The Seattle Mariners have agreed to terms with Robinson Cano on a 10-year, $240 million contract, marking the most dramatic example to date of a franchise taking the $26 million per team per year in new national TV money and actually spending it. It’s a good deal for Cano and a potentially great one for the Mariners.
That new TV deal, announced 14 months ago, granted broadcast rights to Fox and TBS through 2021. Combine that with the league's existing ESPN deal, and teams now stand to earn $12.4 billion over the lifetime of the contracts, more than doubling previous totals. Last winter and so far this winter, we hadn't seen many teams that lack the big media-market power of L.A. or New York or Boston spending top dollar to land marquee players. The closest we'd come was Minnesota signing right-handed starters Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes in rapid succession to contracts worth a combined $73 million. This free-agent class, like last year's, is short on superstars, but it still felt odd that the small- and medium-market clubs that had suddenly received a huge windfall of cash seemed content to stick the money under their mattresses, rather than spending it on good players who could help win games. Credit the Mariners for finally getting it.
In case you were busy finding the perfect throwback NFL tie for your big media appearance, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
The Knicks continued their early-season troubles, as they fell 102-97 to the Charlotte Bobcats while losing defensive fulcrum Tyson Chandler to injury. "Oh this isn't good, but don't worry, this doesn't dent my championship dreams," said Knicks owner James Dolan, who then perked up and asked the reporter to read back what he'd just said. After she did, Dolan bobbed his head for a second before running out of the room so he could get his band together to record a new JD & the Straight Shot jazz fusion EP titled (This Don't Dent) My Championship Dreams.
It must be nice to make the playoffs. As a long-suffering Yankee fan, I probably won't get to experience that joy this season, and it's been a long time — almost a full year — since we've even sniffed the postseason. With six games left on the schedule, the Yankees are four games behind Cleveland for the final wild-card spot, and with Texas and Kansas City sandwiched in between, it's all over but the shouting.
But hey, you know what? The shouting might not be all that bad. Because even though the Yankees' destination (sadness, golf courses, boring family life) might be fixed, that doesn't mean they can't ruin someone else's fun. In fact, they have three games this week against Tampa Bay, a hated rival. Between 1918 and 2004, Boston fans showed exactly how satisfying it can be rooting for others to fail in lieu of your own success. But actually playing a part in that failure? That has to be 10 times better. As FDR said, it's better to pull the trigger than to cheer the gun.
So let's look at a few teams that can alter the playoff landscape as we move toward Sunday and the end of the regular season. Here are your potential spoilers.
Only two more weekends left in the regular season, and to use one of my favorite clichés, these guys have EVERYTHING to play for! Let's get to it.
10. How the Nationals Will Destroy the NL Central (MIA-WAS)
At exactly the moment in the season when it was pretty much too late, the Nationals started winning like fiends. Going back to September 3, they've put together a 13-3 streak and salvaged a very remote chance of snatching the final wild-card spot. It's still a huge long shot; with nine games remaining, they find themselves five back of the Reds. We're at the point where one Reds-win-Nats-lose night will basically sink them. On the other hand, the Reds have six games remaining against the Pirates, and as long as Pittsburgh has a shot at the NL Central title, thus avoiding the wild card, they won't be laying down for anyone. The Nationals don't have it much easier, finishing with the Pirates and Diamondbacks, but they do have three games against the Marlins this weekend. In theory, it's not insane to imagine that they could be two back with six to play on Monday. And that's a very different outlook.
So, this is how the Nationals could destroy the NL Central. First, they finish in a tie with the Reds for the final playoff spot. That would result in a one-game playoff. If the Nationals won that, they would then play the wild-card game against whoever loses the Pirates-Cardinals battle for the NL Central for argument's sake, let's say the Pirates. If they won that game, and St. Louis maintained a lead in the standings over the Dodgers, the Nats would then play the third NL Central team in the divisional round. It could be a clean sweep! Five games, and a whole division destroyed! If that happened, I would add the NL Central massacre to this Wikipedia page over and over until they let it stay.
In case you were busy being quietly content with Greg Schiano, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
The Texas Rangers broke a seven-game skid and reasserted themselves in the AL wild-card race with a 7-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. When asked how snapping the losing streak felt, Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler shrugged and said, "Eh, not so great. Really, I thought it would be better, but at this point in the year, all these games are pretty much the same." When asked if he hoped the momentum from this game would carry the team into the playoffs, Kinsler replied, "Nope," before catching himself and adding, "Which isn't to say I don't want to make the playoffs; I just don't care either way. If we make them, great. If not, meh."
