Written by Angel Diaz (@ADiaz456)
For the Seattle Mariners—as Jay Z might say—it was all good just a week ago.
As negotiations between the Mariners and free-agent second-baseman Robinson Cano heated up last week, Seattle's front office assumed their reported eight-year, $200 million offer would be enough to pry the All-Star away from the New York Yankees.
However, Cano's agency, Jay Z's Roc Nation Sports, had other ideas. The Roc countered at the last minute with a 10-year, $252 million deal—well below the reported $300 million deal they were originally seeking, but a considerable bump up in terms. The Mariners eventually caved in on Friday evening by settling on a decade-long, $240 million offer that will pay Cano until he is damn near Hov's current age.
So: Jay Z's first major deal as a sports agent is the third-biggest contract in Major League Baseball history.
Are you surprised that he pulled it off? Join the club, because sports writers have been eating Super Size meals of crow all weekend.
The tentative deal was announced on Friday. Earlier that day, New York Daily News writer Mark Feinsand reported that the talks had fallen apart because of Roc Nation’s “excessive demands” and that Cano should call the Yankees and accept their seven-year, $175 million offer.
Feinsand wasn't alone in rushing a eulogy. Others in sports media couldn’t wait to call Jigga a failure. Mike Cardillo of The Big Lead opined that “Brian Cashman is probably laughing uncontrollably at how this is playing out and waiting for the Cano camp to come crawling back, hat in hand.” Oops. David Brown of Yahoo! Sports dreamt up a scenario in which "Jay Z performed his Cano pitch between two turntables." Come again?
NJ.com referenced some "awful" Jay Z sports lyrics after suggesting that one of his raps ruined the talks. (News to them: Jay is one of the best when it comes to sports references.) CBS Boston ran a piece calling Jay "dumb" for not accepting Seattle's initial offer of eight years, $200 million. USA Today mocked Jigga's "I'm not a businessman, I'm a business, man" rap before providing a condescending quote from an out-of-touch baseball official who's not sure if Jay wants to be a rapper or a ballplayer. Complex isn't above blame, either: Even we rushed to conclusions.
Some folks went to Twitter to show their lack of faith in Hova. ESPN writer Dan Szymborski mocked the entire process:
CAA/And Jay-Z should just set up a site for Robinson Cano contract bids and include a Buy It Now button and wait for a GM to drink too much.— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) December 6, 2013
And CBS Radio's Max Herman tweeted:
Jay-Z better hope $50 million can't hurt him... #Cano— Max Herman (@MaxHermanCBS) December 6, 2013
Even after the deal was consummated, some in the media couldn't resist taking jabs at Jigga. Witness the wording in this TMZ tweet:
Jay Z & Robinson Cano FAIL in Quest for $310 MILLION Contract Settle for $240 Mil http://t.co/EDRITYfhqV— TMZ (@TMZ) December 6, 2013
In fact, the media has been throwing shade at Jay Z's venture into sports from jump. One of the first to suggest Jay was incapable of running a sports agency was Jason Whitlock—basically the Don Lemon of sports journalism—back in July: “Unless Durant and Cano plan to moonlight as rappers, Jay-Z has nothing of value to offer them or the sports world. His marketing genius and innovation are myths.”
Cano's decision to leave former agent Scott Boras back in April seemingly came out of nowhere. Arguably the best second-baseman in the game left one of sport's biggest power brokers for a rookie agent, demanding a shit-ton of money in the process. Jay added fuel to the fire on Magna Carta Holy Grail, when he rapped: "Scott Boras, you over baby/Robinson Cano, you coming with me" on “Crown.” When Boras caught wind of the diss, he did what most do when called out by Hov—respond indirectly without naming names. In an ESPN.com story, Boras was quoted as saying, "If Steven Spielberg walked into USC Medical Center and said, 'I want to do neurosurgery,' they don't give him a scalpel."
But Jay Z has never bowed to power. Remember what Kanye was screaming about on his recent NYC media tour? Yeezus could learn a lesson from his Big Brother. Undeterred by doubters and gatekeepers, Jay Z straight bumrushed “their” world and is sitting at “their” table, demanding to be taken as an equal. He's shrugging off criticism to break through—and excel—in an entirely new, non-music-related realm. And all of this without a single radio rant.
In November, Joel Sherman of the New York Post wrote: “Jay Z is a wild card as a sports agent. No one has any idea what he will prioritize in his clients’ careers.” Turns out that the answer is—hold the fucking phones—maximum money and long-term security. Just maybe, the guy who's sold more records than Elvis, owned everything from a record label to a clothing line to a piece of a basketball franchise en route to amassing a personal net worth exceeding $500 million...just maybe, that guy knows a little something about making a business deal.
And be clear, it's not like Jay is out there chasing baseball GMs down in his Maybach. The smartest businessmen are those who know how to delegate. The Cano deal was secured by veteran agent Brodie Van Wagenen, who has brokered over a billi in contracts over his career. Led by Van Wagenen, Roc Nation Sports actually pulled a fast one on Seattle and made the Mariners outbid themselves for Cano's services. Yup, Hov and his squad just sold water to a well.
And oh yeah—about that Kevin Durant fellow, another Roc Nation client. KD hits the open market in 2016.
OKC, we hope you're paying attention.