Thursday, May 24, 2012

Tabloid sez, without any evidence, that Steinbrenners could sell Yankees

Journalists whine that bloggers make something out of nothing, but that was my reaction after reading today's Michael O'Keeffe and Bill Madden piece for the New York Daily News saying that the Yankees could be up for sale soon. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I think that sportswriters ought to have something more than hearsay and rumors and anonymous quotes before writing such an explosive story.

O'Keeffe and Madden write that:
Multiple baseball and finance sources told the Daily News they are hearing that the team the Steinbrenner family has led to seven World Series titles could be put on the block in the wake of the record sale price of $2.175 billion the Los Angeles Dodgers went for in April.

“There has been chatter all around the banking and financial industries in the city for a couple of weeks now,” one high-level baseball source told The News.
This is worthy of front-page and back-page covers in the New York Daily News? Because some anonymous Wall Street workers and baseball names are speculating about how much the Yankees could be worth, because the Dodgers were sold for so much? Spare me.
Look, it is always possible that the Steinbrenners could sell the team one day, or even sell it in the near future. But where is any evidence that this is going to happen? O'Keeffe and Madden do not have a single hard fact or on-the-record source showing that this could happen, yet they have written a news story, not an opinion column, saying that the Yanks could be for sale soon. There is only one named source in the article, Yankees president Randy Levine, who gave a flat denial to the News saying: "The Steinbrenners are not selling the team. Heck, there's not even an anonymous source saying that they will sell the team; just that they could sell the team. 

Full disclosure -- as long-time readers know, I used to work at the News, but my opinion would be exactly the same on this article whether I had worked there or not.

O'Keeffe and Madden not only make a whole lot out of supposition and rumors, they insinuate that Hal Steinbrenner may want to sell the team because he said this spring that he was a "finance geek" and that a good team didn't need a $220 million payroll in order to win. Then the article misrepresents Hal's position on the A-Rod re-signing in 2007, blaming Hank Steinbrenner for it.

They continue, "Hal Steinbrenner rarely attends games, and according to those who know him, abhors doling out the huge money long-term contracts such as the Rodriguez deal." Really? Then why did Hal sign off on that deal, as well as the CC Sabathia (seven years, and then an additional two years) and Mark Teixeira (eight years) contracts? Not to mention paying A.J. Burnett $82 million, and then paying nearly 2/3 of Burnett's last two years on the contract for him to pitch for the Pittsburgh Pirates?

Buster Olney wrote the definitive version of what happened in the A-Rod contract -- I talked about it in Subway Squawkers last year. The gist of it is that Randy Levine, not bogeyman Hank Steinbrenner, did most of the negotiations with A-Rod and his people. And A-Rod had to go to Hal's house and apologize in person for the opting-out shenanigans before he would sign off on the contract, which he did. Contrary to this story, there is no evidence that Hal opposed the A-Rod deal, just that he was ticked off over the opting-out stuff.
But who needs actual facts when the News can have sources who say stuff like this:
“Hal’s a smart businessman,” the source said. “And I’m just not sure that he considers baseball to be a smart business. I think he looks at some of these other owners, throwing $200 million at players and thinks they’re idiots — idiots that unfortunately can affect the way he does business. You have to understand, it was in Hal’s formative years in the ’80s when he saw George at his worst in terms of throwing more and more good money at bad players like Pascual Perez, Dave LaPoint, Steve Kemp, Ed Whitson and Andy Hawkins.”
Let's review. By buying the Yankees in 1973, George Steinbrenner was able to take an under $10 million investment and build a team worth several billion. Tell me in what other legal business you can get that sort of rate of return.  Sounds pretty "smart" to me.

Again, Hal signed off on all of the modern big-spending Yankee deals. He also agreed to bring back Brian Cashman, the GM who has one tool in the toolbox -- the ability to spend money. Sure, Hal has made it clear he wants the payroll to go down, but that doesn't mean 1) that he doesn't bear his own share of responsibility for the Yankee payroll and 2) that he is going to sell the team anytime soon. Besides, there are four Steinbrenner children who would have to sign off on the sale.

O'Keeffe and Madden end their piece by quoting yet another anonymous source who says: “Hal hates the players and he hates the media.”
So there you have it. Michael O'Keeffe and Bill Madden have declared that the Yankees could be for sale soon, with the "evidence" for this based solely on rumors, speculation, and twisting around of the facts. I am eagerly waiting for the News' next report, about how Ferris Bueller passed out at 31 Flavors.

What do you think? Tell us about it!


Uncle Mike said...

I expect this sort of Met-poor journalism from the Murdoch Post. But the Daily News, which prides itself on good reporting and a great sports section, should know better.

At least they didn't have a "Gatecrasher" item saying that Hal was "canoodling" at Sardi's with potential buyers.

Roger 9 said...

Maybe...just maybe new ownership would be the best thing for the New York Yankees. The way the team is currently being managed at the higher levels a new regime might be better able to put in place a more effective general manager who would be better able to evaluate player abilities.

The Mighty Casey said...

great piece Lisa, well done.

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