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Thread: NY Times Magazine - Steinbrenner, Designated Villain

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    Redsmetz redsmetz's Avatar
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    NY Times Magazine - Steinbrenner, Designated Villain

    Here's an interesting piece from today's New York Times Magazine viz George Steinbrenner and his legacy. The part that jumped out at me was his comment, highlighted below, about taking the "joy out of not winning."
    August 19, 2007
    The Way We Live Now
    Designated Villain
    By JAMES TRAUB

    I come to bury George Steinbrenner, not to praise him. The all-conquering owner of the New York Yankees is not actually dead, of course, though he has withdrawn from public view; in a recent news account, a baseball executive described the Yankee owner as “inconsistently lucid.” But the era of the man who has in many ways personified baseballto the detriment of a game that many Americans, despite everything, still cherish — has ended. Historians will note that the terminal moment arrived July 31, when the Yankees, though trailing the first-place Boston Red Sox by eight games, allowed the league’s trading deadline to pass without dealing away any of their minor-league prospects in exchange for an established star who might help them win right now.

    The Steinbrenner Yankees have always been prepared to mortgage the future for the present—and then to buy a new future the following year. The owner, a former football coach, has brought a devouring impatience to a sport that teaches a rueful regard for time and chance. Yankee fans can toll off the names of those desperate, and occasionally wise, midseason acquisitions of years past: George Scott, the shambling man-mountain first baseman; Omar Moreno; Cecil Fielder; David Justice; Glenallen Hill; Jeff Weaver; and, last season, Bobby Abreu, the team’s current right fielder. The Yankees deaccessioned some of their most gifted young players in exchange (as well as a raft of has-beens).

    Steinbrenner’s philosophy has always been: I pay you top dollar; you produce. But this grim form of accountability turns out to be not only joyless but also self-defeating, because athletes, like the rest of us, need to reach for something beyond greed and fear. You need look for proof no further than the great Yankees teams of the late 1990s, built on a core of players, including the current heroes Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, who spent their entire careers with the club. That was a team, not just an assemblage of talent. And it was largely put together while Steinbrenner was banished from the league for a year.

    In his Ahab-like quest for victory and redemption, Steinbrenner stands apart even from the other self-indulgent tycoons who control Major League Baseball. Only the Yankees’ owner is the protagonist of a TV miniseries (“The Bronx Is Burning,” about the insanely fractious team of 1977). Only Steinbrenner’s Yankees have been described by a rival, Larry Lucchino of the Boston Red Sox, as “the Evil Empire.” The Yankee panjandrum is one of America’s great cartoon villains — Donald Trump without the self-love and sex appeal, Ted Turner without the bleeding heart, Rupert Murdoch without the global vision.

    And a cartoon villain, unlike the real thing, is a source of delight. I suspect that Steinbrenner will prove irreplaceable for those millions of fans who have relished hating him and his vaunted team for the last 34 years. For them, he has offered endless entertainment as well as cheap moral satisfaction, a kind of unearned sense of superiority. Think of how conservatives love to hate Teddy Kennedy.

    But for Yankee fans, the ledger is much more complicated. Steinbrenner raised the Yankees from the pitiful state in which he found them in 1973; under his tenure, the team has won 6 World Series and 10 league championships. And from the point of view of the true fan, it is quite literally impossible to take the fun out of winning. You can, however, take the fun out of not winning. Since 2001, Steinbrenner has regularly apologized to the people of New York for not winning the World Series, as if we sought or deserved such an apology. (How would he explain the besotted diehards of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who wept bitter tears with each season’s disappointment and then rallied round the cry, “Wait till next year!”?) He has traded away true-blue Yankees who have gone on to shine elsewhere for the likes of Jason Giambi, a steroid-jacked slugger with a gargantuan contract and swiftly declining numbers. And all the while he has publicly twisted the thumbscrews on his general manager, Brian Cashman, and beloved manager, Joe Torre. Steinbrenner has, in short, made baseball feel like yet another of life’s remorseless struggles, like politics or Wall Street or the war on terror.

