SEATTLE — Hope you didn’t sleep in too late on Friday, because if you did, you missed a monumental day in this region’s sports history.
Before most people were on their way to work, the Mariners and the University of Washington each made a move so splashy that they did the near-impossible around these parts — they made the Seahawks an afterthought for a day.
First, Washington filled its vacant football coaching position with a head-turning hire, snagging Chris Petersen away from Boise State. Not long after that news broke, reports surfaced that the Mariners, the perpetual bridesmaids of free agency, had landed the biggest name on the market, Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano.
In other words, in the span of a couple hours, the Huskies got the coach who always said no to bigger jobs to finally say yes, and the franchise that could never land the big-name free agent finally landed the big-name free agent.
Two moves, one morning, and the direction of two teams drastically altered, most likely for the better. Obviously we won’t know for a while if either of these moves were hits, but in the case of the Mariners, they added the big bat they so badly needed — yes, at a very steep price — and in the case of the Huskies, they replaced Steve Sarkisian with one of the most successful college coaches of the past decade.
It was a wild end to a busy week that began with Sarkisian leaving for USC on Monday, followed by the Seahawks dominating the Saints on Monday Night Football. Now the week can end with two huge transactions, and if the Seahawks win Sunday in San Francisco, an NFC West title for the NFL’s hottest team. Not bad, eh?
And to think, at this time five years ago the Huskies were coming off a winless season, the Seahawks were finishing out a 4-12 campaign, and the Mariners were trying to fix things after becoming baseball’s first $100-million payroll, 100-loss team. And of course, the Sonics had left town earlier that year.
So even if Cano’s signing guarantees nothing, and even if Petersen still has to prove he can win after taking a step up to the Pac-12, you’ll have to excuse area sports fans if they’re a little giddy this weekend. Days like this don’t happen too often, especially around here.
On the UW front, the Petersen hire is a no-brainer. He has long been one of the most coveted coaches in college football, having been courted before by the likes of UCLA, Stanford, and last week, USC. While the Trojans say they only offered the job to Sarkisian, there were several reports that USC made a run at Petersen before hiring Sarkisian, so if you believe that, the Huskies essentially replaced the coach they lost to USC with the coach USC wanted most. Petersen, perhaps feeling like he has done all he could at Boise State, takes over a program that improved drastically under Sarkisian’s watch, built first-class facilities, and has plenty of talent to work with.
Those who have played for Petersen, who was 92-12 at Boise State, including two undefeated seasons that ended with BCS Bowl victories, have no doubt he’ll succeed at a higher level of competition.
“It’s time for him to move on to the next chapter in his life,” said Seahawks safety Jeron Johnson, who played for Petersen at Boise State. “It was just his time, as if he outgrew something. … UW is in the Pac-12, it’s a good conference, they went 8-4 this year. He can really improve UW.”
Now the Cano signing, that move comes with significantly more risk — according to ESPN, which broke the story of the signing, the deal is for $240 million over 10 years — but for a team that so badly needed to bolster credibility, both with its fans and other potential free agents, this deal does just that. Cano alone won’t make the Mariners a playoff team, but their willingness to spend to acquire the five-time All-Star, who is widely considered one of the best players in baseball, shows this franchise is serious about turning things around after a decade of struggles.
Prior to this deal getting done, Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said on a conference call that, “There will be a domino effect if and when we can do some of these additions.”
And sure enough, not long after news of Cano’s signing broke, there were reports popping up from various outlets that the Mariners were players in the sweepstakes for several other free agents. In other words, this move may just be the beginning.
Yes Cano’s deal pays him huge money past his 40th birthday, and yes the limited history of contracts this size isn’t encouraging — think Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols — but the rather absurd economic realities of baseball now require paying star players past their primes in order to have them while they’re still productive. That’s what the Mariners did here, and while it could backfire, it’s a risk worth taking for a team that had to do something different after yet another 90-loss season.
“I don’t think anybody loves (long-term deals), I don’t think that’s the case with anybody in baseball,” Zduriencik said last week. “… But there’s the market that plays into it, you’ve seen these things go the way they go, and you have to adapt to the market, and in some cases if you have to stretch more than you want to, you just have to and there’s not much you can do about it.”
The Mariners stretched, probably more than they wanted to. The Huskies, meanwhile, made a head-turning hire. It will be years before we know the actual impact of Friday on either the Huskies or the Mariners, but man, what a day it was.
Herald Writer John Boyle: email@example.com.