"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice



“The great thing about baseball is that there’s a crisis every day.” Gabe Paul

While Mike Piazza and Jason Giambi unleash hitting clinics in spring training bp, the heavy hitters of the New York print media were out in fine form, getting their licks in, over the weekend too. On Sunday there were articles from New York Times warhorse Murray Chass, the distinguished Times columnist Dave Anderson, and the always pugnacious Mike Lupica in the Daily News. Each expressed a resigned sense of fatigue with the antics of one George M. Steinbrenner. Lupica isn’t so much resigned as he is fed-up. They are bored, already, and how can you can’t blame them? The same beat all these years.

The truth is, unless you are a Yankee fan, there is less and less that is attractive about George’s team. It’s like Roger Angell once said: you want to see the Yankees and all you can see is George. He’s getting in the way of you and the team.

Here is Chass on the Jeter-George Puff Pastry Strudel:

Jeter has had a charmed career, playing shortstop for the Yankees only during their current championship era. He is too young to have experienced the verbal abuse Steinbrenner heaped upon his predecessors, Reggie Jackson, for example, in 1981, and Dave Winfield throughout his nine years in New York.

In 2003, this Steinbrenner shtick is old. It should be ignored.

If Steinbrenner, the Yankees’ principal owner, saw that his attacks were disappearing into a verbal void, he might abandon them and develop a new act. The problem is, players won’t ignore his comments because they gain widespread dissemination.

Of course, what we really learned from this exercise is that Jeter has an ego too. Sure, he could have walked away and taken the high road, but he’s proud, and vain and sensitive just like the rest of them. Fine.

The winners in this flimsy scandal will be Yankee fans, Jeter’s teammates, and Jeter and Geogre as well. Jeter will likely put forth a terrific effort, like he’s done every year since 1996, the numbers will speak for themselves and everyone will be happy. Jeter is never going to be the best player in the league, or maybe even the best player on his team. But he is the leader of his team, and for Yankee fans, that is enough.

Naturally, Jeter will have to confront The Boss again in September if he’s had a great year, cause George will be popping off about how it was his motivation that was the key to Jeter’s success. And you know he’ll be hearing from George if he has a shitty year. Jeter can let his ego can get involved or he can look the the other way. Of course, it’s easy to take the high road when you’re on top.

Still, I don’t think Yankee fans are particularly sweating this Hoo-Ha. We know it’s George being George. As distasteful at he is, at the end of the day, we’ve got everything we want, right? This is tabliod candy. It’s Michael Jackson, fer crying out loud.

Chass continues:

Not everyone has been overcome by the Steinbrenner-Jeter exchange, hanging on their every word.

“It’s crazy,” a longtime Yankees fan said. “It’s nothing. It’s a nonstory.”

But plenty of people are still listening

I’m not usually a fan of the veteran Times’ columnist, Dave Anderson. He seems to be more distinguished by his endurance rather than his relevance or substance. I’m not familiar with his early work, so perhaps I’m being unfair, but most of the time, his columns leave him glazed over with boredom. But Anderson was precise and sure, like an old country doctor, in his examination of Jeter and George on Sunday:

Steinbrenner is a corporate chameleon. With strangers, he can be charming and charitable, especially if he wants something they’ve got. But if you’re on his payroll, he feels entitled to do or say anything in order to get more production out of you – whether you’re the Yankee Stadium receptionist or you’re the Yankees’ best player.

When the Yankees were winning four World Series championships in five years, the principal owner’s relative silence had some people thinking he had mellowed.

Those people didn’t understand. With all those new World Series rings and profits, Steinbrenner didn’t have much to growl about. But ever since the Yankees were rudely eliminated in the first round of last year’s American League playoffs by the Anaheim Angels, his bark has been as threatening as his bite.

“He’s worse than ever,” Yankee front-office people were heard to mumble in recent months. “Worse than the losing years.”

Meanwhile, Lupica opines:

Steinbrenner should know that better than anyone. Money can’t buy you love.

Yankee fans know, too. Oh, they show up at Stadium in record numbers. They sure want Yankee games back on Cablevision. But there is something joyless about all of this, going into every season and being told that if their team doesn’t win the World Series it has let everybody down and is a loser. This is the sense of entitlement Steinbrenner has bullied into the culture of baseball in New York.

If there is even the hint that the Yankees might not run away with things, Steinbrenner will spend more, bring in more guys, put the uniform on them and make them instant Yankees. He has to do it now that the Yankees have come up short two years in a row, that’s what he keeps saying. I’m a bad loser, he says. He’s just as bad a winner. And always has been.

I don’t buy into the joylessness that Lupica has been writing about lately. I’m going to find continued joy in watching Soriano swing, Bernie Williams play center field, Jeter run the bases, Giambi work a pitcher, and Rivera mow through the ninth, no matter how much noise George makes.

That is what still makes this team different. The team is worth watching. No matter how much George tries to get in the way, it’s easier to ignore him these days because the Yankees have so many compelling players. This is Joe Torre’s Yankees too.

Still, Lupica reminded me of something Nettles wrote in his book, “Balls:”

George has never learned how to lose. He thinks being a good loser is a sign of weakness. And that’s not how life is. You’re going to lose sometimes.

Baseball fans understand this inherently. Even spoiled ass Yankee fans, even though they need to be reminded more often. Daily News media columnists, Bob Raissman understands that all Yankee fans who are bound to Cablevision, are all losing, no matter what the Yankees do:

It’s really curious that Steinbrenner would go after guys who have brought him four world championships, while he barely flaps his lips at Cablevision. The company’s stance against the Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network has a far greater adverse impact on Steinbrenner, and Yankee fans, than any off-the-field endeavor Jeter might undertake.

Yet, Steinbrenner has displayed more zeal going after his shortstop and manager than he has when commenting on Cablevision founder Charles Dolan and his son

…No offense to [YES boss, Leo] Hindery, who has worked long and hard trying to get a deal for YES with Cablevision, but if Steinbrenner has a problem with Torre, a manager who has brought him four titles, why does the manager of his YES Network get cut slack? Hey, if Steinbrenner said it’s easier winning four championships than securing a deal with Cablevision I wouldn’t argue with him.

Still, it’s curious that Steinbrenner, who is big on motivation, has failed to take the gloves off and put some verbal heat on the Dolans. Steinbrenner knows how to create pressure and make headlines. Even if his words had no impact on Cablevision suits, they would at least show Steinbrenner is out there battling for Yankee fans.

Perhaps this will dawn on Steinbrenner one hot day in July, when he comes to the realization many loyal Yankee fans still can’t watch the games on TV.

Why wait?

Yankee fans need a 110% effort from Steinbrenner on this matter – now.


Lupica couldn’t resist adding a parting shot of his own, jabbing at not only George, but all the self-satisfied, entitled Yankee fans too:

It is another reason why the baseball season would be a lot better here, and not just for Mets fans, if the Mets got better fast. No one wants Steinbrenner’s angry face to be the face of baseball in New York.This isn’t Yankee hating, or Steinbrenner hating, even though that is always the knee-jerk defense of Steinbrenner. It is just sheer exhaustion.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver