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Inside Mr. Met's Head


July 13, 2010 2:47 PM

Where Does the Devil Go When He Dies?

Picture 25.pngJust in case you haven't been paying attention, George Steinbrenner died today at the age of 80. ESPN is currently running a retrospective about King George's life. Everyone has been tripping over themselves trying to say nice things about the man who ran the Evil Empire. They even had Dick Vitale on, whose only connection to George was that they both lived in Florida. The saccharine puff interviews and half-hearted statements from various personalities across the sports world will dominate your airwaves for the next couple of days.

As a Mets fan, by definition it is difficult to say anything nice about Mr. Steinbrenner. That doesn't mean that the man wasn't a brilliant businessman. He turned a $8.7 million investment into a multi-billion dollar corporation. He created arguably the most recognized and popular brand in all of sports. He dominated the New York headlines for decades (now from beyond the grave). Most importantly, he returned a stagnant and dying franchise to relevancy in a relatively short period of time.

Baseball, for better or for worse, would not be the game it is today without George Steinbrenner.

However, that doesn't mean that George was some sort of baseball genius. He was an egomaniac who could not keep his hands out of the organization. While he spent a ton of money on the team and had success, his meddling caused the Yankees to dip once again into irrelevancy after 1981 until 1996. His revolving door of managers did not help the stability of the organization. Constantly ripping his team in the press only soothed his own ego and did not improve the Yankees as a team. Steinbrenner also set a dangerous precedent with the limitless budget of the Bronx Bombers. George overpaid for everything and perhaps this has lead to the inflated and somewhat unsustainable budgets of baseball teams.
 
Most importantly, Steinbrenner was a criminal. His illegal contributions to Richard Nixon's re-election campaign cost him fifteen months away from baseball. In 1990, George was banned for life after information surfaced that he paid a "small time gambler" with dubious connections $40,000 for "dirt" on Dave Winfield. During the time he was gone, their young homegrown talent developed and became the core that lead to their mid and late 90s success. 

None of this will be talked about on the ESPN broadcast. It will be whitewashed and completely forgot about. If brought up at all, it will all be quickly thrown under the rug of "success." A correct retrospective should contain the good and the bad. From what I've seen, every negative aspect of George's life has been swept under the rug. What kind of retrospective is that? How can one truly appreciate a life if the whole story is not told?

A lot of this is sour grapes, I admit. I wish the Wilpons cared half as much about their baseball team as Steinbrenner did. And yes, I admit, George did do a lot of good things, including helping to return baseball to prominence after the 1994 strike. I just think that the media coverage is one sided and inaccurate.

Perhaps it's exactly as George would have wanted it.

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