Dear Yankees fans,
I have a bone to pick. There is something that has entered our lexicon over the past few seasons, and to be honest, I have grown quite weary of it. It may alienate me some, and come with some backlash, but that’s the risk I need to take.
The New York Yankees have not had the seasons the past half of a decade that they have become accustomed to. While they have never posted a losing record, playoff appearances have been sparse and unimpressive.
Furthermore, the sons of Steinbrenner and — most recently — people like Randy Levine have made questionable moves and comments along the way.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t like how the Steinbrenner boys handle the team, and I wrote last year how Levine makes it harder to root for my beloved team every time he opens his mouth. But every time something happens, we hear the now infamous phrase:
“George would be rolling in his grave.”
Go ahead. Look across the Internet. There are fans far and wide in every forum imaginable who say this every time something goes wrong. Somewhere along the way, George Steinbrenner became a saint that seemingly did no wrong.
The Boss loved to win. He probably owned that passion more than any other owner in the history of the game. He simply hated to lose.
But he did. And he did it for one of the longest periods in Yankees history.
Do you know why?
He constantly meddled. The moves he made were often on a whim, taking little input from advisors that knew baseball. A large part of the reason the Yankees were bad in the 1980s and early 90s was because of George Steinbrenner.
The entire 1980s was spent signing big name offensive superstars to surround his MVP first baseman Don Mattingly. He paid zero attention to the pitching staff and while seemingly never looking to bring in a verifiable ace, he gave Steve Howe eight million chances.
There was no stability in the Bronx. He went through 20 managerial changes in his first 23 years. That was why it was so hard to get a legitimate manager to lead this team. Stump Merrill? And you young ‘uns hate Joe Girardi, sheesh.
Steinbrenner drove high-profiled superstars away from the Bronx and made many others not want to play here. I suppose people forget how he embarrassed his entire 1981 club by publicly apologizing to New York for losing a World Series. I suppose people forget that the Yankees drafted Bo Jackson, who said he would never play for a man like George Steinbrenner. I guess people forgot the interactions between Reggie Jackson and The Boss.
It was simple. If your ego and star power became bigger than Steinbrenner’s you were shown the door or made to feel like such a chump that you wanted to leave.
And for all of you up in arms about the current situation between Levine and Dellin (or as he pronounced, Dylan) Betances, you obviously have turned a blind eye on how Steinbrenner dealt with a one Dave Winfield.
Steinbrenner was suspended from baseball for three years for how he handled Winfield, for crying out loud. Yet, the second Levine made his remarks, it was, “George would be rolling in his grave.”
Steinbrenner returned from his suspension just in time as Gene Michael‘s and Buck Showalter‘s team prepared the Yankees for one of the most dominant runs in the history of the game. They drafted or signed Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte, but when they were ousted in the playoffs in 1995, they were shown the door.
Call it insubordination, since Showalter refused to fire Rick Down, but it could have been Steinbrenner’s stubbornness as well. Instead he hired Joe Torre, who led a team he had nothing to do with to greatness, cashing in his ticket into the Hall of Fame.
Have you looked at Torre’s track record before and after the Yankees? Have you looked at Showalter’s? Torre couldn’t manage his way out of a closet. He wasn’t a talented game manager, he was an exceptional player manager. He kept the high-profile celebrities on the 90s Yankees in check, and he defended their actions, sometimes defying Steinbrenner along the way.
The difference between he and the other 19 managers before him was one simple thing. Well, four if you think about it. 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2000.
George was no saint. While it may be true that George would be rolling in his grave, he would likely be rolling in his grave how unappreciative Yankees fans have become with above .500 seasons. It is World Series or bust each season, but if you can’t tell, the past two years, they have had a plan in place. The roster and farm system in place now is the best it has been in a long time.
This whole mantra had to be created by a younger generation of fans, one not accustomed to losing. One that reads things on Wikipedia instead of remembering watching the boisterous news conferences The Boss loved to hold on WPIX.
Steinbrenner was alive and well, with a hands on approach — albeit cutback from his early years — until 2006. That means he was the one who hired Brian Cashman, who takes the brunt of many a Yankees fans complaints. That means he was the one who transitioned the 2001 Yankees back to an era of high-priced egos that simply didn’t mesh with the Bronx and the championship attitude. Jason Giambi, Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson, those were all moves made under The Boss’s watch.
They were all terrible for the Yankees.
The simple truth is that if George Steinbrenner was on any other team, you’d hold him in the same regard as Jerry Jones and Al Davis. The reason Larry David was able to make him such a funny character on Seinfeld was because he played him as the maniacal, ego maniac that older Yankees fans remember him as.
It’s also important to remember one thing. The Yankees won 20 of their 27 championships before the Steinbrenner regime. They were good long before The Boss and they will achieve another era of greatness when — and if — they are all gone.
So while the Yankees continue to be a billion dollar enterprise, enjoying the confines of their still brand new stadium, having not put up a losing record since 1992 (the longest streak in the majors incidentally) I think ol’ George is enjoying the afterlife just fine.
Let him be.