Red Sox closer Koji Uehara's streak of retiring 37 consecutive hitters was snapped as he took the loss in the Baltimore Orioles' 3-2 victory over Boston. Uehara was in good spirits despite the rare loss, saying after the game, "Tomorrow is another day for me to start a streak." Then, after a brief pause, the 38-year-old Uehara frowned and added, "Actually, man, that streak was really hard. Really, really hard. I doubt that I can start another one like that at my age. Is the best of me in the past?" Uehara let his mind cast back to his youth, when he was a top student, when he first picked up a baseball as a child. Then forward to the pride he felt getting into the Osaka University of Health and Sport Sciences. "Was that almost 20 years ago?" he mumbled to himself as he let his mind cast forward to his streak of 15 consecutive wins in 1999 as a Yomiuri Giant, when he won the Rookie of the Year and Eiji Sawamura Awards. Then his two Japan Series titles in 2000 and 2002. "Over a decade ago," he said out loud to no one in particular. Then his unbeaten run in international play came back to him, including his World Baseball Classic title in 2006. "I was old then now?" And now this run. What was left in that right arm of his, he thought to himself, what was left to prove? "Well, we better win the whole damn thing," Uehara exclaimed, snapping back to the present: an empty Fenway Park locker room, as he had been left alone in his reverie, a tired body worn down by decades of pitches. "Yes," he said, this time in a more reserved tone, "the whole damn thing."
Whoa, whoa, whoa. How is it mid-September? Did we even have August this year? Are the playoffs really sneaking up on us? This is getting serious, gang. Each team has about 15 games left to win, lose, bargain, plead, suffer, and despair. There are only three weekends of regular-season baseball left, starting today, and here's something important: A fancy word for "third-to-last" is "antepenultimate." Armed with that knowledge, it's time for the antepenultimate weekend countdown. Join me!
In case you were busy getting bad news from Dr. James Andrews, because that guy has never once given good news in his life, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
Miami starter Jose Fernandez dominated with his arm and bat, throwing seven stellar innings and blasting his first career home run, as the Marlins beat the division-leading Braves, 5-2. Fernandez's outing was not without controversy, however, as both benches cleared after Fernandez indulged himself by watching his home run. "I'm disappointed. He's a great kid, but he let this whole city down," said Marlins manager Mike Redmond after the game. "I mean, this is Miami. You can't just stand around in Miami to check out something because it looks good. This is a city all about hard work and discipline, not about showing off and preening."
New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter has been shut down for the remainder of the season, leaving new acquisition and defensive whiz Brendan Ryan as the Yankees presumptive starting shortstop for their playoff push. "Darn," said Yankees starter Andy Pettitte as he high-fived fellow starter Hiroki Kuroda. "Man, that's tough for Derek. I'm gutted. Just totally gutted. For him." Pettitte then did a giddy shuffle and mimed a shortstop going confidently to his left for CC Sabathia's benefit, before adding, "Don't know how we'll get by without the captain."
In case you were busy getting so jacked for football that you passed out at 1:30, here's what you missed in sports last night:
Peyton Manning was at his best, throwing for an NFL record-tying seven touchdowns in the Broncos' 49-27 win over the Baltimore Ravens. "Yeah, but who has the biggest yacht?" asked monocle-and–top hat–wearing Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who signed an NFL-record $120.6 million contract in the offseason, while snacking out of a bucket of caviar. Flacco then blinked, allowing his monocle to fall to the ground, where it shattered. "Aww, crap, that was my dress monocle," whined Flacco, while bending over, which caused the top hat on his head to fall into a puddle of mud. "Gadzooks, my top hat," exclaimed Flacco before confessing, "guys, I don't even like caviar. And my yacht's hardly even a yacht. It's really just a big boat. Money isn't everything; why didn't anyone tell me?"
Stanislas Wawrinka dominated a woeful Andy Murray in a surprising 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 straight-set win over the tournament's reigning champion. A disheveled Murray, whose second serve was occasionally topping out at only 75 mph, asked after the match, "Does this mean I didn't win Wimbledon?" When told that of course it didn't, Murray smiled broadly, and added, "I thought not," before cranking up Van Halen's "Panama" on an old Sony boom box.
