @JasonKeidel.
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