The New York Times’ Play Magazine has a highly entertaining article on what I like to think of as Steinbrenners: The New Class. It’s by Jonathan Mahler, who wrote the excellent Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx Is Burning (don’t let the clunky ESPN miniseries put you off). If you’re at all interested in the topic it’s well worth reading the entire thing, but here are a few quotes that caught my eye:
*On Jessica Steinbrenner’s ex:
“Before Lopez, Jessica, who is in her mid-40s, was married to Joseph Molloy, who served briefly as the team’s general partner when Steinbrenner was banned from baseball in the early 1990s. (Molloy is now a physical-education teacher at a middle school in Tampa; Jessica keeps an office at Legends Field but devotes most of her time to the family’s horses.)”
From general partner of the Yankees to middle school gym teacher. That guy’s head must still be spinning.
*Jennifer Swindal Steinbrenner on the openings left by the DUI arrest and subsequent divorce of her ex-husband Steve Swindal:
“… Jennifer avoided discussing the change in management caused by her ex-husband’s departure. Instead, she dismissed her tabloid divorce, and the resulting upheaval within the Yankees, with peppy spin. “It couldn’t have been scripted any better,” she told me.”
Really? Not any better?
*On the new Stadium’s field:
“…the rain tarp will be moved from the first-base side of the field to the third-base side so that Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, the Yankees’ two most valuable assets, will have something soft to land on when they dive after foul balls…”
This is great. Sorry, Shelley Duncan! Pay real close attention to those fielding lessons with Tino, and try not to break anything when you and your very affordable contract crash into cold , hard metal!
*The money quote, Hank on the Red Sox:
“Red Sox Nation?” Hank says. “What a bunch of [expletive] that is. That was a creation of the Red Sox and ESPN, which is filled with Red Sox fans. Go anywhere in America and you won’t see Red Sox hats and jackets, you’ll see Yankee hats and jackets. This is a Yankee country. We’re going to put the Yankees back on top and restore the universe to order.”
I’m still trying to figure out whether to cringe or laugh over this one; I suppose since everyone already thinks of the Yankees as arrogant, you may as well embrace that identity and make it your own. And really — if he’d said something diplomatic about what a great organization Boston has, you’d have been bored to tears, right? Just give in.
Release your anger… with our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy…
*A surprisingly honest assessment of the team from everyone’s favorite alleged Joe Torre backstabber Randy Levine:
“The Yankees today are an entertainment company with a baseball team at its core,” Randy Levine, the team’s president, told me recently, ticking off some of the club’s less visible businesses, including its memorabilia company, Yankees-Steiner Collectibles, which sells players’ game-used uniforms and gear, and its partnership with the Japanese media company Yomiuri Shimbun, the owner of the Yomiuri Giants.
Personally I think sports are entertainment in and of themselves, but that’s not the point here; Levine is acknowledging that the actual Yankees are now almost incidental to the massive corporation they’re part of. The team is always central to the fans, of course, but not so much to the owners:
Last summer, when Goldman Sachs was shopping around its approximately 40 percent stake in YES, the network was valued at around $3 billion. According to Forbes magazine, the team itself isn’t worth half that.
That’s the reality of modern big market sports. But it makes me nervous, because it’s shades of Cablevision — which is such a vast empire that no matter what a disgrace the Knicks mutate into, their owners, the Dolans, feel virtually no ill effects financially. Obviously the Yankees, as big as they are, aren’t a monster like Cablevision, but I’m traumatized from years of Isiah Thomas basketball and I do worry. The timeline at the end of the Play story reminded me, much to my horror, that Cablevision actually tried to buy a big share of the Yankees back in 1998, and came extremely close to an agreement; the deal collapsed because Steinbrenner wouldn’t give up control.
Whatever George Steinbrenner’s faults — and they were many — let us never forget that his stubbornness spared New York baseball from the staggering horrorshow that is Jim Dolan. In my book, that that makes up for quite a few illegal Nixon campaign contributions.