• The Last Lion In Baseball

    Posted by on June 28th, 2010 · Comments (10)

    I saw this photo of Big Stein, taken last month, in a Joe Henderson Tampa Tribune feature mentioning Bill Madden’s book on the Boss:

    If I saw that guy on the street, I wouldn’t know who it was…

    Now, in my mind, George Steinbrenner looks like he did back in the late ’70’s/early ’80’s. It’s just the image that I’ve filed away for him. And, if I had to “age” him, I’m think “George Steinbrenner” circa 2000-2004. But, never, do I think of him as appearing as he does now…and it’s always a shock to see the rare current photo of him.

    Speaking of the Madden book, I’m up to 1981 now and loving it. It’s a great read.

    Recently, as I was reading it, I wondered what things would have been like in Yankeeland if blogs were around in 1977-1985 and just as popular as they are today. Would Steinbrenner be reading them and flipping out on what he read? Or, would “The Boss” have had his own blog – and how much trouble would that have gotten him into?

    It would have been interesting…that’s for sure.

    Comments on The Last Lion In Baseball

    1. MJ Recanati
      June 28th, 2010 | 11:31 am

      It looks like Steinbrenner is crying, or about to cry, in this picture. Is he attending a funeral? It certainly looks like they’re in a church, with the day’s sermon in pamphlet form.

    2. Raf
      June 28th, 2010 | 11:33 am

      He’d probably be flipping out. I’m sure he’d treat them the same way he treated newspapers.

      At the very least, with blogging, and how some bloggers bring advanced metrics to the table, we would’ve seen how terrible some of the moves made during the 80’s were.

    3. Raf
      June 28th, 2010 | 11:34 am

      MJ Recanati wrote:

      Is he attending a funeral?

      Given the colors worn, I doubt it.

    4. June 28th, 2010 | 11:36 am

      @ MJ Recanati: The caption on the photo:
      George Steinbrenner makes a rare public appearance in May, the dedication for a new high school bearing his name.

    5. MJ Recanati
      June 28th, 2010 | 12:06 pm

      @ Raf:
      Good point.

      @ Steve Lombardi:

      Why don’t they just rename the city of Tampa to “George M. Steinbrenner III” and change the airport code from “TPA” to “GMS” and be done with it? Apparently the Steinbrenners are the city’s most visible family?

    6. Scout
      June 28th, 2010 | 2:44 pm

      @ Raf:
      I am old enough to remember that era — the 1970s and 1980s — quite well and rest assured many of the moves he made then were recognized as awful at the time, even without the statistical measures now available. As the Madden book accurately reflects (I’m reading it, too), Steinbrenner was hopelessly impulsive and mercurial, the exact opposite of what is needed in baseball. The risk of acting on a small sample size was a concept the boss never grasped. When allowed to follow his predilictions, Steinbrenner drove the team into the ground, witness the long drought between the 1981 World Series and 1996, and the harm inflicted by the repeated hiring/firing of Billy Martin. For those of you born after 1980, be glad you did not have to suffer through the Steinbrenner idiocy that marked most of that interlude.

    7. Raf
      June 28th, 2010 | 4:07 pm

      Scout wrote:

      I am old enough to remember that era — the 1970s and 1980s

      I’m old enough to remember the 80’s. They were competitive in 85 and 88. Things started falling apart in 88, but they benefited by playing in a weak division. They crashed and burned in 1990. The pitching was never really that great, but they had the offense to make up for it at least in 88. Mattingly got hurt, Slaught and Clark got traded, Winfield missed the season in 89, Henderson played uninspired and was traded, and the subsequent moves they made to replace these players didn’t work out. Looking at the transactions made after they finished in 1990, you saw incremental improvement up until they started competing in 1993

    8. Scout
      June 28th, 2010 | 5:12 pm

      @ Raf:
      “The pitching was never really that great, but they had the offense to make up for it at least in 88”. Throughout the decade, the team lacked pitching. And Steinbrenner always pressed for the quick fix, which is how the team ended up trading Doug Drabek (soon to win a Cy Young award) for Rick Rhoden, who had one decent season for the Yankees and was soon out of baseball. Other memorable blunders included dealing Willie McGee. I do not object to trading prospects for real value; the problem then was the deals brought back mediocre and over-the-hill players, not front-line talent.

      Steinbrenner liked to brag in the late 1980s that the Yankees had won more games during the decade than any other team, as if cumulative win totals meant something. They didn’t. He could always spend enough money to produce an above .500 record, but actually getting to the post-season requires a plan. And that was something the boss’s approach always undermined.

    9. redbug
      June 28th, 2010 | 6:04 pm

      He made being a Yankee fan tough. He was an embarassmnet. The Stadium crowd cheered, as did I, the night it was announced he was suspended from baseball.

      Stick Michael is the reason we won through the late 90’s and and early 2000’s. The yanks kept, rather than traded away, Williams, Jeter, Posada, Pettitte, etc.

      They made some smart trades and free agent signings like Jimmy Key, Cone and O’neill.

      I don’t wish him ill but things only settled down when George got old and unable to screw things up any more. Joe Torre actually got to keep his job and wasn’t fired at the 1st sign of a bad losing streak. Joe was able to become the leader and face of the Yankees.

    10. #15
      June 28th, 2010 | 7:07 pm

      Here’s another perspective on this… I too am old enough to remember the “Evil George”. He was unpredictable and a maniac at times. Made me want to look away. He had some learning and maturing to do to be sure. Unfortunately for him, the press covered this lengthy and painful process. But, over his tenure he must be admired for 1) wanting to win, and more than any other owner, putting his own money and tireless energy on the line to do so, 2) setting an expectation for success across the organization; not winning the WS was a failure. A tough creed, perhaps an unsustainable creed, but would any fan want anything less from their teams ownership?, 3)recognizing the unmatched, and until George, untapped legacy value in the Yankee brand and leveraging it to great effect to build and nuture the fan base. This created sort of a flywheel effect – winning led to fans embracing the team, which led to more fans and more money coming in – which led to more winning,etc….. and 4) seeing, and masterfully executing, the way forward with the creation of YES and the New Stadium, thus positioning the organization for the next generation. Don’t forget, there were and are a lot of rich, egomanical owners of sports franchises – ours brought home 7 rings in his era. The Mets, in the same market, managed only one ring and only made one other appearence.

      I was in LA over the weekend and went to Friday night’s game with my daughters. Man, what a treat. The girls and I were on the edge of our cheap seats (surrounded by well lubricated, Mexican vulgarians – damn, do I hate the common man). The Yankees fans in the stands would rally every so often and it was touch and go as to who’s fans were on top at times. One Dodger fan was reduced to whining that the Yankees have two past steroid users and the Dodgers only have one. Wow. Mo came in and slammed the door. What a treat indeed.

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