Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Meet a Prospect: George Steinbrenner

George Michael Steinbrenner III is the final Meet A Prospect post that we will do for Prospects Month on The Greedy Pinstripes. The Boss was born on July 4, 1930 and passed to hang with the baseball Gods on July 13, 2010. George bought the New York Yankees organization in 1973 and held the ownership for 37 years until his death and subsequent transfer of ownership to his sons Hank and Hal, who we also showcased in our Meet A Prospect series this week. George would see the Yankees win seven World Series championships and 11 American League pennants in his tenure as the Yankees owner, the longest tenure in club history. George was not always the "hands on" owner, fiery figure head, and one to meddle in every day operations, drive up players prices, and investigate free agents before signing them. George was not always the one to hire, fire, and re-hire managers at an alarming rate. Let's meet George Steinbrenner before he was known as "The Boss."

George was born in Bay Village, Ohio as the only son of Rita Haley Steinbrenner and Henry George Steinbrenner II. His mother was an Irish immigrant who had her name changed from O'Haley to Haley and his father was of German descent who eventually made his name in the freight shipping business. George III was named after his paternal grandfather, George Michael Steinbrenner II, and had two younger sisters growing up, Susan and Judy. George spent his college years at the Culver Military Academy starting in 1944 and graduated in 1948 only to go back to college to get his B.A. from Williams College in Massachusetts in 1952. George was quite the social butterfly and athlete in school with highlights such as being a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity, being a very successful hurdler on the varsity track and field team, played piano in the band, played halfback on the football team his senior year, and served as the field editor for The Williams Record. After college George immediately joined the United States Air Force and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. George would have an honorable discharge in 1954 and would go back to school to complete his masters degree in physical education at Ohio State University.

While at Ohio State George would be the coaches assistant in the year the Ohio State Buckeyes would go undefeated and win the Rose Bowl and National Championship in 1954.George would meet his soon to be wife, Elizabeth Joan Zieg, in Columbus, Ohio in 1956 and would marry and have two sons, Hank and Hal Steinbrenner. They also had two daughters Jessica Steinbrenner and Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal. In 1957 Steinbrenner would join the Kinsman Marine Transit Company, a company his great grandfather Henry purchased in 1901, and would be rebuilt and revitalized before George would purchase the company a few years later from his family. George would later buy the American Shipbuilding Company and see annual revenue sales soar over $100,000,000. Steinbrenner did not initially use that new found wealth to get into baseball though because his first sports team investment was the Cleveland Pipers of the American Basketball League against the advice of his father. The Pipers would hire the first African American coach in professional basketball in John McClendon and would see an ABL Championship in the 1961-1962 season before the ABL folded in 1962. Steinbrenner paid his debts and took his talents to Broadway briefly in a 1967 play named The Ninety Day Mistress, the 1974 Tony Award nominated Seesaw, and the 1988 Legs Diamond play.

In 1971 George Steinbrenner attempted to buy the Cleveland Indians and failed but would buy the New York Yankees from CBS, with help from investors, in January of 1973. The original sale of the organization was $10,000,000 but the deal included two parking garages that CBS bought back after the deal was final for $1,200,000 making the final total for George and company coming in at $8,800,000. George wasted no time causing controversy and hiring and firing personnel as he went through 20 managers in his first 23 seasons including hiring and firing Billy Martin five times and went through 11 general managers in 30 seasons. George did win two World Series in 1977 and 1978 behind Billy Martin and Reggie Jackson though while the Bronx was Burning. George also ruled with an iron fist creating the policy that all Yankees players, managers, and male executives were forbidden to have any facial hair other than a mustache and Yankees players hair was not allowed to touch the collar of the shirt, which is still the Yankees policy today. George and his policy is the reason that Goose Gossage grew, and still has to this day, the extreme mustache that he has now after George forced Gossage to shave the beard that he was growing in 1983. Don Mattingly was even benched in 1991 after refusing to cut his mullet hair cut that did not fall within Yankees policy which causes a media backlash. Mattingly would not learn from the incident though as he would be back in the Yankees facial hair spotlight as he started to grow a goatee in 1995 and saw Mattingly trim it to just a mustache.

