Silverman: This Steinbrenner Is All Business
By Steve Silverman
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George Steinbrenner made the New York Yankees his life.
From the time he bought the Yankees from Mike Burke and CBS in 1973, he was bound and determined to make them a successful business. He quickly realized that allowing the Yankees to remain as the “other” team in New York and battle to stay around the .500 mark was no way to go. He spent money, lots of it, to lead the Yankees back to glory.
While he was not a legacy owner the way that George Halas – a former Yankee outfielder – was with the Chicago Bears in the NFL, no American sports owner was more identified with his team than Steinbrenner was with the Yankees. He made the team his priority.
After his death in 2010, there has been something different about the way the Yankees are perceived. Even when he was in failing health for several years prior to his death, it was George Steinbrenner’s team –and nobody dared mess with it.
Hal Steinbrenner is not George Steinbrenner. This is no shock to longtime Yankee observers. He may have his moments behind closed doors, but he seems content to let his professionals do the job. Published reports indicate that Prince Hal does not share his father’s passion for the game and that he does not have the stomach for handing out $100 million contracts to players no matter what their level of production. In fact, Hal likes young talent. The kind that you draft, raise in the minor leagues and then promote to the big club. The kind of talent that doesn’t cost him much cash.
While Hal knows his father’s devotion to his team was off the charts, he simply does not share the same level of interest as his dad. He runs the team as a business and he knows the business is most successful when the team is winning, but that’s not the old Steinbrenner formula.
So when the Los Angeles Dodgers, who had basically been run into the ground, are sold for $2 billion, how can Steinbrenner and his clan not even think about the largesse that would come their way if the Yankees were sold to another owner? If the Dodgers can fetch that much, the Yankees could get $2.5 billion, $3 billion or more. Steinbrenner would be the one to ask. He has described himself as a “finance geek” and he probably goes to sleep at night thinking of numbers like that.
You can’t blame him either. He was probably reminded every day of his life that he’s no George Steinbrenner, and to his credit, he doesn’t pretend to be. The Yankees are on top of the heap when it comes to baseball and while Major League Baseball gets overwhelmed by the National Football League in nearly every business category, the Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys run neck-and-neck among American pro sports franchises. Forbes Magazine gave the Cowboys a slight edge last July in the publication’s annual valuation of sports franchises, but that was before the Dodgers were sold and the Yankees will likely have a shot at the top spot in this year’s ranking.
If Steinbrenner simply looks at the operation as a business entity, he will take emotion out of it and make a business decision. The Yankees make money and tons of it. In a sport where many of the competitors struggle, the Yankees’ outlook continues to be strong. He can make money whether he holds on to the team or sells it.
But he also knew the Yankees meant something more to his father. That competitive factor may not be as strong a part of the son’s makeup. If it isn’t, he has to consider selling the team and it just might be the right direction to go.
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman was with Pro Football Weekly for 10 years and his byline has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Playboy, NFL.com and The Sporting News. He is the author of four books, including Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Football — The Top 60 Players of All-Time. Follow him on Twitter (@profootballboy).
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