Why Hal, Hank Steinbrenner Clearly Have No Desire to Be Like George

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Why Hal, Hank Steinbrenner Clearly Have No Desire to Be Like George
Mike Stobe/Getty Images
New York Yankees general partner Hal Steinbrenner says the team is not for sale, contrary to reports.

Shortly after news broke of the Los Angeles Dodgers being sold for $2.3 billion in late March, a question soon popped to mind among many observers.

If the Dodgers were worth $2 billion, how much money could a sale of the New York Yankees bring in?

According to the New York Daily News, the Steinbrenner family may intend to find out. 

Reportedly, there has been a lot of chatter on the New York banking scene about the Steinbrenners exploring the possibility of putting the Yankees up for sale. It has to be tempting to see how much a potential buyer might offer for the team. Again, if the Dodgers cost $2 billion, could the Yankees be sold for $3 billion? 

Perhaps that's just a question people on Wall Street are asking themselves, putting themselves in Hal Steinbrenner's shoes. Speculation has led to rumor, and those rumors have led to actual reporting in a newspaper. 

At least that's how Hal Steinbrenner makes it sound. After the Daily News report hit the public, the Yankees general partner denied the team was for sale and that the Steinbrenner family was even entertaining the thought.

"I just learned of the Daily News story. It is pure fiction," Steinbrenner told reporters. "The Yankees are not for sale. I expect that the Yankees will be in my family for many years to come."

Junko Kimura/Getty Images
New York Yankees president Randy Levine joined his owner in denying reports that the team could go up for sale.
Yankees president Randy Levine was quoted in the Daily News story as denying the rumors also. 

"I can say to you there is absolutely, positively nothing to this," Levine said. "The Steinbrenners are not selling the team."

Those were some pretty strong words used to emphasize the point.

This wasn't "no comment." Or something vague like, "Anything is possible in today's financial climate," or "We pride ourselves in looking at all available options." This was a flat-out rebuttal of what was published in the Daily News

However, even the mention of the Yankees being put up for sale shows that Hal Steinbrenner isn't like his father, George. Can you imagine The Boss even considering the possibility of selling the team that had come to define him as a person? The Yankees were his identity.

(OK, maybe George would see how much the Yankees were worth, just to brag about how much more financial value his team had than any other baseball club or professional sports franchise.)

The elder Steinbrenner said as much years ago to Daily News columnist Mike Lupica

“Owning the Yankees is like owning the Mona Lisa,” Lupica recalled Steinbrenner saying. “And once you own it, you never sell it.”

The Yankees were George Steinbrenner's baby, his prized possession. Like a classic car in the garage that he meticulously, lovingly restored himself. There was a deep emotional investment, a sense of pride in what he acquired and how he built it up. 

Apparently, Hal Steinbrenner has no such sentimental attachment to the team. He respects the place that owning the Yankees holds in his family. Maybe, though, he views the franchise in much the same way a child might view his parents' house once he reaches adulthood.

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Are the New York Yankees an emotional investment for Hal Steinbrenner?
Yeah, it's nice and it's where I grew up, but I don't want to live there. When I take the house over, I'm selling it.

Judging from several accounts, Hal isn't consumed with taking over the baseball world as Yankees owner. His ego doesn't need the gratification of buying the best players money can buy and bullying his way to a World Series championship. There's no strutting, there's no preening, there's no bragging.

It's almost as if the Yankees are just a job to Hal. That's how he made it sound when talking to reporters during spring training.

"I'm a finance geek. I guess I always have been," Steinbrenner said, via the Daily News.

"That's my background; budgets matter and balance sheets matter. I just feel that if you do well on the player development side and you have a good farm system, you don't need a $220 million payroll. You can field every bit as good a team with young talent."

That quote doesn't exactly shimmer with passion and bluster. Maybe it's just a clear example of how the son isn't like his father, as budgets never seemed to matter to George Steinbrenner.

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Several Yankees executives, including general manager Brian Cashman, deny that the Steinbrenner family wants to sell the team.

George's other son, Hank, tried it his father's way. He boasted to the press, he stuck his figurative chin out and dared the Yankees' rivals to take a swing. And just like his father would have, Hank signed off on the 10-year, $275 million contract that went to Alex Rodriguez in December 2007.

It was brash, it was bold, it was stupid. And it's not the way anyone at Yankee Stadium wants to do business anymore. Consequently, Hank is an invisible man these days.

None of this means the Steinbrenners want to sell the Yankees. If anything, the Daily News report looks more like rather irresponsible speculation the more you read it. However, if the intention was to stoke buzz and get people chattering, that objective was most certainly accomplished.

George Steinbrenner would've loved such an audacious approach. His son Hal doesn't seem to have much taste for such tactics. 

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