Thursday, November 11, 2010

New York Times columnist George Vecsey sez it's too soon to induct George Steinbrenner into the Hall of Fame

When I heard that George Steinbrenner would be listed as a nominee next month for possible induction into MLB's Hall of Fame, I thought "it's about time." New York Times sports columnist George Vescey had the opposite reaction, thinking it's way too soon to induct The Boss.

Vecsey writes:

This is all happening so fast.


George Steinbrenner died on July 13. It’s now November, and he is on a short list for the National Baseball Hall of Fame.


We were just getting used to the gross plaque honoring the Sun King of the Bronx. In the heady rush of deserved respect and understandable nostalgia, we need to slow down and evaluate the Boss.
Hate to break it to George Van Winkle here, but most people already did that evaluation in their heads a long time ago. Who's the "we" he's talking about here? Does he have a mouse in hispocket or something?

When Steinbrenner died, both onetime nemesis Dave Winfield and Red Sox owner John Henry called for the legendary owner to be in the Hall of Fame. That should tell you something about the way most baseball people have already reevaluated The Boss. And don't forget that there are several generations of fans who remember Steinbrenner in a much more benevolent way than Vecsey does.

But that's not good enough for Vecsey, who seems to have a real chip on his shoulder when it comes to the Yankees -- and Steinbrenner. That's not surprising, given that the most vociferous Steinbrenner-haters all seem to be employed at the New York Times. Remember Times columnist Dave Anderson's apparent glee in writing a nasty piece literally the day Steinbrenner died, trashing The Boss for firing Dick Howser?

And Vecsey, who pretended that David Ortiz barely got booed by Yankee fans last year when even the Times' own Jack Curry contradicted this assertion, continues to have his own, um, spin on reality here. He writes:
There is one argument that Steinbrenner was better than moral, better than smart. He was lucky. He turned a modest personal investment, said to be $168,000, into a $10 million package that, enriched by unforeseen cable television revenue, became the most lucrative franchise in baseball, worth $1.6 billion, according to Forbes magazine.
This is just silly. There are any number of people who could have bought the Yankees from CBS -- remember, the TV network sold the franchise at a loss -- but Steinbrenner had the foresight to do so. That has nothing to do with luck.The same goes with the cable deals, and then the YES Network. Steinbrenner was a pioneer in both instances, and that had to do with foresight, not luck. But Vecsey doesn't want to give him credit for anything, and it comes across as really petty.

Vecsey continues:
Yes, character is one criterion for the Hall, particularly for people in uniform. Joe Jackson is barred for being involved in the 1919 Black Sox scandal, and it is too late for him. Pete Rose is barred for gambling and then lying about it while he was managing. I personally think Rose the player belongs in the Hall, but I totally understand why he is barred. He made it hard on himself, the knucklehead, and may never get into the Hall in his lifetime. Then again, the Boss made it hard on himself, too.
Funny he should write this now, given that he wrote last year, when it came to David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez failing steroid tests, he said:

Sports fans have to give up this false expectation that athletes should demonstrate higher standards than politicians, bankers, mortgage executives or, for that matter, journalists. Stop expecting athletes to be role models. Caveat emptor.
But in today's anti-Steinbrenner piece, Vecsey writes:

Then Steinbrenner got lucky all over again while barred by Commissioner Fay Vincent for conspiring with the gambler — the best thing that ever happened to him and his beloved Yankees....


So, maybe the voters should instead pick Joe Torre and Michael and even poor, addled Billy Martin, who is actually on this makeup ballot.
This is just incoherent. Buck Showalter, not Torre, was an architect of that roster. And Billy Martin died in 1989, long before the late 90s dynasty.

Vecsey doesn't mention a word about Steinbrenner using free agency to his advantage (guess signing Catfish Hunter and Reggie Jackson was more of the Boss' luck), or really, write anything that doesn't fit his worldview of Steinbrenner, which appears to be stuck in 1982.

Yes, Vecsey finally, grudgingly, concedes that Steinbrenner belongs in the Hall -- "eventually" -- but says that Marvin Miller ought to be put in first:

Marvin Miller is 93. He deserves to be present at his induction into the Hall of Fame. Then, when the first wave of emotion has passed and we are all thinking a bit more clearly, let’s get back to the discussion about George Steinbrenner. 
Vecsey is the one who needs to think a little more clearly. He's the one whose view of Steinbrenner is stuck in a time warp.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

1 comment:

Uncle Mike said...

George Vescey and Dave Anderson are two of the greatest sports columnists in New York history. They are also both Met fans, formerly Brooklyn Dodger fans, and thus trained to hate the Yankees and all they represent. In fact, Anderson has made a point of saying that, as beat writer for the old Herald Tribune (where he succeeded Roger Kahn, later to write "The Boys of Summer"), he was the last writer to leave the press box after the last game at Ebbets Field.

While neither of them has been as intensely anti-Yankee as New England native Mike Lupica -- or, as you've noted a few times this fall, Lisa, Wallace Matthews, and he's not really old enough to remember the old NY NL teams either -- both have reasons to demean the legacies of Yankee figures going back to the days of DiMaggio.

As far as I know, the only rule regarding owners being eligible for the Hall of Fame is that they no longer be active. The only exceptions appear to have been Connie Mack of the Philadelphia Athletics in 1937 and Clark Griffith of the Washington Senators in 1946 -- and in Griffith's case, he could have been elected for his pitching achievements.

Rarely does someone sell a baseball team and then get elected while still alive -- not a good sign for ex-Phillies boss Ruly Carpenter, who took a team mismanaged by many, including his father, and made it a World Champion. Nearly every MLB team owner in the Hall "died in office," including Tom Yawkey of the Red Sox and Walter O'Malley of the Dodgers. This would also be the case for Joan Payson of the Mets, if they ever gave her the long-overdue honor.

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