By Steve Kallas
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Once upon a time, whether you liked him or not, George Steinbrenner was the sheriff of the New York Yankees. For better or worse (and mostly for worse until he was suspended from baseball in the early 1990s), Steinbrenner ruled the roost – no deal got done without him, he routinely overruled and/or humiliated his underlings, he passed blame for his stupid decisions from himself to anybody else.
But, like him or not, he eventually got out of the way (due to suspension) and Stick Michael did what Stick Michael does – evaluate talent better than anyone – and the Yankees reached legendary proportions (again) with four World Series titles in five years.
But that was then; this is now.
WHO RUNS THE SHOW?
Well, you would like to think that it’s Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi. And, for the most part, it is. But Girardi, having that age-old problem of managing guys he played with (and particularly touchy with Jorge Posada, who took his job back in the 1990s), is having his issues (and they are not just off the field; Why did Girardi leave AJ Burnett in last night just long enough to lose a game the Yankees could have won?). And Cashman, who for decades had to swallow hard while Steinbrenner vetoed some of his decisions or forced other ones, now has to swallow hard for a different group of front office people, none of whom really knows the game, and none of whom built the Yankees into a powerhouse.
Both Girardi and Cashman are in a very difficult spot.
The answer to the question “Who runs the show?” is nobody. And therein lies the problem.
WHAT ABOUT THE FRONT OFFICE?
Well, what about the front office? With egos repressed for many years when George Steinbrenner was alive and lucid, they now come out of the woodwork to try and take credit for Yankee success and run the show. If they are not named Steinbrenner, most Yankee fans don’t even know their names. If they are named Steinbrenner, Hank has been viewed to be a loose cannon and Hal, at least from a distance, seems to be a guy that doesn’t want in on the day-to-day battle that involves running the most successful franchise in the history of the world.
WHAT ABOUT THE POSADA EPISODE?
Well, nobody comes out looking good in this one. Did Posada lie? Hard to say, but it’s inexplicable that Posada didn’t tell Girardi or Cashman that his back hurt when he said he wouldn’t play Saturday night against the Red Sox. And nobody directly asked him the question: Why did you need a day off to get your head together or collect your thoughts If the reason you couldn’t play was because you had a back injury?
It was strange for Brian Cashman to go on Fox with kind of a pre-emptive strike (“There was no injury situation”). Whether he was made to do it by the front office or he did it of his own accord, it was a mistake. But Brian Cashman, with 25 years in the organization, has also decided, for better or worse, to be very vocal and pro-active in these situations. He certainly must be looking around (especially at those perceived to be above him in the “front office”) and shaking his head at the new group of egos involved.
WHERE’S THE CAPTAIN IN ALL OF THIS?
Well, you know Derek Jeter is going to stick up for his “brother.” In fact, Jeter is probably looking at an issue that may very well come up for him in a year or two (that is, aging Yankee great who can’t do it anymore). And if you think the Posada contract was a bad contract, look at the Jeter contract (and don’t forget the disgrace of the winter when Jeter’s agent found a three year, $45 million offer “baffling,” which led to the Brian Cashman ill-advised “go shopping” comment).
And if you think the Jeter contract is a bad one (this writer views it as a lifetime achievement award), how do you think the A-Rod contract is going to look in a few years?
Hopefully, you get the point.
WHAT WE HAVE HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE
There had to be a better way to drop Posada to ninth in the order. Give him a week’s notice: “Jorge, we are going to move you down in the line-up if you don’t start producing.” Or something to that effect. He’s a prideful, volatile guy who deserves that respect.
But often-times the Yankee front office (and even the manager), rid of the shackles of working for George Steinbrenner, now tries to act like he did: my way or the highway.
And don’t think this is remotely a gracious nod to the legacy of George Steinbrenner; it’s not. Any person or any organization who thinks a George Steinbrenner plaque in Monument Park should dwarf the likes of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle simply doesn’t understand Yankee tradition.
You see, for the true Yankee fan, the Yankees were (are) never about Jacob Ruppert or Dan Topping or George Steinbrenner. The Yankees, for the true Yankee fan, were, are and always will be about Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle and all the other great players who won 27 World Series. And while none of the present-day Yankees (except maybe Mariano, in his own way) comes close to the talents of the above-mentioned four, the leaders of this incredible run are Jeter, Mariano and Posada.
And that should never be forgotten.
SO, WHO IS THE NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN?
There simply isn’t any. So what you have is a gigantic spitting contest among various people within the organization.
And that’s a very bad thing.
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