George also caused a ton of talk after handing out Dave Winfield a 10 year contract worth $23,000,000 making him the highest paid player in the game at the time. George bashed Winfield in the 1985 season after a poor September performance calling Winfield "Mr. May" and saying that the Yankees needed a "Mr. September or Mr. November, not a Mr. May." This criticism would cause players like Ken Griffey Jr. to publicly state that he would never play for the New York Yankees because of George Steinbrenner. On July, 30 1990 George was officially banned from the game permanently as far as day to day operations go by MLB commissioner Fay Vincent for paying a gambler to "dig up dirt" on Winfield. Winfield was suing the Yankees because they did not contribute $300,000 to his foundation which was a stipulation of his 10 year contract. These were just some of the reasons that Winfield went into the Hall of Fame as a San Diego Padre and no a member of the New York Yankees. With George out of the game how would baseball, and specifically the Yankees, respond you ask? Keep reading...

George was reinstated back into baseball in time for the 1993 season and it was just in time for the 1994 MLB strike and the beginning of a Yankees dynasty. George was willing to leave the day to day operations to Gene Michael these days and even got behind a Yankees farm system and letting players like Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Jorge Posada to develop rather than be traded for veteran players. George saw this new found patience pay off as the Yankees were in the AL East chase all the way until September before losing the title to the Toronto Blue Jays. The Yankees were also leading the AL East before the 1994 strike wiped all the hard work away, the season, and for the second time ever the World Series. Obviously anyone reading this knows the rest as we saw the Yankees make the playoffs for the first time since 1981 when they were the first Wild Card winner in the 1995 season and saw the Yankees win World Series titles in 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2009. The Yankees made the playoffs ever year from 1995 - 2009 except for the 2008 season, Joe Girardi's first season, and saw World Series losses in the 2001 and 2003 Fall Classics.

George would officially retire from being the Yankees principal owner and would transfer the day to day operations to his sons, Hank and Hal, in 2006. From 2006 until his eventual death in 2010 George spent most of his time at his home in Tampa, Florida while rarely showing his face at the stadium or giving interviews and sound bites. George did make a special appearance at the 78th Annual MLB All Star Game which was held in Yankees Stadium in it's final season in 2008 in the Bronx. George was wearing dark sunglasses and walked slowly onto the field with the help of many people helping him walk. George would get one last ring in 2009 and was presented with the ring in person by Derek Jeter and manager Joe Girardi on April 13, 2010 in his stadium suite leaving, according to reports, Steinbrenner almost speechless. Steinbrenner, if anyone, deserved this private ceremony as he built the Yankees brand to the first sports team to have a net worth over $1,000,000,000 plus having a $1,200,000,000 television network aptly named the Yankees Entertainment and Sports network, or the YES Network.

George died on July 13, 2010, the same day as the 81st annual All Star Game, at Saint Joseph's Hospital in Tampa due to a heart attack. His death came just nine days after his 80th birthday and just two days after long time Yankees announcer Bob Shepard passed away. The Yankees would wear a patch honoring Steinbrenner and Shepard from July 14th until the end of the 2010 season to commemorate these two Yankees legends. The Steinbrenner family also added a monument in Monument Park to honor their late family member in September of 2010 to honor George. George was buried at Trinity Memorial Gardens in Trinity, Florida. The Boss, Manager George, George Steinbrenner, whatever you call him or known him as you know he will never be forgotten, replaced, or emulated. May George rest in peace now.

We want to take this time to honor and thank George Steinbrenner for everything he did as the owner of the Yankees. If it were not for Steinbrenner the Yankees would not be who they are today, both in class and in championships, and we would not be the site that we are today. The Yankees would not be the financial super power they are today, would not be as respected league wide as they are today, and may have went by the wayside in the 70's and 80's if it were not for the boss. Thank you George and I hope you are reading this from up in Heaven, we love you!

Mitt Romney Wants to Buy the New York Yankees

Attention all fans of the New York Yankees:

Unhappy with the job that Hal and Hank Steinbrenner have done as the majority owners of the New York Yankees? Have no fear for…. Mitt Romney is here?

Mitt Romney, former Presidential candidate, attempted to purchase a stake in the Miami Marlins earlier this offseason before the deal ultimately fell through but that is not keeping the man who lost to eventual President Obama from trying again to get into MLB ownership. Romney wants to own a share in the New York Yankees and he is willing to pay a pretty penny for it too. If the reported deal goes through Romney will pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $25-$30 million per percentage point and is said to be interested in up to two percentage points of ownership in the club.

Romney, a lifelong Boston Red Sox fan, wants to purchase a share in the New York Yankees? Hmm, I don’t quite know what to make of that. 

