(…and save it for someone who really deserves such treatment,
Lastings Milledge Oliver Platt!)
“There is nothing courageous about mugging a septuagenarian, writes Newsday’s Wallace Matthews, “even if his name is George M. Steinbrenner III”. Matthews, taking a dim view of the recent scrutiny afforded the ailing Yankee owner, warns “the real story here is not that Steinbrenner is now a diminished old man, no more threatening than one of our grandfathers or our favorite old uncle, but that without his volatile presence, the Yankees surely are a diminished organization and team.”
It wasn’t just about the money he spent but the results he expected. There were no free rides when Steinbrenner was on the job. Even more than results, he demanded accountability. Regardless of whether you were a player, a manager, a GM or the guy who drives his limo, if you couldn’t do the job he expected, he would find someone who could.
That is what is missing from too many organizations these days, from the White House on down: the sense that if you screw up, you will pay for it. That sense has been missing from the Yankees for the past few years, or about as long as George Steinbrenner has been missing in action.
It is clear there is little direction from the top and no real leadership in the Yankees’ front office. More than the inevitable aging of Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, more than the likely opt-out of A-Rod or the impending exit of Joe Torre, it is the absence of Steinbrenner that will be the hardest void for the Yankees to fill. Anyone who remembers the dreadful days when CBS owned the club knows exactly what I am talking about.
That is the part of the story we ignore while focusing on the tawdry little details of a 77-year-old man repeating himself, or forgetting names, or staring slack-jawed into space while the newly brave among us start bringing out the heavy artillery. What true joy can there be in beating up a once-formidable man who can no longer fight back?
While I’m generally reluctant to credit Steinbrenner, Matthews makes a valid point. With the possible exception of Buddy Bell replacing Joe Torre, there is no possibility, no matter how farfetched, that should terrify Bombers fans nearly as much as James Dolan attempting to purchase the team.