By Jason Keidel
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No matter what you felt about George Steinbrenner as a man, you never questioned his maniacal devotion to the Yankees. No matter how myopic or misguided his moves were at times – from making the manager’s office more transient than a campground to making illegal campaign contributions to hiring Howie Spira to spy on Dave Winfield to trading young studs for old stars – his mission statement to pour practically every penny he earned back into the Yankees was earnest and honest. And that was before he had a new stadium and television network.

But the Boss’s absence has left a wider hole than anticipated. At first it seemed his progeny were prodigies, wrenching open the vault for CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, and A.J. Burnett, who helped restore the Yankees to their familiar perch of pennants and World Series rings in 2009.

But now Hal, who’s clearly above brother Hank on the Yankees’ food chain, is cutting all corporate fat. A self-styled “numbers geek,” the younger Steinbrenner son has become obsessed with $189 million, which is the soft salary cap MLB has instituted. Thus he let Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, Raul Ibanez, and other fertile bats walk away. And now with Curtis Granderson on the shelf and Teixeira recently reading the fine print on his wrist injury – which has mutated from a strain to a torn sheath – the Yanks barely have enough power to light their gaudy ballpark.

The Steinbrenners, sans George, have broken an implicit agreement we’ve had with them for decades. We pay extra because we know they will pay extra. It’s been perfectly profitable for both sides. They stack trophies and we get perpetual bragging rights. Now they want your money but plan to pocket it. Essentially, the Yanks and you are paying for A-Rod’s contract, not only in the stands but in the standings. You can’t be expected to pay $2,500 for ringside seats in April and then year the brass cry poverty when players fall to injury. This is what the Mets do, not the Yankees.

The Yankees should have signed Josh Hamilton. You know the old man would have, even if the Boss did it to bogart the back page more than anything. Signing Hamilton to a long-term deal is a bad business decision because of his age and injury history. But not because of his peripheral appetites. The idea that Hamilton and New York City were a toxic bond because he’s a recovering drug addict is laughable.

They don’t sell drugs in Dallas? While he was supposedly struggling with his dark side, he led the American League in RBI (130) in 2008. And then he hit a measly .359 in 2010, wining the batting title and AL MVP. Last year, on the north side of the toxic chronological watermark of 30, he hit 43 home runs, with 128 RBI and 103 runs scored. Hard to do while hitting the pipe.

And surely they don’t sell drugs in Los Angeles, his new home. For all my profound love of New York City, where I was born and will die, we are guilty of grotesque elitism. Hamilton can’t handle the five boroughs because of the night life. They don’t have dealers in Dallas, no nightclubs or narcotics in Los Angeles. Only in New York City will he be drawn to some dark corner under a broken streetlamp, where the demons congregate.

He’s given more urine samples than Lance Armstrong. And despite the two-pronged pressure of playing pro sports and resisting the whispers of his addiction, he’s been a beast the last five years. Is he worth a five-year deal? Of course not. But that’s pro forma for pro baseball. You know you’ll get three great years and hope he’ll at least tread water for the rest. Look at A-Rod, Johan Santana, and Pedro Martinez. You pay the cash for the cachet and then hope the risk brought sufficient reward before Father Time takes his cut.

Narcotics are a $300 billion industry because they’re sold everywhere, not just Newark, the Bronx, and Baltimore, If you don’t want Hamilton because of age, wage, injury, or attitude, fine. But the drug addict angle is so obtuse that maybe you need to sit down and watch an episode of “Drugs, Inc.” – where they throw darts at a map and chronicle the rampant, irrepressible drug trade, where cops run up the eternal treadmill of the “War on Drugs.”

If they had Hamilton, the Yankees wouldn’t have to fumble for a power source today – an emergency, overpriced generator to keep the team afloat, like Kevin Youkilis ($12 million). Imagine Cano and Hamilton batting 3rd and 4th until the troops arrive? We don’t have to, because it’s just a dream. We didn’t have to dream with George Steinbrenner. He made them come true before we could.

Did the Yankees drop the ball by not signing Josh Hamilton? Which team will have more success in the playoffs? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…