In case you were busy talking yourself into Marcedes Lewis's fantasy bounce-back potential, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
Clayton Kershaw was outpitched by Cubs starter Travis Wood, and the Dodgers were unable to finish a late rally, falling 3-2 to the Chicago Cubs. Kershaw, whose inefficiency forced him out of the game in the sixth inning despite giving up only one earned run, stared at his left arm with a furrowed brow after the game, saying, "The Cubs? Really, buddy? Come on. You're better than that. We're better than that. Yeah? Yeah? You agree. Nod if you agree." Kershaw then waved his arm around in agreement before saying, "OK, now what do you say we go grab a bag of ice and a pizza and put this whole thing behind us, eh?"
Mariners closer Danny Farquhar's 10th-inning balk proved decisive as the Texas Rangers topped Seattle 4-3. Seattle manager Eric Wedge was heated after the game, yelling at the gathered press, "No, the most Mariners way to lose a game is not to balk in the winning run you idiots. It's to somehow leave the bases loaded in four separate innings without scoring a single run. Also, Felix Hernandez is on the hill and only allows a single run when a Raul Ibanez defensive miscue makes what should have been an easy flyout become an inside-the-park home run. That's a real Mariners loss. This? This was an old-school Indians loss."
In case you were out becoming more mosquito bite than man, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
Miami Marlins starter Jose Fernandez shut down fellow NL Rookie of the Year candidate Yasiel Puig and the Los Angeles Dodgers in a 6-2 victory. "Miami, so close to home yet a million miles away," Puig said to himself after the game, as he took a limousine down the streets of South Beach. "Everybody here is dressed like they have something to prove. I guess I still have something to prove. I guess we all always have something to prove." Puig looked down at himself and muttered, "How am I both underdressed and overdressed? It's like I'm not at home anywhere," before he yelled up to his driver, "Hey, does good pitching always beat good hitting?" When the driver shook his head and said, "Not you big Yas. You the man!" Puig had him stop the car. The Dodgers slugger then paid the driver and said, "It's not kind to lie to a man's face," before disappearing into the Miami night.
Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers continue to look shaky, as they were beat by Rex Grossman and the Washington Redskins, 24-13, in a preseason clash. When asked about Grossman's performance in relief of the injured Kirk Cousins and Robert Griffin III, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan scrunched up his face and said, "That doesn't sound right. Grossman was Rex Grossman? Really? No. Unless I woke up on the wrong side of a time nap. What year is this?" When told it was 2013, Shanahan snapped his fingers and said, "Damn, I was really hoping time naps were a thing."
December 2007: "For the record, have you ever used steroids, human growth hormone, or any other performance-enhancing substance?" —Katie Couric, CBS
"No I've never felt overmatched on the baseball field. I've always been in a very strong, dominant position. And I felt that if I did my work as I've done since I was, you know, a rookie back in Seattle, I didn't have a problem competing at any level. So, no." —Alex Rodriguez
February 2009: "I screwed up big time, but I think the only thing I ask from this group today and the American people is to judge me from this day forward. That's all I can ask for." —Alex Rodriguez, admitting his steroid use from 2001 to 2003 with the Texas Rangers
August 2013: "Word is, MLB has evidence to suggest Rodriguez bought or took steroids every year since 2009." —CBS's Jon Heyman on the Biogensis scandal that resulted in A-Rod's historic 211-game ban
In those three vignettes, we see the framework for Alex Rodriguez's entire career. We see why, despite his record as one of the best baseball players in history, he's considered a hypocrite, liar, and phony. We see the method by which he sabotaged his own brilliance, and corrupted his legacy forever. We see why he's spending the twilight of his career as a walking, talking embarrassment, and why he's become a reliable target of public derision.
In case you were busy brainwashing your current star quarterback so he won't talk with your former star quarterback lest things get awkward, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
The Los Angeles Dodgers continued their stunning run, pairing an Andre Ethier game-tying ninth-inning home run with 12th-inning heroics from Yasiel Puig to top the New York Mets 5-4. "We're unstoppable," yelled veteran second baseman Mark Ellis as he walked home from the stadium after the game with three of his teammates. Just then, in the distance, he heard the sound of a train whistle. Ellis ran onto the tracks. "Come on, Marky," A.J. Ellis called to his teammate from the safety of the road, but Mark said back to him, "No, uh-uh. I'm gonna dodge it." A.J. called again to his teammate, "Come on, get off the tracks, you're crazy," but Mark stood his ground and said, "Train dodger. Dig it." Suddenly the locomotive came into view, and A.J. yelled, "Get off the tracks, you want to get yourself killed?" as an increasingly uncomfortable Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu stood silently by him. Mark then mimed swinging a bat at the train, but as it barreled closer A.J. grabbed him firm and dragged him out of danger. A.J. screamed at his namesake "You want to kill yourself? Is that what you want, goddamnit?" But Mark stared him straight in the eye and said, "The way we're playing, we could have dodged it." This would be only one incident in the most meaningful summer of these young men's lives. Teammates come in and out of your life, but you never have any friends like the ones you do when you're in a pennant race. Jesus, does anyone?