This Has Truly Become a Young Man’s Sports Again

When I look around the free agent market every single season and offseason I think to myself more and more than Major League Baseball is once again becoming a young man’s sport again. What do I mean? I can remember growing up a Yankees fan in the mid-2000’s where New York always had that one or two veteran players on the roster in the twilight of their career’s that filled important roles for the club. Then I watched as the Core Four aged and the Yankees were considered the old men of baseball. Now I watch the second youth movement in the Bronx during my lifetime and I see the invigoration of youth and it makes me notice the youth movement not only inside Yankee Stadium but around baseball as well… which is not a good thing for certain veterans who still find themselves looking for work despite the fact that spring training games have already begun.

The list of 30-year olds or older still on the free agent market is staggering when you think about it. Names like Pedro Alvarez, Joe Blanton, Billy Butler, Marlon Byrd, Chris Capuano, Coco Crisp, Doug Fister, Jeff Francouer, Sam Fuld, Ryan Howard, Edwin Jackson, Tim Lincecum, Kelly Johnson, Justin Morneau, Jonathan Papelbon, Jake Peavy, AJ Pierzynski and CJ Wilson to name a few still appear on the free agency market while many players have simply walked off into the sunset and retired. Now when I look at this list I don’t see many that will turn a non-contender into an immediate World Series contender but there are still some very helpful free agents out there on the market that can be had for simply money.

Blanton, for example, sported a 2.48 ERA and 1.01 WHIP with 80 strikeouts in 80 innings for the Los Angeles Dodgers last year leaving me to wonder how with 30 teams vying for bullpen supremacy how the 36-year old is still looking for work.

At one point in the not-so-distant past you were just in your prime when you hit 30-years old but now in a league where the NL MVP Kris Bryant is just 24-years old and Mike Trout just won his second AL MVP Award at age 25 you just may be considered “old” at 30.

Ladies and gentleman this is truly becoming a young man’s sport again and you can tell it by looking at the MLB Trade Rumors free agent tracker. There is still good players out there on the market to be had but they aren’t signed because of their age. None of the aforementioned players would command huge salaries with maybe the exception being Papelbon so it almost has to be the age factor. When you also look at the number of veterans who simply took minor league deals with invitations to spring training the trend just gets scarier and scarier for veteran players. Will it change? Or will it simply get worse before it gets better? Stay tuned. 

Bold Prediction: Luis Severino Makes Yankees Rotation in 2017

I know I say this every single season but just so you know this season will be no different. I love spring training and the whole atmosphere around Major League Baseball during this time. Every team is in first place, every team has a new and exciting direction they are going in and the sky is the limit for every player and team going forward. With that theme in mind I want to make a bit of a bold prediction regarding the New York Yankees and their starting rotation, specifically the fact that the aforementioned starting rotation for the Bronx Bombers will have Luis Severino pitching in it when the team breaks spring training camp this season.

Severino survived in the minor leagues with a reasonably straight fastball and even flourished with it in a small sample size in 2015 but the young right-hander’s 2016 season left much to be desired. New York sent Severino down to the minor leagues to work on his secondary pitches at one point last season before bringing him back as a bullpen arm during the latter parts of the season where he took off and regained confidence on the mound. Severino has been working on his changeup specifically this offseason and will look to showcase that work not only this spring but in the Yankees rotation this coming season, and I believe that he will.

I especially believe this will be the case after watching him pitch, albeit in an exhibition game, on Sunday against the Toronto Blue Jays. Severino’s fastball and slider were on point, his fastball hit 98 MPH at one point in the game which is insane for February baseball, but it was his changeup that kept Toronto hitters at bay in two scoreless innings. Severino’s changeup was clocked at 88 MPH which is a huge dip in velocity and a huge spike in deceptiveness if he can throw it right, and he did on Sunday.

Let’s be real, the competition for the Yankees 4th and 5th rotation spots are wide open at this point with no one really slotted into those positions at this time. Severino, or anyone else really, could essentially win those spots with a strong spring. What Severino has over some of the Luis Cessa’s and Bryan Mitchell’s of the world is velocity and a confidence that borderlines on almost cockiness. In a league where you can be your own worst enemy that may be more important than any stat or telling sign can tell you. That confidence, that blazing fastball and that mastered third pitch will be the reason Severino is throwing every five days in the Yankees starting rotation come Opening Day 2017. Bet. 

So it Seems We Had a Scheduled Weekend Off

So it seems like we took the weekend off. I needed the weekend off and I took it but now I’m back and ready to continue to pump out the content. I think maybe taking the weekend, or maybe a day as I haven’t really decided, off is going to be good for me as my life continues to get busy and continues to even become overwhelming at times. That’s not me complaining though, I’m truly blessed and I have the best that life can offer in my world right now and right now as I sit here today speaking to you I wouldn’t change it for the world.

