The Steinbrenners - A Yankees Legact Photo Credit: New York Post

Hal Steinbrenner: Forever And Always Facing The Shadow Of His Dad

A glance at the Yankees roster says they are good enough, as is, to win it all. But the culture established by The Boss still has its thunder.

Yankees managing partner, Hal Steinbrenner, along with all of us, watched as George Steinbrenner was once again shunned by the Baseball Hall of Fame, and will not be remembered come July in Cooperstown. For the Yankees though, his shadow is omnipresent in anything they do, and never has that been more apparent than in the Yankees offseason this Winter.

The “Dad Thing” in American culture is as ingrained as turkey on Thanksgiving, and whether it be Hal Steinbrenner, Julian Lennon, or Donald Trump, it’s never an easy task for a son to live up to the accomplishments of a larger than life father.

The Steinbrenners - A Yankees Legacy Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)Hal Steinbrenner (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty
The Steinbrenners – A Yankees Legacy Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Following the early exit from the Playoffs by the Yankees last October, Hal Steinbrenner told Joel Sherman of the New York Post, “I have no love for the Red Sox on the field or in the division, and (what happened) certainly pisses me off. I never want a division rival to outdo us.”

In that moment of candor, Hal Steinbrenner mirrored the words his dad might say more accurately than ever before. But since then, it’s almost like his alter-ego kicked in with a reminder that Hal Steinbrenner is determined to be different than his dad.

By now, The Boss would have Manny Machado, and Bryce Harper wrapped up and under the Christmas tree for Yankees fans, and he’d be texting Brian Cashman 24/7 asking, “Did you get that guy Kluber, yet?” Luxury tax? The hell with them all. We’re the Yankees, and we win!

According to Forbes, the Yankees are now valued at $4 billion. That’s with a “B,” placing the franchise number one in baseball. With the Yankees, even today it’s never a question of money, and if they wanted to, the Yankees could steamroll the entire league into submission by spending at will to buy talent.

Hal Steinbrenner has chosen to walk the middle line, believing the Yankees should be good enough to win with what they have. There’s nothing wrong with that thinking, and it’s difficult to argue against it.

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Except for one thing. These are the New York Yankees and despite the fact Luis Severino blew up in the playoffs again and no one knows why, Giancarlo Stanton, a good major league hitter, gave away too many at-bats, Gary Sanchez forgot to bring his glove to catch with, Aaron Judge got hit with a pitch and lost two months of the season, Sonny Gray got run over by New York City, Aroldis Chapman somehow “lost” his fastball….should I go on?

Despite all of that, the pervading theory (now) is the Yankees need to muscle up by adding more star power. Whether it means emptying the farm system via trades, and by the way, the Yankees are already down to Number 16 in Top Prospects (they were Number 3 last year), or by opening up the till to corral free agents, with little or no foresight regarding the impact five or ten years from now – no matter what – that elusive 28th World Championship has to come now.

The critical question seems to be – would George Steinbrenner’s brand of owning a team work as a way of doing business in baseball as we know it today? His son thinks not, and he is acting accordingly. The trouble is that Yankees fans, by and large, still believe that less is not more and unless they have more, and then more, Hal Steinbrenner, and what they would call his lackey, Brian Cashman, are wimps with no balls to make the perfect move – like signing Bryce Harper to a $400 million contract, never to look back.

If Hal Steinbrenner had acted during that moment when he was “pissed off,” Harper would be setting up his locker at Yankee Stadium now. But unlike his dad, Hal Steinbrenner rarely runs hot. That’s not necessarily a compliment, but it could be depending on which side of the fence you fall on as a Yankees fan.

Although difficult, it would seem that Hal Steinbrenner’s legacy as a Yankees owner will come down to how successful he is in finding that happy medium between the ways of his dad, and what his business sense and baseball acumen tell him is the right way to go for both fans and the organization.

I’m with Hal Steinbrenner, if only because I never want to see the days of, what’s the word – Greedy? – Stupid? Contracts of Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and Jacoby Ellsbury ever again.

In the meantime, if the Yankees return from Las Vegas with money to spare and noticeable improvement to the team, I’ll know once again that brains are working far better than brawn.

 

Written by Steve Contursi, Editor, Reflections On Baseball

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