Hank Steinbrenner's Backtracking Shows He's Not the Boss
Are you listening, Hank?
I mean, everybody knows what (and who) George's oldest son was referring to this week when Hank Steinbrenner said of the Yankees failing to repeat last season after winning the 2009 World Series: "Some of the players are too busy building mansions and not concentrating on winning."
Not coincidentally, the Yankees' current Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle and Jackson -- named Derek Jeter -- is in the final stages of building a multimillion dollar mansion in Tampa.
When the inevitable media explosion came over Hank's comments, the son didn't resemble the father. That is to say, Hank didn't stand before as many cameras as possible and utter something such as, "Yeah, I said it. So what is blankety blank going to do about it?"
Instead, not only did Hank return to first base later that day after his comments, he returned all the way to the batter's box and swore he wasn't talking about Jeter -- which he was.
"It was a generalization, a euphemism," Hank said. "A bad choice of euphemism. That's all it was."
And there are no pinstripes on the Yankees home uniforms.
George once blasted St. Jeter, too. Remember? He said his team captain was having too much of a nightlife. Afterward, with George refusing to do anything less than keep rounding the bases, the two combined for one of the funniest commercials ever. It was a spoof of George's rip of Jeter, and it even featured them dancing in a conga line.
There will be no such commercials for Jeter and Hank. That's because 53-year-old Hank is succumbing to all of the outside pressure to keep his mouth shut after he had it wide and active soon after he and his younger brother, Hal, 41, unofficially were handed the keys to the Yankees in 2007 by their ailing father. They officially became owners during the fall of 2008 when baseball approved as much.
So there was Hank back then, resembling George in a slew of ways, which meant Hank kept smacking controversy high and deep -- well, except for the designated hitter thing.
After Yankees pitcher Chien-Ming Wang was injured running the bases during an interleague game in 2008 against the Houston Astros, Hank fumed. He said the National League needed to join the modern age by adopting the DH. But the truth is, the AL should go back to the future by getting rid of the worst rule in sports.
We'll agree to disagree on that one.
On everything else ...
Hank said that the overall appeal of the "Red Sox Nation" is highly overrated and that this is more of a Yankee country.
No problem there. Then you had Hank's verbal fit after a physical feud during spring training three years ago between his Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays. Between clenched teeth, he mentioned that the primary reason the Rays still exist these days is due to the revenue sharing they receive from the Yankees, for instance.
"I don't want these teams to forget who subsidizes a lot of them," said Hank, whose point was well taken. So was his remark that current Yankees manager Joe Girardi is more spirited in his approach than his laid-back predecessor, Joe Torre.
Since then, Hank mostly has been monk-like, but in recent months, there have been signs of his return to the Land of Gab and of George -- you know, his Jeter backtracking, not withstanding.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman didn't want to sign reliever Rafael Soriano last month for a first-round draft pick, but Hank did.
Then, during the same time this week that Hank talked of mansions and complacency involving his Yankees, he also discussed the evils of baseball's revenue-sharing plan and luxury tax that has the rich teams giving to the poor ones after each season.
"Socialism, communism, whatever you want to call it, is never the answer," Hank said, sounding like George.
Speaking of George, I was among the reporters in Kohler, Wis., during the fall of 1993 when the baseball owners met at a resort to set the foundation for the Mother of all Strikes in sports. It wiped out the entire season (including the World Series) the following year.
During one of the sessions, as we stood outside a ballroom waiting for the owners to emerge for interviews, there was a booming voice on the other side of the closed and locked doors.
It was George. He screamed, "It's my money, and it's not right. It's just not right to force me to share it with ..."
That's the clean version.
George wasn't wimpy about anything, especially when he blasted Reggie "Mr. October" Jackson or Billy Martin -- and you know what he thought about Dave Winfield, whom he dubbed "Mr. May."
Maybe that's why Hank hasn't a problem with leaving most of the Yankees' day-to-day operations to Hal.
Deep down inside, when it comes to running the Yankees, Hank really wants to be George, but he realizes nobody can.