Having grown up in the 1980s and first half of the 90s, I was very familiar with the workings of Mr. George Steinbrenner. During his reign PRIOR to his second suspension, he changed field managers on average of one per season. It was tough to get attached to anyone not named Billy Martin, as guys like Dick Howser, Lou Piniella, Clyde King, Gene Michael, Stump Merrill, Dallas Green, and even Yankees’ hero Bucky Dent all received shots in the dugout, to no avail however.
When the Boss wasn’t happy, EVERYONE knew it. Secretaries, door men, parking attendants, the media, and of course the players, the coaches and the manager. George Steinbrenner was about one thing: winning. He didn’t always go about it the right way…trading off valuable minor league players such as Fred McGriff, Jose Rijo, and Jay Buhner for over the hill crap, but it was an attempt at winning above all else. Managers and general managers lost their jobs–and frequently because World Series titles weren’t being brought to the Bronx on a consistent enough basis. Between 1982 and 1994, there was one, mark it, one, first place finish. There was no post-season baseball that year, 1994, thanks to the Player’s Strike. It was probably the best shot that former Yankees’ Captain Don Mattingly had at getting a ring. The last manager of the Boss’ reign as the iron fist of the organization, was Joe Torre. During Torre’s run, the Yankees finished in first place 10 times, second twice. He NEVER missed the post-season. We know the whole story. The dynasty, blah, blah, blah.
Fast forward to 2014. The Yankees are now past the half-way point in the season, and are one game UNDER .500. The current manager, Joe Girardi, is on pace to miss the playoffs this season, just as he did last season, and as he did in his first season in 2008. Now, given the Boss’ track record, does anyone honestly think that Brian Cashman or Joe Girardi would still be employed if the Boss were still alive, ruling the Yankees’ Universe? Of course not. As the old man’s health started to deteriorate, he ceded control of his beloved Yankees over to his boys–first it was Hank, then younger son Hal. While Hank has shown flashes of the fire that his father had, Hal is a stiff. A corpse. DOA. Pure and simple. As he stated in the ESPN 30 For 30 “The House Of Steinbrenner”, “I’m a bean counter.”
There is no passion, no anger over losing, no sense of urgency, or putting everyone else in the organization on notice that anything less than a title is unacceptable in the Bronx. Sure, there was the 2009 title, but the old man was still upright. Spend his money and not win? Blasphemy, but as we approach what would’ve been George Steinbrenner’s 84th birthday on Independence Day, and the fourth anniversary of his death on July 13th, we have to admit that this isn’t the same Yankees franchise anymore. It’s a corporation. It’s about the bottom line. It’s about dollars and cents in the owner’s pockets. If the Yankees win, great, if they don’t, that’s fine too. As a child of the Steinbrenner era, that just doesn’t set well, or feel right.
The lack of passion from the Brothers Steinbrenner, goes right on down the organizational ladder. From Lonn Trost, to Damon Oppenheimer, to Brian Cashman to Joe Girardi and Larry Rothschild. Nobody cares. The lack of fire has spread to the roster as well. Need an example? Do you think for a moment under the Boss’ reign, that if someone like Dwight Evans or Jim Rice had hit a game-winning home run off of Ron Guidry at Yankee Stadium, that the next night, Mike Torres wouldn’t have drilled said member of the Red Sox square in the noodle? For Brian McCann being so fiery and defending his pitcher, where was he when Mike Napoli was flapping his gums? Do you think the late, great Thurman Munson wouldn’t have overheard that nonsense and addressed it right then and there? I rest my case.
The point is, this Steinbrenner group is not George. That era is over, and it will never return. The result? A ho-hum season in 2013 in which the team missed the playoffs, and nobody paid the price for it. Everyone kept their jobs, and more money was spent. And what about the first half of 2014? Sure, the rotation has faced their fair share of injuries, and that’s forgivable, but why is Kevin Long still employed? If the Yankees complete this nightmare, grease fire of a season above the .500 mark, and in third place, is Brian Cashman going to be rewarded with a new contract? Is Joe Girardi going to be extended even further? During the Boss’ reign, heads would roll. Two seasons without a playoff appearance, while has beens and underachievers don the beloved pinstripes?
A pure and simple difference between the Boss and his offspring? Does Robinson Cano ring a bell? In a season in which the Yankees missed the playoffs, and Cano was the only impact bat, again, does anyone really think George doesn’t pick up the phone, as he had with so many marquee free agents before Cano, and make this deal happen one way or the other? George Steinbrenner wanted to win so badly, that he would’ve most likely said payroll ceiling be damned, Cano gets resigned, AND he brings in the other pieces. The money George Steinbrenner made by owning the Yankees, he put back INTO the Yankees. Some of George’s thoughts are timeless, and many of them are as applicable now as they ever were during his reign as owner:
“Winning is the most important thing in my life, after breathing… Breathing first, winning next.”
“A ship that sails on a calm sea gets nowhere”
This is a quote that his children should review: “The day I don’t want to win for New York, that’s the day I better get the hell out of the business.”
And more from the Boss:
“My employees know I’m tough on them, and I am. I demand more of them than they think they’re capable of. I don’t know of any other way to lead. I’m not here to run a country club.”
“I’m not going to let this continue much longer. I can’t afford to be patient. I’ll get involved, and you know what happens when I get involved.”
Hank, Hal…for everything that is good and pure about the greatness that is the New York Yankees’ franchise, do us all a favor, sell the remaining pieces of the YES Network. Find a passionate, competitive, fiery person, someone that reminds you of your father, perhaps someone like a Mark Cuban for example, and sell your father’s beloved Yankees. Quit tarnishing his legacy by pretending to care about wins and losses, and the pursuit of #28. You don’t. We all get that. You don’t have to draw it in crayon for anyone with an IQ over 5. You two are not your father. You are businessmen who care about the money. Much like many of the free agents you have brought in…they, like you, simply don’t care. Sell the Yankees.
*All quotes courtesy of Sports Illustrated.com