Of all the hats Jay Z has worn, it’s the navy blue Yankee fitted that he’s made famous. “More famous than a Yankee can,” he boldly said on “Empire State of Mind.” The cap exists throughout his lyrics; “School of hard knocks, I’m a grad / And that all-blue Yankee is my graduation cap,” “I put on for my city so when I’m dead and gone / I got one last wish, put my Yankee hat on.” He’s worn the hat on an album cover and has performed at Yankee Stadium over the course of multiple summers. Point is, Jay is a bona fide Yankee fan, and has added to the lore of the franchise. How then, have we arrived at the point where he’s now denying them their crown jewel. Once the great contributor, Jay now stands to detract and cripple the Yankees financially or otherwise.
A report released yesterday suggests that Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano is seeking what would be a historic new contract: approximately $305 million over 10 years. Cano, 30, becomes a free agent at the end of the year, which will come soon for the Yankees, who were recently eliminated from the playoff race. It’s the second time in the last 19 seasons that they won’t make the post season. Losing is foreign in the Evil Empire, but the guard is changing, and so might expectations. Mariano Rivera, the league’s greatest closer, is retiring; Derek Jeter, a franchise legend, is hobbled; Alex Rodriguez, the one time phenom, is staring suspension and retirement in the face. A-Rod is a particularly interesting study. In 2007, he signed a 10 year, $275 million contract with the Yankees, when the third baseman was 32. Since then, he’s contributed to a Yankee World Series title, but has also been plagued by terrible inconsistency and steroid allegations. Many Yankees fans hoped the league would suspend him, taking his bat out of the line-up and his paycheck off the books.
So it seems fairly obvious that the Yankees won’t invest that kind of money again. That outrageous $305 million figure was likely leaked by the organization to prepare fans for a Cano-less team. “Look how much this guy wants, you don’t want us paying that, do you?” Especially when so many familiar faces are already on their way out. You don’t rebuild a franchise by sinking your money into one, aging player.
But if you’re Cano, or rather, his agent Hova, you press for the highest contract possible. In April, Cano became the first athlete to sign with Jay Z’s new Roc Nation Sports, leaving previous agent Scott Boras (you over baby!) for the known Yankee enthusiast. Many saw it as a sign that Cano would stay in pinstripes, but now the opposite seems true.
Is it all that shocking, though, that Jay has reversed his relationship with the Yanks? He is a business, man, and one that lets his mind and his wallet lead him, not his heart. Cano’s contract reports show that Hov can make solid distinctions between the hats he wears. A Yankee fan likely for life, but an ambitious money maker first and foremost, probably telling Robinson to remember “Goodfellas” and Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life.
Assuming Cano listens, and goes to the highest bidder, what will the aftermath be? Will he land in L.A. with Magic Johnson and the Dodgers, representing Brooklyn’s former squad? Will Jay Z change his hue of blue? If teams refuse to pay, will the offer come down? What will it take for Cano to stay with the Yanks? What will it take to satisfy Yankee nation? The saga has to unfold further, but the best interest of the Bronx Bombers and Jay Z are no longer one in the same. That alone is a fascinating starting point.