Columnists: Fans shouldn’t call Cano a greedy sellout. That’s OUR job!

38 Comments

I’m amused by the Yankees fans who chanted “SELL OUT!” at Robinson Cano last night because if they actually believe that they’re pretty oblivious about the team they root for. But I pretty much stop at amusement. Fans can say what they want and, as I said yesterday, whether you boo or jeer isn’t exactly a big deal. It’s certainly not the stuff of genuine outrage. The most it inspires me to do is to smile, make a wisecrack and move on.

The New York columnists are a tad more miffed at this. Or at least they’re pretending to be today in an effort to fill column inches. Joel Sherman says it was wrong, wrong wrong for fans to boo Cano. Bob Klapisch has a lecture ready too. He calls fans “misguided” for booing Cano and called the booing and jeering “classless.” Then he decided to lecture the plebes in the cheap seats:

Cano didn’t sell out – he made the only possible move. There isn’t a single Yankee, let alone a Bleacher Creature, who would’ve done otherwise. That’s the other lesson that apparently needs to be taught in the Stadium’s hinterlands. The ballplayers you root for are businessman surrounded by agents, lawyers and accountants. They are capitalists nurturing their No. 1 asset, their careers. All of them – yes, even Derek Jeter – play baseball for the money. Cano is no better or worse than his peers. He did nothing wrong by picking the Mariners over the Yankees.

Get that? Don’t call Cano a sellout. If you do, you simply don’t get it and, in any event, you are in no position to judge.  Which would be an awesome message if Klapisch himself didn’t write this back in December when Cano signed with the M’s, under the headline “Robinson Cano deal was all about the money”

Cano is gone, having chosen the Mariners for the coldest reason of all – they made him richer than the Yankees ever would . . . Yankee fans can rightfully call Cano a mercenary, but what law did he break?”

To be fair to Klapisch, it’s not a 100% inconsistent column. He said then, as now, that it’s a business. And that Cano’s leaving had just as much to do with the Yankees’ miscalculations as Cano’s greed. But he is very sharp with Cano about said greed, saying Cano “got his wish for enough cash to run a fund a third-world economy,” saying that his contract negotiations were all about him “shopping at an ATM” and making it clear that, by going to Seattle, he has tarnished his legacy, has shown he’s not interested in winning and has ceased to be relevant as a baseball player.

All things which, if the Bleacher Creatures could reduce them to signs and chants last night, Klapisch himself would likely be condemning today. For you see, fans sitting out in “the hinterlands” aren’t qualified to makes such judgments about ballplayers. Only credentialed columnists are.

Free agents who sign with new teams are not disloyal

Getty Images
13 Comments

Most mornings my local newspaper is pretty predictable.

I know, when I navigate to its home page, that I’ll find about eleventeen stories about Ohio State football, even if it is not football season (especially if it’s not football season, actually), part 6 of an amazingly detailed 8-part investigation into a thing that is super important but which no one reads because it has nothing to do with Ohio State football and, perhaps, a handful of write-ups of stories that went viral online six days previously and have nothing to do with anything that matters.

Local print news is doing great, everyone.

I did, however, get a surprise this morning. A story about baseball! A baseball story that was not buried seven clicks into the sports section, but one that was surfaced onto the front page of the website!  The story was about Michael Brantley signing with the Astros.

Normally I’d be dead chuffed! But then I saw something which kinda irked me. Check out the headline:

Is Michael Brantley “leaving” the Indians? I don’t think so. He’s a free agent signing with a baseball team. He’s no more “leaving” the Indians than you are “leaving” an employer who laid you off to take a job at one of its competitors. This is especially true given that the Indians made no effort whatsoever to sign him. Indeed, they didn’t even give him a qualifying offer, making it very clear as of November 2 that they had no intention of bringing him back. Yet, there’s the headline: “Michael Brantley leaves Indians.”

To be clear, apart from the headline, the article is unobjectionable in any way. It merely recounts Ken Rosenthal’s report about Brantley signing with the Astros and does not make any claim or implication that Brantley was somehow disloyal or that Indians fans should be upset at him.

I do wish, though, that editors would not use this kind of construction, even in headlines, because even in today’s far more savvy and enlightened age, it encourages some bad and outmoded views of how players are expected to interact with teams.

Since the advent of free agency players have often been criticized as greedy or self-centered for signing contracts with new teams. Indeed, they are often cast as disloyal in some way for leaving the team which drafted or developed them. It’s less the case now than it used to be, but there are still a lot of fans who view a player leaving via free agency as some kind of a slap in the face, especially if he joins a rival. Meanwhile, when a team decides to move on from a player, either releasing him or, as was the case with the Indians and Brantley, making no effort to bring him back, it’s viewed as a perfectly defensible business decision. There was no comparable headline, back in early November, that said “Indians dump Brantley.”

Make no mistake: it may very well turn out to be a quite reasonable business decision for Cleveland to move on from Brantley. Maybe they know things about him we don’t. Maybe they simply know better about how he’ll do over the next year than the Astros do. I in no way intend for this little rant to imply that the Indians owed Brantley any more than he owed the Indians once their business arrangement came to an end. They don’t.

But I do suspect that there are still a decent number fans out there who view a free agent leaving his former team as some sort of betrayal. Maybe not Brantley, but what if Bryce Harper signs with the Phillies? What if Kris Bryant walks and joins the Cardinals when he reaches free agency? Fans may, in general, be more enlightened now than they used to be, but even a little time on talk radio or in comments sections reveals that a number of them view ballplayers exercising their bargained-for rights as “traitors.” Or, as it’s often written, “traders.” I don’t care for that whole dynamic.

Maybe this little Michael Brantley headline in a local paper that doesn’t cover all that much baseball is unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but it’s an example of how pervasive that unfortunate dynamic is. It gives fans, however tacitly, license to continue to think of players as bad people for exercising their rights. I don’t think that belief will ever completely disappear — sports and irrationality go hand-in-hand — but I’d prefer it if, like teams, athletes are likewise given an understanding nod when they make a business decision. The best way to ensure that is to make sure that such decisions are not misrepresented.