I have distractions but I have the very best distractions. I have obligations but I have the most awesome little obligations in the world. I’ve all but given up even taking the time to eat my lunch while I’m at work but I keep my hands full and my mind occupied during that time so it’s all good because my days have become my favorite thing. I don’t want to sleep at night because I don’t want to miss a thing. It’s hard for me to put into words how I feel right now, and that’s rare for me and it goes to show you just how awesome it can be.

Remove negativity from your life at all costs and water the grass where you want it to be green, not where everyone says it should be green, and you too can find true happiness. Stay well everyone and good morning. The world is yours if you take it. 

Now batting for the New York Yankees, the shortstop, #81, Gleyber Torres…

Credit:  Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With Didi Gregorius headed to participate in the WBC Classic and share shortstop with his buddy, Andrelton Simmons of the Los Angeles Angels on Team Netherlands, Gleyber Torres should have a firm grasp on shortstop for the next couple of weeks while Didi is away.  Granted, Torres is not major-league ready but these short previews feature very exciting coming attractions.  

Torres is easily becoming a fan favorite despite never having played a major league game at Yankee Stadium.  While the speculation is that Torres will need to move to second base when he is ready for the Show, listening to his comments during interviews show how much he respects the shortstop position and those who preceded him (most notably Derek Jeter).  If Didi continues his upward climb to elite status, it will be hard to move Didi off short or ship him elsewhere to make room.  Those are problems for another day, but for now, we’ll be able to enjoy Torres at short.

I am sure that we’ll also see former top prospect Jorge Mateo at short too, but he’s not the one generating excitement.  Pete Kozma and Tyler Wade, the defensive whiz, should also see some time there.  Nevertheless, the man of the hour is clearly Gleyber Torres.  

I dislike reading the posts that say its a given the Yankees will sign Bryce Harper and Manny Machado in a couple of years when they hit free agency.  Neither is a sure thing, and Cable TV contracts have leveled the playing field, not to mention the limitations caused by the salary cap and luxury tax thresholds.  If we eventually get one or both of the superstars, great, but it’s not something that we can count on.  There will be players brought in via trades that we’re not even thinking about right now.  I’ll worry about the 2019 Yankees in 2019 (or maybe off-season 2018).  Right now, I am having fun watching the future of the Yankees as the team embarks on the 2017 season.  Granted, the moves and performances today will help define what tomorrow will bring, but at this moment in time, it’s fun watching the Baby Bombers perform in their infancy.  

I always thought it was cool that Derek Jeter was a Yankees fan as a kid.  When the Yankees drafted pitcher James Kaprielian and outfielder Blake Rutherford, both Californians, I didn’t realize that both had been Yankees fans growing up.  I remember when Rutherford was picked by the Yankees last year out of high school.  My first question, not really knowing much about Rutherford, was about his sign-ability.  I remember being disappointed a few years ago when the Yankees drafted pitcher Gerrit Cole and then were unable to sign him.  There’s always a fear that will happen again.  What I didn’ t know was how much Rutherford loved the Yankees.  I am not sure if he would have gone to college had he been drafted by another team, but we’ll never know.  He signed and is now one of the organization’s top prospects.  If/when he makes it to the Bronx, I am sure his little league pics showing a small boy wearing Yankees hat and jersey will be on display in the New York papers.

It would be even better if Kaprielian and Rutherford win world championships (plural, please) for their lifelong favorite team.

After four spring games, the Yankees are 3-1.  I know, spring records mean absolutely nothing.  Still, it’s exciting that the starters have performed well so far, and the Yankees could have easily been undefeated at this point.  It’s even better that none of the starters have included rotation mainstays Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, and CC Sabathia.  The intensity of games will start to pick up in a few weeks, and we’ll see longer starts by the regulars.  Even though the February (and March) wins mean nada, winning is fun any way you slice it.  So far, it’s been an exciting start for training camp.  We’ll lose a few players like Didi, Tyler Clippard and Dellin Betances to the WBC, but camp moves on.  Go players with numbers > 70!

This Day in New York Yankees History 2/28: Cocaine is a hell of a Drug

On this day in 2000 Yankees outfielder and DH Darryl Strawberry is suspended for one year after testing positive for cocaine last month. Bud Selig would not allow Strawberry back early from the suspension based on good behavior. This would essentially mark the end of Strawberry's career.