I don’t know about you, but for this Yankees’ fan seeing yesterday’s ceremony dedicating the field in Tampa to George Steinbrenner was somewhat surreal.
Let me say up front that I think the George of 2008 needs to be left alone. I don’t know what exactly has happened to him, but it seems pretty obvious that he is not what he once was and anyone who takes shots at him over his current condition is pathetic.
But, what happened yesterday was about the Steinbrenner that existed previous to this, the guy who ran the Yankees from 1973 to roughly 2006. And, I am not sure that guy is worthy of this honor.
Ok, sure if you want to measure things in championships, George has to get credit. The guy has six in 35 years, and he has also won ten pennants in that time period. In addition, George was one of the guys who recognized the change that free agency brought to baseball and capitalized on it. He made the bold moves, Reggie, Goose, etc., that got the Yankees their first two titles. Of course, his early success was his downfall later on, but you cannot dismiss his accomplishments in the early part of the free agency period.
And, there are the countless good deeds the Yankees and George have done. Some fans think it is stupid, but I appreciate the fact that the Yankees perform "God Bless America" at every home game. September 11th changed a lot of things in this city and I am glad the Yankees continue to honor those memories. They have stood up and made a difference countless times from the terrible fire in the Bronx to the recent atrocity at Virginia Tech, the Yankees and Geroge Steinbrenner have always seemed to step up and try to ease the pain.
But, contrast that with the George we once knew. The guy Seinfeld parodied, the bully, the mean George. I am not saying it is all his fault, his Dad seems like he was impossible to please and the apple didn’t fall far, but Steinbrenner took it to a new level. He gave no quarter in his pursuit of winning and gave no consideration to what that meant. When he fired Yogi Berra after 16 games in 1985, he alienated one of the greatest Yankees for ten years. He was ruthless in his criticism of his own players and management. It’s hard to remember now, but before Torre and Showalter the Yankees went through more than a manager a year under Steinbrenner. Fans applauded when he was banned from baseball in 1990 and now he seems to be a hero.
Perhaps that is a function of success, Geroge won a lot more in the last half of his ownership than he did in the first half. The Yankees’ image mellowed under Joe Torrre and while everyone respected Reggie Jackson, Derek Jeter is a 1,000-times more likeable. Memories are short and George’s transgressions have faded, just like the idea that he wanted to move the team to New Jersey seems absurd today.
But, life is all about the sum of everything and I am just not sure where that leaves George as he heads to the bottom of the ninth, but I do hope he pulls out the win.