Where is the Next George Steinbrenner?
I was glancing today through the new Sports Illustrated that appeared somehow in my Baseball bag and noticed an article in the back of the magazine with the title: “Baseball Needs a New Boss”. Of course after reading that title you would think it might be a rousing call for a change at the top of baseball, with Bud Selig in the cross hairs. But it is not, it is a call for the next generation of “The Boss” Now when you hear or see that name in a paper, blog, or even in a video you only have one true name come to mind, and no, I am not talking about Bruce Springsteen either here.
George Steinbrenner in his prime was one of those pesky flies that buzz your brain, or neighbors that always had an opinion, and was sure to go to the mountain top and tell the entire neighborhood house by house. He might have had a menacing type of management style, but it was effective to a “T”. For some reason, the sport has seemed a bit dull since the Boss officially gave the reins of the New York Yankee conglomerate to his sons only 6 months ago. Hank has tried to be the Boss reincarnated at times, but he lacks the consistent drive and passion his father did in making a scene, then getting his point across with hard nosed facts and a few very loud comments to follow the noise throughout the league.
We truly need another guy like him. There are millions of ideas popping throughout the blogging community on how to improve and even save the game we all love daily. But there is not that loud resonating voice to carry it out into the darkness and awaken the sleepy heads of the baseball hierarchy. George is now 78 years old, and might still have the heart and the passion of a much younger man, but his body is finally giving him a sign to slow down and be more of a silent partner. And you know that is killing him inside. He is not the visual persona of the Yankee faithful anymore. His rare outings are confined to his new Yankee Stadium opening, and a select number of charity and speaking engagements. He is mostly situated in his Westshore Blvd. home in Tampa, Florida now watching from a distance, but you know he yearns to be in the fray of it all.
I got the privilege of meeting George on Super Bowl Sunday about 10 years ago when he was out chatting with a NFL vendor selling merchandise at the roadside for the big game. He and his bodyguard/chauffeur were at a small gas station at Kennedy Blvd and West Shore and he was getting ready to go to the game as a guest of Malcom Glazer, the Tampa Bay Bucs owner. We stood there talking for about 10 minutes about his team and his recent hiring of Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry and the wild new rivalry starting between the then Devilrays and his beloved Bronx Boys. He was very courteous and polite, and was a bit of a joy to speak with on that roadside. I could not see the horror that most sports people saw in the man that day. But then it wasn’t baseball season, and his team had just finished another great season months earlier.
So who do we have in the ownership community in baseball right now who could become the next “Boss”?. Could it be the ever loving Stuart Sternberg, the Rays owner? I am inclined to say that Sternberg has too much of a good guy charisma going for him in the ownership circles. He has been one of those guys already who just seem happy to be here and is loving the ride. But then again, the team has not floundered and we could see another side of him if the day turns dark and the skies are filled with boos in the stadium. But, no, he is not in the running or even on the ballot for this post. We need to find another Marge Schott in the majors right now. You know, someone who treats her dogs with more respect than her team or its players. For a short time there, in the past I thought Ted Turner when he was up on that Atlanta Braves totem pole might be another great “boss”, but he fell from grace and sold his soul to Liberty Media Corp.
Who among the current owners is at least has the spunk potential of “The Boss”? I guess the best answer to that might be in the genes of the previous boss. Hank Steinbrenner has the boldness and the “foot in mouth” karma he father possessed, but he is more tactical and more driven by the sheer dollar signs than his father right now. His passion for the game is without question a fraction of his father’s, but time and the American League East standings could change that. Maybe it might be the crew of owners not firmly seated into the ownership bubble yet that could make some noise. Troy Aikman is a part of the new San Diego Padres ownership conglomerate. Maybe he can pull out one of the old Barry Switzer’s speeches and get some fires built under the wealth group, but then again, he has always been a team player and might be happy in a behind-the-scenes role that pumping his fist and bellowing throughout the San Diego community.
Or maybe it might be the proposed new owner of the Chicago Cubs. You know the same guy who is now pimping $ 25 million pacts to the Windy City celebrities to come on board on the ground level of his bid to take over the team from the Tribune Corp. Such a bold move to even try and bring in the celebrity Cubbies like Bill Murray, John Cusack, and Jim Belushi could be just the kettle beginning to boil a bit for the soon-to-be confirmed owner. But then again who is this guy………….Oh, he is Tom Ricketts, who is a part of the TD Ameritrade brood that brought you that adorable baby winning at golf from a high chair. Could he be the guy to take over the boss’s karma and lead the baseball top tier back into the light?
I would love to think he would based on his unconventional measures and outlandish schemes to get the extra capital to purchase the Cubbies. But, you never know, he could just be hiding his true personality until they get to know him, then spring on them like a cheetah on a helpless zebra. But really, the current mosh pit of MLB owners doesn’t have another brash, abrasive owner in their mix. They all seem to either be business men who love baseball, or just plain business men. So far I will have to give the nod to Hank for coming the closest to his father. His throwing away contracts and players like an ol
d Reggie candy bar wrapper this season is a perfect example of Steinbrenner-ism.
I mean even his taunting of the powerful Red Sox Nation earlier in the year is an action that is becoming a Steinbrenner. But still, he is in the infancy stage of his transformation into a true baseball owner. He is silent and respectful now, but who knows what will come of his personality or his behavior once he feels like he belongs in the ivory tower for good. Even during the recent Yankee pitfall to a cellar spot he seemed to stand by and watch while in the past his father would have bellowed that everyone from the ticket taker to the General Manager was accountable for the team’s success.
Some one has to come forward soon, because I can truly say I miss the old George Steinbrenner rants and raves. I truly think if Joe Girardi survives this year with the Yankees, he had better play the Lotto, because you know the previous owner would have been down in that clubhouse looking for a few skins for his wall by now. Baseball needs these figures to bring the top tier closer to believability for the fans.
I am lucky to be a Rays fan, because Sternberg is always on the field or strolling the stadium walkways talking to fans and is very hands-on when he is here. But you never know, maybe before the end of the 2009 season some owner will come forward and question the status quo, or might even embark on a crusade to lighten up the owner’s box and let the fan enjoy some more “George” somewhere in baseball. So let the search begin for the new coming of “The Boss” I miss that growl more and more every day.