Usually, it’s the other way around: The New York Yankees have a predatory tradition — winning them a few championships along the way — of luring away other teams’ best players with lavish contracts.
Thus the shock last week when superstar second baseman Robinson Cano bolted the Bronx for greener pastures in Seattle. Reportedly, New York refused to top $190 million (read that figure again) in bidding for the services of the All-Star slugger, who came up through the Yankees farm system and has only ever played professional ball in pinstripes. Much to the chagrin of Yankee fans, the Mariners swooped in and signed Cano for ten years at a total of $240 million (read that figure again).
What happened? Apparently, even the inimitably deep-pocketed Bronx Bombers have a spending limit. And good for them, though the failure to ludicrously compensate Cano is a bit ironic in light of a Yankee signing earlier this winter. New York rewarded ex-Boston outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury — an elite athlete, but well below Cano’s caliber — with $153 million over seven years.
Nevertheless, perhaps ducking the $200-million commitment shows progress. After all, guaranteeing big bucks over numerous years is what helped torpedo the Yankees last season. When highly paid players get injured or under-perform (see: A-Rod, Teixeira, Jeter, Granderson, Sabathia), their club can lack resources (having expended them all) for productive replacements, and subsequently may have trouble competing. So the Seattle deal could be a bullet dodged for New York.
Truth is, it can be hard for fans even of New York to feel too badly for the Yankees losing Cano to a competing offer of $50 million more. In this economic age, nobody can be blamed for frustration felt at the preposterous gobs of money thrown around by sports franchises. What makes Cano worth $240 million? He is gifted in his ability to hit a thrown ball with a stick and slickly field grounders and pop-ups. Does that make him hundreds-of-millions-more valuable than teachers, firefighters, or any other profession no so abundantly compensated?
Of course, that question is rhetorical.
Which should provide some solace to Yankee fans still sore over Cano. (Not to mention that the New York offense will score plenty next season with Beltran, Ellsbury, McCann and Soriano.) Cashing in during these ravenous offseason spending sprees, professional athletes can make so much money as to exclude them from being objects of empathy in the eyes of some. While Cano’s exit was a surprising departure from Yankee tradition, his defection to Seattle was just business: a baldly big-money move which raises the question as to whether players care nearly as much about us and team loyalties as we do them.