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Robinson Cano Forgets the Concept of Location, Location, Location

When the displaced Yankee snatched his $240 million contract from the Mariners — the Seattle Mariners – he showed baseball it was all about himself, that greed is still good a generation after Gordon Gekko’s prime.


Nov 14, 2013; New York, NY, USA; Seattle Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano on the sidelines during the fourth quarter of a game between the New York Knicks and the Houston Rockets at Madison Square Garden. Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Robinson Cano has no sense of timing – or location – in so many different ways.

When the displaced Yankee snatched his $240 million contract from the Mariners — the Seattle Mariners – he showed baseball it was all about himself, that greed is still good a generation after Gordon Gekko’s prime.

First of all, Cano generated hype three days early from Major League Baseball’s headline expectations of the winter meetings, a relic from another era. Instead of announcing the mega-deal amid the meetings, held at a crunch time when football, basketball and hockey are blowing baseball out of the water publicity-wise, he beat his path quickly to lifetime riches a continent away.

More importantly, Cano will find like so many athletes before him that money isn’t everything. It really is like real estate – location, location, location.

He surely can recall his Yankees travel schedule. Short hops to Boston, Baltimore, Toronto, Cleveland and Detroit. For interleague affairs, it’s a limo ride to Citi Field and more relative puddle-jumpers to Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and Pittsburgh. And, really, a not too stressful trip to Chicago, where he could get free meals at one of the two restaurants in which Curtis Granderson had invested.

Cano must be a good sleeper on airplanes, as snoozing is the only way he’ll not go stir-crazy on the Mariners’ charter. Seattle has the longest, toughest travel of any North American pro sports franchise. The closest opponent is Oakland, two hours south. Then Anaheim, another hour distant. Betcha he’ll love that non-stop flight to Tampa Bay.

Money can’t buy happiness, and it certainly can’t purchase immunity from the extra wear-and-tear of the game generating the longest, toughest season of all sports.

By no means is Seattle being blasted. Safeco Field is truly a pleasant ballpark with quirky features like the trains rumbling by behind the right-field wall. The salmon sandwiches at Pike Place Market are to die for. Alternate-newspaper sex-advice columnist Dan Savage, a quintessential Chicagoan, has happily made the city his second home.

Cano had a comfort zone with his place among a lineup of Yankees stars. Wait ‘till the pressure mounts as he’s the man on a perennially offense-starved franchise, in a ballpark in which the fences had to be moved in to restore some balance for the hitters. He’ll see he’s not in lefty-favoring Yankee Stadium anymore.

It gets worse. He’s come to a team whose shaky management underpinnings have been exposed by the Seattle Times’ Geoff Baker, in the best job of baseball muckraking this side of the Red Sox’s clubhouse chicken-and-beer row to close out 2011. Baker showed the Mariners’ management did not practice truth in advertising:

But Cano is beyond the age of consent. He’s free to make his choices, unlike many others traded at the diminished winter meetings.

The early-December confab, often held in warmer climes, truly fanned the hot-stove league in the middle third of the 20th century. In a baseball era of restrictions and silly rules passed on for generations, teams could only make inter-league trades for a specific period in the off-season.

Thus deals involving superstars usually transpired in face-to-face, libation-fueled meetings between GMs a week or so after Thanksgiving. Then, the non-waiver trade deadline was June 15. Sensibly, it was moved back to July 31 with inter-league deals permitted at any time. Nobody is under pressure to make deals in a compressed period in the holiday season.

The real flesh market of the 21st century is not during the winter, but in the weeks leading up to the deadline. Baseball can have the center of athletic attention all to its own in mid-summer, keeping the drumbeat of mandatory publicity about NFL training camps somewhat at bay.

And in the last generation, as baseball interest has become more local, more team-centric, the chief generators of off-season hype have been team fan conventions, pioneered by the Cubs in 1986. Most fans cannot afford to travel to the winter meetings, but they can pop for a relief from cold-weather blues at a winter warmup event.

Typing this out, I have to shake my head at newspapers spending thousands of increasingly scarcer dollars not only covering the winter meetings, but also the general manager’s meetings a month previously.

Column inches expended on the latter is almost a joke with hardly any trades ever consummated that early. But if one newspaper travels, the competing one along with web sites also have to go, often with nothing but speculative quotes and hot air taking up space. The sheep mentality is in full swing.

If grading the winter meetings, then give Athletics GM Billy Beane a B-plus. Once again, Beane kept his pitching inventory stable, getting quantity as much as quality, in a strategy that’s good enough to contend in the AL West while keeping the payroll under control.

The arrivals of Drew Pomeranz and Luke Gregerson help the A’s depth. Closer Jim Johnson likely needed a change of scenery from Camden Yards, with the spacious Coliseum with its ridiculous foul territory just what a pitching-to-contact reliever needs. Incoming outfielder Craig Gentry sounds just like a typical A’s contributor.

A move that the Arizona Diamondbacks may come to regret was their quick hook on outfielder Adam Eaton, dispatched to the White Sox. True leadoff men are not common in a game recovering from the muscling-up PED years. If you have one, you keep him, even if D’backs brass feel Eaton is still a work-in-progress.

Eaton described himself as a “dirtbag” player who will try to get on base by any means, including being hit in the head. No matter what the perceived outfield surplus or the need for power, acquired from the Angels in Mark Trumbo, a team can ill afford to give up the kind of “plus” speed Eaton possesses. The Sox and their somnolent, swing-first, ask-questions-later lineup can only benefit from Eaton’s edgy on-field attitude.

The end of the column also is the appropriate place for a farewell. The wave goes to Jerry Hairston, Jr., retiring during the winter meetings after 16 seasons and nine teams, mostly as a utility player. Hairston’s departure leaves outfield-brother Scott as only the active member of his family.

The Hairstons have earned the distinction as the only modern-day family to have five members spanning three generations play in the majors.

Patriarch Sam Hairston was the first African-American player on the White Sox in 1951, and went on to scout, manage and coach in the South Side organization until his death in 1997. Sam Hairston had two sons. Jerry Hairston, Jr. was a longtime utility player on the White Sox and Pirates, while John Hairston was the first African-American catcher on the Cubs, starting the season finale in 1969. In turn, Jerry Hairston, Sr. begat Jerry, Jr. and Scott.

The family’ achievement has garnered honors. Jerry Hairston, Sr. accepted tributes last January on behalf of the family at a scouting dinner in Los Angeles. Through Jerry, Sr., the family will be recognized again with The President’s Award at the Pitch and Hit Club banquet in suburban Chicago on
Jan. 26.

Such a multi-generational achievement, begun by the much-admired Sam Hairston, a Negro League veteran, should always be in the spotlight.

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