    Michael Novak, the Catholic philosopher and sometime sports metaphysician, has written, perhaps only half in jest, that sports occupy “the Kingdom of Ends” — things done for their own sake — and thus constitute something finer and more lasting than work and history, which operate in the realm of means, of endless and restless seeking. And of all sports, baseball seems richest in vivid particulars. “There are oceans of satisfaction, seas of restored appetite, in as humble a thing as a baseball season,” as the sportswriter Thomas Boswell has written. And yes, it’s true that the ludicrous sums paid to players and the scandal over steroid use, which turned Barry Bonds’s quest to erase the career home-run record into a neuralgic event, have made it hard to speak of baseball’s “sanctity” without irony. And yet something remains.

    Baseball, I think, still holds a precious enough place in our souls that it can be desecrated — just as, say, a great newspaper can be. That’s why Murdoch can buy all the satellite distribution systems he wants, but we quake when he snaps his fingers at The Wall Street Journal. And that’s why we wish baseball, despite everything, to abide in the Kingdom of Ends. We want the sport, like other endeavors we care deeply about, to be worthy of our love. Is that too much to ask?

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    breath westofyou's Avatar
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    Re: NY Times Magazine - Steinbrenner, Designated Villain

    The owner, a former football coach, has brought a devouring impatience to a sport that teaches a rueful regard for time and chance.
    "We plan an absentee ownership.We're not going to pretend to be something we aren't. I'll stick to building ships. I'm looking forward to coming to town just to see the games... I hope I can get a seat."

    George Steinbrenner 1973

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    Redsmetz redsmetz's Avatar
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    Re: NY Times Magazine - Steinbrenner, Designated Villain

    Quote Originally Posted by westofyou View Post
    The owner, a former football coach, has brought a devouring impatience to a sport that teaches a rueful regard for time and chance.
    "We plan an absentee ownership.We're not going to pretend to be something we aren't. I'll stick to building ships. I'm looking forward to coming to town just to see the games... I hope I can get a seat."

    George Steinbrenner 1973
    Actually the part you quoted stood out to me as well as the highlighted amount - "a devouring impatience".

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    Mon chou Choo vaticanplum's Avatar
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    Re: NY Times Magazine - Steinbrenner, Designated Villain

    It's a good point this article makes. The Yankees are so expected to win with the players they pay that it's such a shock and disappointment when they don't (year. after year. after year.) However, I think the author glosses over two major points:

    1. This is not new for the Yankees, not even with Steinbrenner. The Yankees have a strong tradition of winning at all costs, and of acquiring the best players possible with whatever means dictated by the times. Free agency has only exacerbated things for the public because we can see so clearly what they're getting paid, but the win-win-win at all costs attitude has been the Yankees' mantra since the 20s. In fact, the only major lapse in winning for them was when I was a kid in the 80s and they sucked -- and Steinbrenner owned the team then.

    2. The author seriously glosses over the slight shift in Yankee philosophy over the past few years (probably due to Steinbrenner beginning to lose it and Cashman having more say in his own moves). The author berates the team both for letting this year's trade deadline slip by without any major moves while simultaneously lamenting the loss of "true blue" Yankees for people like Jason Giambi (and Giambi, when healthy and not chasing down his steroid accusations, has been very good with the Yankees). I understand both of these points for a Yankees fan, but you have to pick one or the other. As it is, the idea of the Yankees buying their team is no longer fully accurate. In fact, the Yankees are extremely close to having a more home-grown team than any other team in baseball. 12 of their 25-man roster are currently home-grown (Jeter, Posada, Wang, Cano, Chamberlin, Cabrera, Pettitte, Duncan, Rivera, Henn, Phillips and Edwar Ramirez (drafted by the Angels, but released and redid the whole path with the Yankees. (credit to my Yankees blog for this list) Only one of those guys (Pettitte) has ever even played for another team. The Yankees are likely to call up Jose Tabata and Austin Jackson (both outfielders) sometime next year if they're ready, meaning that the Yankees are extremely close to theoretically putting an entire (good!) team of home-grown players on the field with the exception of A-Rod. That is remarkable, and that would bring me much joy even if they don't win.

