Why Selling the New York Yankees Would Spawn a George Steinbrenner Curse
The word around the campfire is that the New York Yankees could be up for sale in the near future.
Oh, you haven't heard?
The rumors come straight from Michael O'Keeffe and Bill Madden of the New York Daily News. According to "multiple baseball and finance sources," the men running the Yankees are "exploring the possibility" of selling the team. One source said there has been "chatter" about the possible sale for several weeks.
OK, whoa. Is this really happening?
According to Yankees president Randy Levine, the answer is "no." He says there is "absolutely, positively nothing" to the Daily News story. Hal Steinbrenner, son of the late George Steinbrenner and the managing general partner of the Yankees, called the story "complete fiction."
So there's that.
...But that doesn't mean these rumors can be written off completely.
The Daily News carefully points out that there are very good reasons for the Steinbrenner family to sell the Yankees in the near future. With the Los Angeles Dodgers selling for over $2 billion recently, there's really no telling how much money the Yankees could go for. The bar would be set at $3 billion, and the price could climb significantly higher.
That's not all. Even hardcore Yankees fans have to admit that the long-term future of the team on the field is not bright.
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Derek Jeter is having a pretty good season, but he's going to turn 38 in June. The end of his career is swiftly approaching.
Mariano Rivera tore his ACL this season, and there are no guarantees that he will pitch in pinstripes ever again.
Alex Rodriguez will turn 37 years old later this season, and it's very much apparent that he is on the decline. This is not good, seeing as how he's still on the hook for a few more years and a lot of money.
Mark Teixeira, 32, is also beginning to show signs of regression, and he, too, is due a hefty sum.
For the time being, the Yankees are a struggling team that should get better as the year goes along. But if things are concerning this year, it stands to reason things will be even more concerning next year, even more concerning the year after that and so on.
It's just a matter of time before the Yankees dynasty is dead and buried. What's happening this year represents the first few shakes of the death rattle, and you better believe the team's ownership can hear it.
George Steinbrenner wouldn't be thinking about selling the team right now. He'd be ranting and raving, and he'd probably have his heart set on throwing money at free-agents-to-be like Zack Greinke and Cole Hamels this offseason. He'd find a way to fix this mess, even if it meant approving absurd contracts.
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If Hank Steinbrenner were running the show, he'd be doing the same thing. But Hank isn't running the show. Hal Steinbrenner is running the show, and he's not a chip off the old block like his brother is. He's a businessman, and one of the Daily News' sources said it best in that Hal is a "smart businessman" who doesn't seem to believe that baseball is a "smart business."
For him, the Yankees are not a plaything, and that's where he differs from his dad and his brother. If he concludes that selling the Yankees is the best business decision he can possibly make, he'll do it.
So as strange as it seems, the idea of the Steinbrenner family not owning the Yankees is one that should be taken very seriously. A few years down the road, there could be a new sheriff in town at One East 161st Street.
For the life of me, I cannot imagine any scenario in which this would be a good thing.
I was never a huge fan of The Boss. His arrogance was insufferable, he treated his employees like dirt, and he spent his time at the helm of the Yankees turning the team into a symbol for all that is wrong with baseball. They indeed were, and still are, the "Evil Empire."
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But I'll say this about The Boss; turning the Yankees into what they eventually became was his plan all along. And for all the mistakes he made, the Yankees still managed to win seven World Series titles under his watch. They couldn't have done it without him.
Owning the Yankees is different from owning any other sports franchise. The best compliment I can pay The Boss is this one: He did a very good job of owning the Yankees. He was one of a kind.
The fact that he was one of a kind is the problem here. If the Yankees do eventually sell, the odds of them being bought by (for lack of a better expression) "the next George Steinbrenner" are somewhere between slim and none.
The next owner(s) of the Yankees would fit one of two molds. They'd either be a George Steinbrenner wannabe or a Hal Steinbrenner wannabe.
A Hal Steinbrenner wannabe owner would stress getting the team's payroll down from the clouds and try to build championship teams through drafting and developing. The Yankees would then become just like every other franchise in Major League Baseball. In place of the team's majestic/evil/whatever aura would be a normal aura, and we would no longer be able to take it for granted that the team would solve its problems by throwing money at them.
A George Steinbrenner wannabe owner would be doomed for failure as soon as he/she took office. The Boss was able to get away with acting like a greedy blowhard because, well, that was his thing. Nobody dared to cross him. That same act coming from somebody else wouldn't fly, as everyone would be acutely aware that the new Yankees owner was merely trying to be like the old Yankees owner.
Heck, not even Hank Steinbrenner could get away with acting like George Steinbrenner. He made a lot of noise a couple of years ago, but he's been pushed aside so the serious businessmen can go about their business in peace with no blathering dimwits around to distract them. And besides, it's certainly worth noting that it was Hank who approved A-Rod's 10-year contract a few seasons ago, and that decision is shaping up to be one of the biggest flubs in the history of the franchise.
So if the Yankees are sold, the franchise will be stuck between a rock and a hard place. It will either be bought by eggheads looking to treat it less as a plaything and more as a business venture, or it will be bought by a wealthy jester pretending to be George Steinbrenner. Either path would invariably turn the Yankees into...well, something other than the Yankees.
Would success be in the team's future? Of course. On a long enough timeline, success is always in a given team's future.
But, there's success, and then there's Yankees success. When it comes to the Yankees, greatness must be constant. There are no rebuilding years, nor are there even retooling years. George Steinbrenner understood this, and his reign should be seen as the very definition of the Yankee way.
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The Boss' way of doing things has become a relic. We're already seeing the Yankees move away from it. If the team is sold, the new ownership will either move further away from the Yankee way or try to duplicate the Yankee way and fail.
Put simply, if the Yankees are sold, they're either going to become ordinary, or something worse than ordinary. Regardless of the outcome, the specter of The Boss and the Yankee way would continue to hang over the franchise, and Yankee fans everywhere would lament the passing of the Steinbrenner regime.
Let's go ahead and preemptively dub what's going to happen as the "George Steinbrenner Curse." Make no mistake about it, it's going to happen sooner or later.
All it will take is for Hal Steinbrenner to see a figure big enough to widen his eyes.
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