When Robinson Cano said coming to the Mariners was because it was “like family,” my ooga horn went off. This is not not family. This is business. Try being honest with customers.
In order to avoid being made to feel as dumb as lichen, and on behalf of those Mariners fans who fancy themselves sentient beings, I’d like to suggest some changes to the local introductions of star players.
Since I am flattering the Mariners by inferring there will be more to come — Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, anyone? — now that the club has bypassed 20th century methods by going from the 19th century to the 21st, I am certain they will be pleased at my optimism.
In explaining the desire to become a Mariner, please instruct players to avoid references to being made to feel like family. Which family? Coreleone? Bumstead? Manson? Addams? Kardashian? Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers? Are you talking about the families that Hallmark writes about for Christmas, or the rest of us?
The Norman Rockwell view of family is barely hanging onto its top-row bleacher seat in the American cultural ballpark. For Robinson Cano to invoke “family” as a decisive reason to become a Seattle Mariner is the acme of absurdity.
That’s not to say there aren’t many wonderful people at the Mariners who were undoubtedly kind and helpful to Cano and his robust entourage. The Mariners have always done parties and celebrations well.
But this deal had nothing to do with pinching Jay-Z’s cheek and saying, “Wudgie, wudgie!” It was purely a collision of desperation and opportunism — the corporate hallmarks of many a major deal in America. For good or ill, the Mariners pulled off a stunner, so it’s OK for Cano to say something like, “The Mariners made me a financial offer that would be irresistible to anyone. I will pay them back with great baseball and, hopefully, several championships.”
No family references, least of all here. After the Seattle Times story last week that made the Mariners operation appear to be like the moment in the “Pink Panther” movie franchise when Inspector Clouseau received a bomb at the door, there is an urgency to avoid public comment on the snuggly family nature of the franchise. The irony could bend light waves. Which brings us to a corollary:
In the long thank-yous inevitable after complicated transactions, please limit references to CEO Howard Lincoln and President Chuck Armstrong (preferably, once). At the press conference, general manager Jack Zduriencik fell all over himself talking up the wonderfulness of his bosses in making the Cano deal happen.
Please, Jack: Stop.
Everyone knows better. Yes, Lincoln and Armstrong finally broke down and played the insane business game of major league baseball the way it is played in the more serious markets. But the breakdown was from a position of weakness, not strength.
No amount of your words are going to fix what happened under their stewardship. Facts are facts. You are engaging in suck-up so formidable that it will change the tides. Just say thanks once, and move on. Which brings us to a related point . . .
Everyone knows it’s about the money: Don’t be ashamed. The astounding nature of the 10-year, $240 million offer and its acceptance should be at least acknowledged, if not celebrated. Lincoln and Armstrong would have been well-served to address media and fans about such a decisive departure from previous norms.
Yes, they would have been peppered with questions about the on-the-record accusations in the Times from former manager Eric Wedge and other ex-employees. But they politely could have declined to respond, for a very good reason — there’s nothing to be said that would amount to any kind of a quality retort. The Mariners are left with: “Yo mama is so fat she has to iron her pants in the driveway!”
The nature of the accusations is so broad, and so undocumented, that no response is possible. Nor is there any action pending from the accusations — no legal charges, no dispute over a contract, no rebuttals that are more persuasive than, “Did not!” So let it go.
Zduriencik’s one-page attempt at a rebuttal only made things worse. Long-term, the only things that matter are actions, such as winning. If Cano and the rest of the Mariners win, no one will care. If the Mariners lose . . . well, it’s not as if they have never before spent $100 million in a season to lose 100 games.
Having written all of the above, if the Mariners feel a bit beleaguered because they’re not the only team that misplays the PR game, let us offer a suggestion to the Yankees, whose president, Randy Levine, responded to Cano’s claim of no respect from the Yanks by saying, “I feel bad for him because I think he’s disappointed he’s not a Yankee.”
Shut the hell up. You feel bad because Cano has left to dance with wolves? That he is among the quivering wretches in the hinterlands, where we scratch out our sustenance from roots and berries, aspiring one day to be at your feet wiping Manhattan sewage from your tassled loafers?
You supercilious twit. Once Seattle boy Jeff Bezos weaponizes his cute little Amazon drones, count on the first one coming into your Connecticut backyard barbecue bearing a boxcar of barnyard offal.
These superstar transactions are controversial and often complicated. Do yourselves a favor, Mariners, Yankees and anyone else, by treating your constituencies as something more than potted plants.