SATURDAY, DEC. 7, 2013, 8:13 A.M.

Why the M’s had to overspend for Cano


On this anniversary of the day that changed the world, we should all take some time to remember those whose lives were irrevocably altered that Sunday morning 72 years ago. Then we can move on to lesser things like sports. Read on.


• Yes, it is the day that will live in infamy, though there are fewer and fewer folks around who remember Pearl Harbor Day personally. I lost my connection more than three years ago, so it's a little less personal and a little more important. Until the day he died, my father could tell you where he was and what he was doing when he heard the news. And well he should. The next five years of his life was spent dealing with the fallout. And I thank him and everyone like him for it. As should we all.

• There's no way we can transition smoothly into our subject today, so we won't even try. That subject is Mariners baseball. More specifically, the $240 million, 10-year contract the M's are about to bestow upon Robinson Cano. Is it worth it? Of course not. No one is worth $240 million. No one. But that doesn't mean it is wasted money. It isn't. There comes a time when each baseball franchise must decide if it is playing to win or just playing. The M's must have decided this offseason they are playing to win. Thank goodness. But after all the years of mediocrity, they also had to prove it to everyone connected to baseball. Hence the contract. Look, bad teams have to overpay for good free agents. That's a given. When the Washington Nationals signed outfielder Jason Werth to a seven-year, $122 million contract three years ago, baseball was aghast. A pretty average guy who had never been worth more then four or five wins a year to his team – by advanced metrics – getting that kind of money? I was in that crowd. Then I listened to Thomas Boswell talk about the signing and I changed my tune. Boswell, one of the longest tenured baseball columnists in the country, explained that losing teams have to pay about a 10 percent premium for impact players – if they want to get in the conversation. He pointed to a contract Pudge Rodriguez signed a few years earlier with a bad Detroit team as an example of the process. And then he explained the purpose to the premium. The Nationals wanted to turn their franchise around and they had to show other free agents they were serious about winning. The Werth contract achieved that. And the Cano contract will achieve the same thing. Signing your own guy – think Felix Hernandez – to a big contract doesn't seem to have the same impact. It takes luring a great player away from the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Angels or the like to achieve the full effect. That's been done.

• But there is more in play with the M's than with the Tigers of 2004 or the Nationals or teams like that. Geography has not been kind to them. Being tucked away in the upper left-hand corner of the country makes it tough to entice guys who could play anywhere they want, especially Latin American players like Cano. It takes money to make them forget the travel. It sounds crass – it is – but it's also true. I've always figured it's a 10-percent penalty. It costs the M's that much more to grease the wheels. Sure there is no state income tax in Washington and that helps, but only a little. And it didn't seem to play much of a part in the Cano contract. The M's paid about 20 percent above market value. I know everyone would have breathed a little easier if the contract had been for 10 years and $192 million, but it couldn't be. The Yankees would have matched that – or offered more for a shorter period – as other team might have as well. The M's needed to make such a big splash no one else wanted to get wet. They did.

• There is a huge disparity of opinion on this deal, as one would expect. I am in the camp, of course, that the M's needed to do something like this. So I am going to link a thoughtful, well-written piece (how's that for propaganda?) on it from Grantland. If you like numbers, you'll see how it pencils out for the M's. And we also would like to call your attention to another piece that supports the deal from Peter Gammons. But the investment only works if the M's build from it. It can't be the last move. The M's need help on the mound and in the batter's box. There are rumors out there of other even more controversial moves being contemplated. They would mean a complete change of direction for the franchise – is that part of the reason Chuck Armstrong is leaving? – and abandoning, to a degree, the youth movement. Let's see how it plays out. It doesn't make sense to panic or celebrate yet. But I will say this. If the M's don't do anything else this off-season then they've failed. The have some momentum right now. Hit it hard.


• WSU: It's cold in Pullman but the Cougars are just waiting to hear which warm-weather location they'll head to for their bowl game. If it's a warm-weather location. Jacob Thorpe has more in this story and blog post. He also has a morning post with links. ... Jacob takes care of the Chris Petersen to UW stuff, as is his charge, but we can add a couple more links to the coach's hiring. It was a pretty big day in Seattle. ... Hey, it's Saturday so we have an Pac-12 mailbag to pass along. ... Jon Wilner updates his bowl projections – yes, WSU is still headed to New Mexico – and opines on the Petersen hire. ... Micaela Castain is WSU's first women's soccer player to be named to the All-American first team. ... One more thing. Jacob has an advance of tonight's basketball game at Idaho.

• Gonzaga: The 24th-ranked GU women dominated Portland State from the get-go last night and rolled to a 96-47 victory. Steve Christilaw has the story. ... The men will host New Mexico State and the Aggies 7-foot-5 center. Jim Meehan has more – including that player's name – in this advance. (See how I made you click the link?) ... USD may be one of the WCC's better teams. It was a close loss to San Diego State that may have shown as much as its seven wins. ... BYU has another battle with a ranked team.

• EWU: It's cold in Cheney as well (as this picture of heaters shows) as the Eagles and Jackrabbits of South Dakota State prepare for their NCAA playoff game. Jim Allen has more in this advance. He also has links this morning.

• Chiefs: Remember that hot start the Chiefs had? Well, it's fading. Chris Derrick was at last night's 7-3 loss to Seattle and has this story and blog post. ... Portland lost in a shootout lats night.

• Preps: Basketball season is getting into full swing and we have roundups from the boys and girls games. ... Jim Meehan was also at Lewis and Clark for The Fitz tournament's boys games. And, yes, there were girls games this year. The tournament continues today. ... If you like history, don't miss this story from the News Tribune.

• Seahawks: Today is all about college football. We understand that. Tomorrow, that's the rivalry game in San Francisco. A rivalry between two teams that don't like each other much. ... Cliff Avril (pictured) is still adjusting to his role with the Hawks. ... There will be some players missing from both sides tomorrow. Some important ones, including Brandon Browner, who is fighting with the NFL. ... Russell Wilson is the unquestioned leader of the Hawks. ... Pete Carroll met with the media again yesterday.

• Mariners: Nothing else to report, other than the M's are not confirming the Cano contract. A physical and paperwork has to be finished before they can speak.

• Sounders: This just in. The U.S. just got hosed in the World Cup draw. What a shock.


• We have a lot on our plate today, from college football to youth basketball and just about everything in between. So we'll sign off and hope that someone wants to send $240 our way. Not $240 million. Just $240. That's enough for us. And, yes, I put the U.S. map up as a joke. Until later ...

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Vince Grippi
Vince Grippi is a freelance local sports blogger for He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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