Petersen or Cano? On Thursday and Friday this week, The University of Washington Huskies football program hired Chris Petersen away from cross-state rival, the Boise State Broncos (the team with the blue turf), while the Seattle Mariners in Major League Baseball signed second baseman Robinson Cano to a 10 year, $240 million dollar contract.
In looking at the respective stats for each, we can see that Coach Petersen had tremendous success in coaching the Broncos to multiple Mountain West Conference titles and two BCS Bowl wins. Petersen has shown recruiting ability in multiple states, including Idaho, Washington, and California, the later two traditional hot beds for football talent, and he has shown his teams can compete against top Division One programs. Petersen has also shown some serious restraint and wisdom, maybe, in not taking the UCLA and USC coaching jobs when presented, USC this year and UCLA before hiring Jim Mora, removing himself from both processes. Stanford was also in the mix at one point. Only he and the respective party’s involved know why he turned down the opportunities. In the end, Petersen chose to stay close to his home base in the northwest signing a 5 year, $18 million dollar contract of guaranteed money.
Cano is a player who has never struck out more than 100 times, is a career .300 hitter, and has played in at least 159 games of a 162 game season (not including the playoffs) for the past seven seasons. Cano also has an above average glove. Cano is making $24 million per year for the next ten years, also guaranteed money.
Both have impressive resumes, but the comparison is a bit unfair, because coaches come at a far better bargain than professional athletes. The risk is far less for coaches because ultimately your players have to perform on the field albeit better with good coaching and leadership. However, $240 million for ten years is a lot of money for a player who is 31 years old. This means Cano will be making approximately $24 million a year at age 41, if he has not been traded by that time because of a salary dump later in the contract. It is a good thing Cano can DH while in the American League stabilizing his value in the later years of the deal.
An attorney colleague of mine said to me last night at a social function that it is not difficult to sign a premiere athlete to a large contract with a team willing to make a splash and spend money, however, try signing a lesser talent athlete to a fair contract, now that is the harder task. This no knock on the folks involved in the negotiations, it is just a comment on the process and what Seattle was willing to pay, or overpay. The Cano contract reminds me of the Albert Pujols 10 year deal for $200+ million, and that is already proving difficult to justify. Pujols switched red and white uniforms, but unfortunately for the gentlemen Pujols, injuries have mounted in the new West Coast red.
In my opinion, the better buy here is Petersen. Beyond the terms of the contract as to years and dollars, coaches are less of a risk, but ‘UDub’ (Washington) won big here anyway because Petersen was a great coach with a smaller program and now gets the Pac-12 shared TV dollars and resources. Petersen is like Billy Beane in Boston in the movie Moneyball, had Beane taken the job.
Just when a few of us thought the market would correct itself and deny Cano the large contract, a good man and very good ballplayer, Seattle jumped in and surprised. Great for their fans now, but I wonder if like fellow American League West foe, the Texas Rangers, and their trading of Alex Rodriquez during his 10 year $252 million dollar contract to dump salary, it will again occur here. Seattle better have a TV deal in the works and increased ticket sales because of the Cano signing, and hopefully other signings or trades to compliment the team and protect Cano in the line-up, and MLB revenue sharing will of course help, or the Mariners Organization may very well have financial difficulties down the road.
The test of good decision making will come to fruition when either the Huskies win a National Championship or the Mariners win the World Series, and who wins first or at all. The Mariners play in a tough division for 2014, with contenders in the Rangers, A's, and the Angels bound to rebound with all that talent (sorry Astros fans, not yet), but also tied up in two large contracts with regard to Pujols and Josh Hamilton. In the North Division of the Pac-12 Conference, the Huskies are good now, but will be challenged by Oregon, Stanford, and Oregon State. We shall see.