    I don't think there's been a major shift in Yankee philosophy; it's still win-win-win and will be for many years to come, even post-Steinbrenner. But the build of the team is shifting slightly, and if somebody is going hang Steinbrenner as a villain for the way he has purchased a winning team that doesn't win, that person would do well to look at the facts of the team and reconsider what else can make him happy besides only winning.
    Last edited by vaticanplum; 08-20-2007 at 10:32 AM.
    There is no such thing as a pitching prospect.

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    Mon chou Choo vaticanplum's Avatar
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    Re: NY Times Magazine - Steinbrenner, Designated Villain

    edit: I forgot about Phil Hughes. So that's actually 13 homegrown players on the Yankees' 25-man at present, which is over half.

    cannot edit original post anymore, sorry for the double post.
    There is no such thing as a pitching prospect.

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    Re: NY Times Magazine - Steinbrenner, Designated Villain

    as much as i hate Steinbrenner, at least he TRYS to improve the team! we just get to see excuse after excuse each year why the Reds rich owners cant do that here...

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    The Lineups stink. KronoRed's Avatar
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    Re: NY Times Magazine - Steinbrenner, Designated Villain

    Steinbrenner doesn't lose money on his team so expecting the Reds owners to do the same is not logical, pouring cash down the drain isn't why how they got rich in the first place
    Go Gators!

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    Haunted by walks
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    Re: NY Times Magazine - Steinbrenner, Designated Villain

    The only thing that ever bugged me about the Yankees was that they thought they were rocket scientists, but every season at the All-Star break they had to buy somebody else's starting pitcher or corner outfielder.

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    You're soaking in it! MartyFan's Avatar
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    Re: NY Times Magazine - Steinbrenner, Designated Villain

    Quote Originally Posted by BCubb2003 View Post
    The only thing that ever bugged me about the Yankees was that they thought they were rocket scientists, but every season at the All-Star break they had to buy somebody else's starting pitcher or corner outfielder.
    I get where that is annoying...sort of like a team spending 300 million in the off season to dominate and sort of just hang in there in a very weak division.

    A couple years back is when I noticed that the Yankees minor league system was as strong as it has been, can they continue it? Probably and the stars will all be home grown...When A-Rod opts out of his contract, who moves to 3B? Jeter? do they have someone in the Minors ready to go there or will they trade or sign a FA?
    "Sometimes, it's not the sexiest moves that put you over the top," Krivsky said. "It's a series of transactions that help you get there."

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    Churlish Johnny Footstool's Avatar
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    Re: NY Times Magazine - Steinbrenner, Designated Villain

    The Onion's Sports page has a great story on the Yankees.

    I can't post a link, because there's profanity in the title of the .htm document.

    If you're offended by profanity, do not go to the Onion read it.
    "I prefer books and movies where the conflict isn't of the extreme cannibal apocalypse variety I guess." Redsfaithful

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    Mon chou Choo vaticanplum's Avatar
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    Re: NY Times Magazine - Steinbrenner, Designated Villain

    Quote Originally Posted by MartyFan View Post
    When A-Rod opts out of his contract, who moves to 3B? Jeter? do they have someone in the Minors ready to go there or will they trade or sign a FA?
    I think there's less than 10% chance that A-Rod will opt out of his contract at this point. And Jeter would be a horrible third baseman.
    There is no such thing as a pitching prospect.

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    Big Red Machine RedsBaron's Avatar
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    Re: NY Times Magazine - Steinbrenner, Designated Villain

    Quote Originally Posted by redsmetz View Post
    Here's an interesting piece from today's New York Times Magazine viz George Steinbrenner and his legacy. The part that jumped out at me was his comment, highlighted below, about taking the "joy out of not winning."
    The Reds management has certainly tried to keep the "joy of not winning" available for all Reds fans.
    "Hey...Dad. Wanna Have A Catch?" Kevin Costner in "Field Of Dreams."


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