Wednesday, July 14, 2010

George Steinbrenner - A More Accurate Portrayal

George Steinbrenner died the other day. I would offer my condolences to his family if I knew them. I did not wish him the illnesses he apparently endured the last 5 to 7 years of his life and I did not wish him death.

As an owner, you would have to call his tenure a success from a winning point of view because how many owners can say they won 7 world championships? He could also be credited for his aggressive pursuit of free agents such as Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter and Goose Gossage. However, the 1977 and 1978 championships were also a product of Steinbrenner allowing Gabe Paul to do his job a bit more than GM's would be allowed later on. Paul brought in guys like Chris Chambliss, Willie Randolph and Ed Figueroa, and he refused to trade Ron Guidry.

The championships of the late 90's were, to a degree, a product of a more disengaged approach by Steinbrenner, the result of his only recently being reinstated by Fay Vincent from a suspension. That somewhat hands off approach allowed Gene Michael to build around Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, etc..., Who knows how many of them would have been traded away during Steinbrenner tantrums, which happened regularly during the 80's and early 90's, when Steinbrenner was most involved in the team, and the team was mostly an over-priced, under-achieving mess. It would be easy to say that had Steinbrenner not been suspended for his shenanigans with Howie Spira, the 4 titles from 1996 to 2000 might never have happened.

But someone could look at my comments on Steinbrenner and say, "Well, Scott, you hate the Yankees, so you are just jealous." Forgetting the fact, that MOST Yankees fans wanted Steinbrenner gone from the early eighties through the mid nineties, I will tell you why I am bothered by all this ridiculous aggrandizement of George Steinbrenner. As a boss he was an abuser and a bully. No, he was not a "tough boss." He tortured his employees and was cruel and, yes, an abuser. Read Bill Madden's "Steinbrenner," or today's NY Times piece by Dave Anderson, and you will see what I mean.

I worked for an abusive prick for a long time, and my health suffered tremendously. This hits close to home for me. I don't give a shit that Steinbrenner was mean to millionaire ballplayers. But he was a bastard to the regular people working in the offices and I can only imagine how much physical and emotional damage he did to countless people over the years.

So, Yankees fans can revel in the titles of 1977, 1978, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2009. You deserve to do so. But, you give a guy too much credit considering had he had his way, you likely would not have had many of those championships. And, worse, despite a fairly sizable amount of charitable activity in his life, nothing makes up for being a serial abuser of your employees and anyone else you had power over. Trust me; I've been there.

My sympathies to the Steinbrenner family for their loss. But the rest of us should stop pretending George Steinbrenner was much more than he was.

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