If it is possible to hurt for Scott Boras, baseball's real-life Gordon Gekko, hurt for him today. He has been fired so often by the New York Yankees, he must feel like another Billy Martin, or another one of George Steinbrenner's old PR guys.
Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and now a star with a prettier swing than both. To borrow a quote from Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who once marveled over the Yankees lineup he was about to topple in the 2006 ALDS, that would be Murderers' Row and then Cano.
Robinson Cano, free agent-to-be, just traded his Boras baseball card for a business relationship with the game's rookie uber-agent, Jay-Z, who is teaming up with Creative Artists Agency in an attempt to expand his considerable entertainment empire. Jay-Z is on record (and on a record) saying he "made the Yankee hat more famous than a Yankee can." He's too sure of himself to give Hal Steinbrenner, Randy Levine and Brian Cashman the benefit of a hometown discount.
But make no mistake: This is good news for Yankees fans still recovering from an Opening Day in the Bronx that made the prospect of a Cano-free lineup in 2014 almost too much to bear.
The Yankees made what Cashman had called in February a "significant offer" to Cano and Boras, and according to a baseball source, that offer was "rejected out of hand." No negotiations were taking place, and his own résumé said Boras had no interest in making an in-season deal with the Yankees, not this close to free agency.
Jay-Z? Truth is, other than his stated allegiance to their team, the Yankees don't really know what to make of him. As part of the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets ownership team, Jay-Z was supposed to be a major player in recruiting his friend, LeBron James, to the marketplace. And when it became clear LeBron wasn't buying what Jay-Z was selling, wasn't even returning some of his messages, Nets officials were disappointed, even a bit embarrassed for him.
But this an entirely different case. Cano is a Jay-Z client, not a Jay-Z friend. Liberated from Boras, master of A-Rod's opt-out disaster in 2007, the Yankees will take their chances with the rapper and Brodie Van Wagenen of CAA, which has a history of extending star players with their employing teams.
"Robinson Cano is an extraordinary all-around talent who has established himself as one of the game's best and most consistent players," Wagenen said. "Our mandate is to minimize his distractions while helping him achieve his goals on and off the field in both the short and the long term. His immediate concern is continuing to show respect for the Yankees organization, his teammates and the fans."
Van Wagenen was in on Ryan Howard's $125 million extension with the Phillies, completed by Derek Jeter's agent, Casey Close, two years before Howard was to hit free agency. Buster Posey, Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Matt Cain and Adam Jones are among the CAA heavyweights who have taken big deals to stay home.
Will Cano follow this lead? He was making no promises in a statement released by CAA, other than to "take a more active role in my endeavors both on and off the field" and to "keep my focus on helping the Yankees succeed in 2013 ... ."
It appears these old and battered Yankees will need all the help they can get, help they were less likely to get from Cano's former agent. When the second baseman hired Boras in February 2011, it seemed he was gearing up for a break-the-bank run at free agency after the 2013 season. A month later, the Yankees' hitting coach, Kevin Long, had this to say about Cano's potential:
"He can be the face of the franchise. When you think of the Yankees, you think of Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada. But at some point, someone is going to have to take over that, and Robinson is the guy."
All music to Boras' ears, at least until he got word Tuesday that Cano had terminated him.
Boras had signed off on plenty of deals with the Yankees over the years, including the last-second agreement between Bernie Williams and George Steinbrenner in 1998 that spared the fan base the sight of Bernie patrolling center field in Fenway Park.
"I'm not a Boras basher," George Steinbrenner had told me on the phone more than once. "I can do a deal with Boras."
The agent even once offered the Yanks a $19 million discount for Carlos Beltran; they decided to let Beltran go to the Mets for $119 million instead. But the agent-team relationship hasn't been anyone's idea of a walk in the ballpark. Boras shouted at Cashman when the GM didn't take back Johnny Damon after the 2009 championship season, and he enraged the Yankees (and all of baseball) when he orchestrated A-Rod's opt-out during the final game of the 2007 World Series.
Of course, Cano knew all this when he hired Boras in the first place. He knew the agent had sent Rodriguez to Texas in 2001 for a record $252 million -- and three last-place finishes to be named later -- rather than try to cut a lesser deal with his client's preferred team, the Mets. He knew Boras' approach is to go with the highest bidder, everything else be damned.
Only Cano can answer for what inspired him to make this move. Rodriguez, his own worst enemy, ditched Boras as he crawled back to the Yankees to score the $275 million deal he has since sullied. When Teixeira fired his agent a couple of years back, he conceded the man who landed his $180 million deal with the Yanks "gave me everything that I asked for contractwise." But the first baseman also said, "I felt at times I was Mark Teixeira, Scott Boras client, instead of Mark Teixeira, baseball player."
Maybe someday the best second baseman in the game will grow tired of being Robinson Cano, Jay-Z client, instead of Robinson Cano, baseball player. But for now he's gambling that Roc Nation Sports, Jay-Z's new firm, and CAA will find him the right long-term fit.
For Yankees fans, this was a fairly important victory, and one they sure needed after what went down with the Red Sox on Opening Day.