Seattle Mariners' Robinson Cano at bat against the Cleveland Indians during a spring training baseball game, Wednesday, March 5, 2014, in Peoria, Ariz. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Robinson Cano is beginning the first season of a 10-year, $240 million contract with the Seattle Mariners.
Imagine how much he might havve made if he ran hard to first base.
Cano’s baseball skills are undeniable: He has batted .300 or better in seven of nine seasons, has hit at least 25 homers five consecutive years, has played in at least 159 games in each of the last seven seasons and won two Gold Gloves as a second baseman. But, you know, he doesn’t like running out ground balls.
I recall once going to a Yo-Yo Ma concert in which the famed cellist dogged it on some minor chords because, as he told me afterward, “they’re just minor chords.” That’s the last time I’m paying $6 on StubHub for classical tickets.
Some argue that Cano has occasional leg problems, and by picking a spot here and there not to run hard, is saving those legs. Really? By jogging those 90 feet between home plate and first base, he’s extending his career? Please. A Ritz-Carlton bellhop covers more ground between the check-in desk and the elevator bank, and he’s carrying luggage.
With his new contract, Cano is making $150,000 a game, but that doesn’t guarantee the former Yankee will run out grounders. That would be like me getting 150 grand per column and leaving off punctuation from time to time because I’m not in the mood.
To negotiate his latest deal, Cano switched agents, from Scott Boras to Jay Z. From rapping to repping, Jay Z has seamlessly made the transition from offensive lyrics to offensive contracts.
(Column Intermission: Springbrook’s boys basketball team won three games in three nights to advance to the Maryland Class 4A state semifinals. When the Blue Devils won the region final — as Aaron Robinson made four of five three-pointers in the opening quarter — I nearly cried for the first time since watching “Rudy.” And my stepson, Isaiah Eisendorf, has gotten so good, I might add him to my will and drop my brother; sorry, Steve.)
Jay Z had hoped to procure Cano a $300 million deal, but settled for a mere $240 million with no conditions on running out grounders. I am reminded of the pre-Scott Boras/Jay Z days, when greed did not overtake America and contract talks were a lot simpler — as demonstrated in this scene from the 1942 film “Casablanca,” in which Sam the piano player considers a job offer:
Rick: “Sam, Ferrari wants you to work for him at the Blue Parrot.”
Sam: “Oh I like it fine here [at Rick’s].”
Rick: “He’ll double what I pay you.”
Sam: “Yeah, but I ain’t got time to spend the money I make here.”
Rick (to Ferrari): “Sorry.”
Sure, Sam left a lot of money on the table, and with Jay Z or Boras in his corner, he probably could’ve tripled his salary. But what about happiness? What if he didn’t like the commute to the east end of Casablanca? Sam was ahead of the curve and likely ran with gusto to his piano every shift.
Will the Mariners get their $240 million worth? If he helps them win, Cano will spike attendance, but, otherwise, he is not a draw. People come out for A-Rod and Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols and Mike Trout, to see Stephen Strasburg and Gerrit Cole pitch, but nobody’s changing their Friday night plans to watch Cano run halfheartedly after hitting a ground ball.
A number of years ago, I applied for a position at a telephone company as a utility line repairman. At the job interview, I mentioned that, on occasion, I didn’t like climbing telephone poles early in the morning. That ended the interview and my chances for the job.
Similarly — and I know someone out there is going to tell me this isn’t analogous — shouldn’t the fact that a player doesn’t run hard to first on routine grounders preclude him from work at the highest levels of baseball? Apparently not. Well, shouldn’t it at least preclude him from signing one of the biggest contracts in MLB history? Apparently not.
I wonder if Robinson Cano at least runs hard to the bank. Nah. He probably has direct deposit.