Despite the seemingly endless string of heroics taking place at Chavez Ravine, the Arizona Diamondbacks are doing their best to keep the NL West division race alive, walking off for the third consecutive night behind two key hits from Aaron Hill in a 5-4 14-inning win over the Baltimore Orioles. "We've found a winning formula, we just have to hit walk-offs every night where we otherwise wouldn't win," Hill said after the game. "Think about it: If we can't lose when we're losing, and we can't lose when we're winning, we can't lose. Which means we can't lose. Think about it. It's so simple."
The Seattle Mariners are currently playing in their 37th season, and they have made the playoffs exactly four times. That brief run of success was bunched into an anomalistic seven-year span that saw the franchise tie a major league record with 116 regular-season wins in 2001, only to fall to the Yankees in the American League Championship Series. The Mariners have never been to a World Series. In a way, they’re so bad that they don’t even register on people’s lists of the most hapless franchises of all time. Without colossal heartbreak, it’s tough for people to realize you even have a pulse.
For the team’s first decade, there was nary a star to latch onto, with workmanlike first baseman Alvin Davis or indefatigable spitballer Gaylord Perry — who earned his 300th victory in the Kingdome — coming the closest. Then, in 1989, Ken Griffey Jr. came along.
In case you were busy getting weird on eBay with some Stanley Cup memorabilia, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
Another day, another win for Atlanta, as the Braves overcame an early Bryce Harper home run before topping the Washington Nationals, 2-1. The game was not without controversy as Harper was hit by the next pitch he saw, punishment for violating Statute 34.1.92 of the unwritten rulebook of baseball, which reads, "Thou Shalt Not Be Bryce Harper." The rulebook, which exists only in the frozen brain of Ted Williams, cannot be changed or challenged except, ironically, by written authority of Major League Baseball and its partners.
The NBA schedule was announced on Monday, with the reigning champion Miami Heat opening the season at home against Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls. From there every team will play 82 games, half at home, with its schedule distributed among other professional basketball teams and the Philadelphia 76ers, who have decided to field a team headlined by Kwame Brown and coached by no one. "We know that our fan base has the capacity to be patient while we retool and rebuild," said Sixers GM Sam Hinkie while his pants were being set on fire by Philadelphia superfan Gene Fallows. "And we hope to see growth from our young, OW OW HOT HOT HOT MY LEG!"
In case you were too busy finishing off a box of Pop Tarts to watch a 95-pound 13-year-old medal in the X Games, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday:
Yu Darvish turned in a ferocious performance, striking out 14 Diamondbacks for the second time in three months, as the Rangers handled Arizona easily in a 7-1 victory in Arlington. Look, Yu, we get it, you hate snakes. It makes sense. Snakes are scary. But a real professional doesn't let his fear lead him to perform inconsistently. So heed this advice: When playing teams that aren't the Diamondbacks, pretend you are pitching to snakes. Visualize the batter as a snake. Or if that's too difficult to imagine, because snakes don't have arms the way that major league players usually do, imagine the batter's head is somehow made out of snakes. Perhaps they have a snake head on a human body? Or snake hair like a gorgon. Or a snake for a tongue. Whatever works for you. Just stop forgetting to pretend like everyone is a scary snake.
Felix Hernandez threw seven innings of one-run ball, but his efforts were not enough as the Boston Red Sox rallied to beat Seattle 8-7, putting six across in a stunning ninth-inning comeback. "Don't feel bad for me," Hernandez said after yet another stellar start ended in a no-decision, "I now know why I was put on this earth. I am the one who suffers for mankind. And I can prove it." Hernandez then pulled out a bottle of water and stared at it while yelling, "pinot," until the gathered press eventually left when it became clear that nothing was going to happen.