Sweet Irony

When Robinson Cano left the New York Yankees this past winter to sign with the Seattle Mariners to the tune of $240 million over ten years, it was the rare case of the Yankees losing one of their own free agents that they wanted to keep. It shocked the fabric of Major League Baseball much the way Dwight Howard leaving the Los Angeles Lakers to sign with the Houston Rockets shook the status quo in the National Basketball Association. Cano has the right to sign wherever he wants and the Mariners offered him a lot more money than the Yankees did. The thing that amuses me is how upset the Yankees are about Cano leaving when they’ve been luring away the star players from every other team since the beginning of free agency some 40 years ago.

Robbie Cano is the best power hitting second baseman in the Majors, and deserves to be paid as such. When he first signed with the Mariners, it seemed like a ridiculous contract, but before he played a game in Seattle, the Los Angeles Dodgers gave ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw $215 million over the next seven years, and the Detroit Tigers gave Miguel Cabrera, the best hitter in the game and the two-time reigning American League MVP, $300 million over the next ten years, and Cano’s deal does not seem so outlandish anymore.

The Yankees have gone out of their way to be bitter about Cano’s departure. They did not prepare a video tribute for when he returned to Yankee Stadium last week as a member of the Mariners (while the Red Sox prepared a tribute for Jacoby Ellsbury who left Boston for the Yankees of all teams), and John Sterling went off in the broadcast about how Cano should have taken the Yankee money. If Sterling was offered that high a pay raise to call games for the Mets, I would wonder if the Yankee money would be good enough for him. Earlier this week, it was reported that Mariano Rivera would rather have Dustin Pedroia at second base than Cano, as Mo wrote in his new book. The Yankees are quick to forget that Cano, not Derek Jeter or Rivera, was their best player over the last five seasons, and was a big part of the World Series winning roster in 2009.

Of all teams, the Yankees should understand a star player’s desire to get paid. That’s why Ichiro Suzuki is in New York and not Seattle. That’s why Jacoby Ellsbury is in New York and not Boston. That’s why Brian McCann is in New York and not his native Atlanta. That’s why C. C. Sabathia is in New York and not Cleveland or Milwaukee. That’s why Masahiro Tanaka is in New York and not Japan. Ever since players gained the right to hit free agency, the Yankees have had their pick of the All-Star litter more than any other team, thanks to their enormous media market and the Steinbrenner family’s willingness to spend big in the name of winning. It’s part of the game, and for once they’re feeling the sting of rejection, but for baseball fans everywhere, it’s fun to see happen in New York. What goes around comes around eventually.

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