Friday, December 23, 2016

George Steinbrenner and the Ghost of Yankees Past Part II


Those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. That is a quote probably made famous by someone else but one that I use quite often in my day-to-day life. My name is Daniel Burch and if you remember from last Christmas Eve you will remember that I was visited by George Steinbrenner and the ghost of Yankees past. The Boss visited many people that night and many of those people learned the lesson that was brought to them that cold winter night, but some did not. This is the story of those who did not and George’s last ditch effort to save them… before it’s too late.


Once again we set the scene. Same office building, same fire roaring and same rich man bearing the Steinbrenner name that just doesn’t get it. Hal Steinbrenner, sipping on his wine, looks up from his Excel spreadsheet to see the ghost of his father standing in his room. Hal, with that same obnoxious smile and coy look about him, sighs and says to his father “what now?” George is not amused by his son’s tone nor his attitude and responds with an extremely tongue in cheek “Merry Christmas to you too son.” Hal is not amused, he almost seems aggravated at the sight of his father, and looks away to continue working. That’s when he feels his feet leave the ground and before he knows it he is flying out the window, his father by his side, and they are once again traveling to check on those affected by Hal’s poor decisions since taking over the team.


“Hal,” George says to his son while flying to their first destination, “it doesn’t matter what your payroll is you’re still cheap. Stop telling the fans that you aren’t because they know. They are the smartest fan base in the entire world. They know that the Mark Teixeira contract and the CC Sabathia contract and the Alex Rodriguez contract and many of the contracts still hampering the team were given out while I was still in charge, not you. You preached frugality for two seasons in a row only to take a shot at trying to be me. You failed. Three years for a 37-year old Carlos Beltran? Seven years for Jacoby Ellsbury? Do you know what you’re doing to MY team?” The good news for Hal is he didn’t have to wait long as they arrived at their first stop, Mr. Ken Hans’s house.


Ken Hans lives in New Jersey, something that apparently rubs a few people the wrong way, and the Steinbrenner’s are coming at a bad time for Hans. He is in the middle of a fierce online debate which can be heard for miles. Hans is not only typing like a mad man but he is quoting himself out loud as he posts. “The water pistol” this and the “water pistol” that and something about Creedmoor Psychiatric Center, its full blown hysteria at the Hans household. The subject, the New York Yankees and the lack of ability to do much by Brian Cashman. Hans is not a fan of Cashman, he refers to him as the elf, and wants to see the team return back to its glory days. The days when a Steinbrenner got what a Steinbrenner wanted and when the team was expected to win the World Series, not content with a Wild Card berth and a huge blown lead in the division after July 31st. Hans wants the days of simply waiting out a contract to be gone and the days of eating and/or trading a contract to come back to the Bronx. So does George. “See what you’ve caused here, and this is just one of many frustrated households of frustrated Yankees fans” says George. “This is a season ticket holder, well now probably a former season ticket holder, and one of the many that made you who you are today. Without the fans, and without those fans being happy and excited, we are nothing Hal. Especially in New York. Last year we visited disappointed fans, discouraged fans. This year we’re fearing angry fans. Next Christmas Eve do you want to have fans to visit at all?” Hal looks down with shame as the Steinbrenner’s fly off to the next household and to visit the next Yankees fan.


The next stop on this adventure takes the Steinbrenner’s young and old to the house of their GM Brian Cashman. Hal Steinbrenner looked confused and knew where the conversation was going. Hal had just talked to Cashman a few hours ago and Cashman was obviously ruffled when he got off the phone with the new Yankees owner. Cashman had asked for the money for David Price and was laughed at, but not as hard as he was laughed at when he asked to sign Zack Greinke. Cashman was hung up on when he asked to move Brett Gardner in order to sign Jason Heyward and he was simply waved away when he pointed out the fact that Justin Upton was a Top 5 left fielder in the game while Gardner was lucky to be a Top 10 LF in the league. Cashman was given full power by George Steinbrenner before he passed and has only seen that power be taken away once again by Steinbrenner Jr. George and Hal did not talk, they merely listened and let is all sink in. Cashman was on the phone with someone and he was visibly upset. "My hands are tied though. I ask to trade (Andrew) Miller and Gardner to make some room financially and I get shot down. I ask to sign a starting pitcher or piece that we need and I got laughed at. Literally laughed at. I love this team and I would never quit on this team, I am a New Yorker through and through, but my passion is gone." George simply looks over at Hal with disappointment in his eyes as Cashman continues. "I even had to trade Justin Wilson just to make room for Starlin Castro on the roster fiscally. This is a $3.5 billion operation making nearly $600 million in revenue in a year where attendance and YES Network ratings are down across the board. I wish we would start acting like it again." George doesn't have to say a word and Hal is not having fun anymore. As they leave Cashman's study they hear him turn down an offer to go to a rival team for more money because he believes in this team and believes in loyalty. Hal Steinbrenner begins to cry as they head to yet another stop on their tour.


The final stop on the tour takes the Steinbrenner’s to Hell’s Kitchen to visit a man simply known as Mr. Reed. Mr. Reed is a lifelong veteran and fan of the New York Yankees who, despite his ferocity and angry typing at a whopping five words per minute, knows he’s not as young as he used to be. Reed is a knowledgeable man, although he does struggle with names from time to time, and a good man that just wants to see one more Yankees World Series before he goes on to meet his lord and maker. Mr. Reed, above all, is a patient man. Remember Mr. Reed lived through the later 70’s and 1980’s editions of the New York Yankees and almost snickers when fans complain about going two straight postseasons without a berth or six straight seasons without a World Series. Mr. Reed knows the struggle and the wait in between World Series victories and has learned to cherish them like they all should be cherished. Mr. Reed, much like George, knows that it was the meddling and the controversy that drove much of the mediocrity that followed the post-Bronx is Burning Yankees and The Boss see’s many of those same trends showing their ugly face again. “Hal, I’ve said it many times. Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. Take it from me, I ran this team into the ground once and it was only my ban from the game that allowed the team to turn the farm system around which turned the team, the organization and the city of the Bronx around. It was only then that the dynasty years came to fruition.” George then quickly points out that the ownership driven deals of Rafael Soriano, Ichiro Suzuki, Carlos Beltran and others have not worked out for the team, the organization or the fans. Another common theme among the Steinbrenner family and another common theme for Hal specifically, he lowers his head and shame as his father takes him home for yet another Christmas morning.


The Steinbrenner’s barely beat the sun rise home on Christmas Day and Hal is wearing the shame on his face from the previous night. Hal never thought he was meddling and he never truly thought he was being cheap. As far as Hal was concerned the signings of Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran had worked out for the team and the team was World Series caliber. As far as Hal was concerned there was no problem with a $3.5 billion franchise wanting to lower payroll and not sign free agents because of a 50% tax levied on each dollar of the contract over the luxury tax threshold. As far as Hal is concerned this team is set to compete for a World Series Championship in 2016. Has Hal learned his lesson and will the Yankees defy the odds in 2016? I guess you’ll have to wait until next Christmas Eve to find out.





Merry Christmas Yankees family. I hope Santa brings you everything you need and most of what you want tonight. I appreciate each and every one of you reading this and I hope you enjoyed the second edition of my novel “George Steinbrenner and the Ghost of Yankees Past.”

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