I can deal with Jay Z’s hyperbole and exaggerative rap tone. It’s part of the game. Hip-hop music is based on competition, flair, skill and embellishment. When you own a modest two-family house, you say “I ‘m lampin’ in a Malibu mansion.” When you drive a .318i Beamer and your girl is a step below bombshell level, you say, “I have three Bugatti’s and eight model hotties.”
That’s the nature of the game. Jay Z mastered that art and it’s served him well, helping him navigate his way into the original ownership group of the Brooklyn Nets. His success as a music mogul, rising from the hard-body streets of Marcy Projects, also gave him the confidence to transcend music and push boundaries by creating Roc Nation Sports.
Naturally, Jay Z attempts to market his stable of clients in a similar fashion: as athletes whose mass appeal extends beyond the field. With this being the 10-year anniversary of Jay Z’s “The Black Album” —you know, the brilliant retirement hoax that helped his career explode—why wouldn’t Jigga go all out in marketing his athletes? If anybody has the ambition and cunning to orchestrate MLB’s first $300 million dollar deal, less than one year into his run as an agent, it's Brooklyn's Own.
One thing we know about rappers is that they are good talkers, but somebody needs to tell Jay Z that you can’t BS your way to a record-breaking baseball contract. The difference between music entertainment and sports is you have to actually be dope to get paid like a diamond-selling artist. There is a laundry list of rap artists whose talents would have translated to a .200 hitter in baseball, leaving them stranded in the minors. In music, a subpar vocalist with a good gimmick, the right ghost riders and some sex appeal, can rise to the top of the charts.
While Roc Nation represents Yankees all-star second baseman Robinson Cano, and will guide his free agent negotiations with the Bronx Bombers and other interested ball clubs (it’s reported Jay-Z met with Mets owner Fred Wilpon and GM Sandy Alderson on Monday night), Cano is not an artist that Jay is pushing to a label or the public. Jigga might see the similarities in the hustle, but unlike the music business, in baseball a bad signing amounts to more than just a tax write-off. It can destroy your franchise.
Remember when Jay Z called himself the Mike Jordan of rap?
There were some people who felt Jigga was on overkill with his self praise, but eventually a lot of people agreed with that assessment. Difference is Jay Z never had to hit a 100-mile per hour fastball or face Justin Verlander when he’s on his Sandy Koufax. He faced Nas and he barely came out of that confrontation alive. Then he fell back and befriended the Queensbridge lyrical assassin.
In music, you can duck your enemies. In baseball, they pull up to your door step every night, call you out your house in front of 50,000 people and try to dismantle your whole program.
Cano is a dope player. He has one of the best hitting approaches in the game and his glove work is super proper. He performs under immense pressure in the wickedest baseball town and has worn the thread out of those pinstripes. Since his MLB arrival in 2005, Cano has become one of the featured faces of MLB.
But to imply that he is the next Michael Jordan, well, that’s as suspect as saying, “I made the Yankees hat more famous than the Yankees can.”
In rap, sometimes cats can throw stuff out there and sheepish fans will just ride with it. In baseball, you have to see it to believe it.
Of course, Jay Z is an agent now. His business motivation is to over-hype his product and make a killing for himself, and his client. Cano’s agents are marketing him as the best player in the game and a franchise star, on and off the field, selling the 31-year old as a sure-shot hit for TV and movies.
“They’re selling him as Michael Jordan, not as a baseball player,” a major-league official familiar with Cano’s situation told NYDailyNews.com. "As a guy that’s going to be a big rock star and bring all these fans in. Last year, that wasn’t the case.”
Roc Nation agents Jay Z and Brodie Van Wageman are seeking a record-breaking $310 million contract for Cano, which would top A-Rod’s 10-year $275 million deal as the largest in sports history.
The Yankees offered Cano a seven-year $160 million contract during the season, but he wasn’t having that. It’s not like another team has offered to break the bank on Cano, so the Yankees—as usual—are bidding against themselves. Industry insiders believe that when it’s all said and done, Cano will resign with the Yankees for somewhere around $200 million.
That figure would be closer to what Cano is actually worth as a player. As far as the MJ references, Cano doesn’t even have a great grasp of the English language yet. Jordan was easily marketable to all of America because he appealed to all races and ages. Cano’s popularity is primarily boosted by Hispanics and Yankees fans. And while he flashes a million dollar smile, he doesn’t possess a $300 million dollar swag. Quite frankly, his often-criticized lackadaisical attitude on the basespaths pisses dudes off at times. His presence may be a blessing on any teams baseball field, but he doesn’t move the crowd with the force of Eric B and Rakim.
If last season was a sample of Cano’s impact on a team, he certainly didn’t improve Roc Nation’s negotiating leverage. Cano was the lone super star on a Yankees team riddled with injuries. With Jeter and A-Rod shelved, he had the Yankees stage for dolo. While Cano had a typically dope year, his presence couldn’t elevate the Yankees into the playoffs and didn’t draw folks to the stadium. The Yankees combined attendance and cable viewership plummeted.
It is further proof that Cano’s popularity as a “player-celebrity” is not off the charts. In fact, it's barely on the charts at all. The five-time all-star’s jersey sales ranked just 19th in the majors and third on his own team behind an aging Jeter (12th) and the No. 1 overall jersey–pusher, retired legend Mariano Rivera. Cano was fifth in his own town: He also trailed Mets stars Matt Harvey (No. 2) and David Wright (No.13).
Cano wasn’t even first among second baseman, as scrappy, Boston-boy Dustin Pedroia had the 11 th-highest selling MLB jersey. As one MLB official broke down Cano’s situation on MLB Network: “He’s a great baseball player, but you don’t make extra money because you hired Jay Z.”
If Cano was able to get $300 million, that would be one of Jay Z’s greatest career accomplishment to date. There’s no argument that Cano is a franchise player, but he’s not the game’s best player. That’s not even debatable like “who’s the best rapper Biggie, Jay-Z or Nas?"
Basebrawlers like Miguel Cabrera, NL MVP Andrew McCutchen and Mike Trout would have something to say about that. Some folks will tell you Cano isn’t even the best second baseman in the game. They reserve that spot for Pedroia who now has two World Series rings. How can you not be the hands down best at your position and be considered the MJ of anything?
Despite playing his entire career on a team with the highest payroll in the game, Cano only has one ring in nine years of MLB service. A $300 million deal is actually silly when you think about it, and reflects the immaturity and overzealousness of Roc Nation, a newbie in handling these kinds of negotiations. Save the hype for these upcoming shows at The Barclay and MSG, Jay. Baseball fans are a lot smarter than hip-hop heads.