He used to matter. Or at least he seemed like he did. He certainly was front and center in the media. Now? He’s the invisible man.
Which is a great thing for the Yankees — it’s always easier to run an organization when the drama level is low — but it’s a terrible thing for reporters and bloggers and stuff. I mean, who can forget some of Hank’s greatest hits:
Giving the kiss-off to Alex Rodriguez, saying “I don’t want anybody on my team that doesn’t want to be a Yankee,” and than letting A-Rod come crawling back to him. Sure, he ended up giving Rodriguez a raise, but the drama of it kept us all warm in those dark months of November 2007.
Denouncing Red Sox Nation and ESPN in one fell swoop: “Red Sox Nation? What a bunch of bulls**t that is . . . That was a creation of the Red Sox and ESPN, which is filled with Red Sox fans . . .” And give the man bonus points for style: that rant actually got him inducted into Red Sox Nation.
Telling the Tampa Bay Rays and any other have-nots in baseball exactly where they stand: “I don’t want these teams in general to forget who subsidizes a lot of them, and it’s the Yankees, the Red Sox, Dodgers, Mets . . .” It’s funny, because it’s true!
Personally, my favorite Hank moment was when he played good cop (or maybe crazy cop) to brother Hal and Brian Cashman’s bad cop in the Johan Santana trade discussions with the Twins before the 2008 season. As the Newsday article notes, the Yankees had little actual interest in acquiring Santana, yet because Hank kept going on about it, Minnesota was led to believe that New York would eventually make a big offer. It never came, and the Twins ended up getting not much of anything for the best pitcher in baseball. You can’t train just anyone to negotiate like that. You’re either born crazy or you’re not.
Also classic was when he excoriated the NL for not having the DH following Chien-Ming Wang’s injury while running the bases in interleague play, saying that the senior circuit needed to “join the modern age.”
Finally, who can forget his ripping of the divisional playoff format for allowing a team like the 2008 Dodgers into the postseason while the Yankees sat on the outside looking in. Never mind that under no playoff system dating back to the advent of baseball would the 2008 Yankees have made the postseason.
Look, the point isn’t that he was well-advised to spout off on all of these topics. Indeed, if he were my employee — and he appears to be Hal’s — I would have canned him sometime in late 2007. The point is that an unleashed Hank Steinbrenner made baseball a lot of fun for a while. Now that he’s apprently been given a gag order, however, the Yankees are back to being corporate and steady and boring. As it was in the 50s and as it was after Big Stein’s apparent lobotomy in the mid-to-late 90s, the Yankees are once again U.S. Steel.
For my part, I was always partial to the Bronx Zoo. The parade of managers. The feeling that anything can happen with the New York Yankees. Now? The best we get are rumors that one boring celebrity might marry another.
Come back, Hank. We need you.
The story of Rick Ankiel is well known by now. He was a phenom pitcher who burst onto the scene with the Cardinals in 1999 and into the 2000 season as one of the top young talents in the game. Then, in the 2000 playoffs, he melted down. He got the yips. Whatever you want to call it, he lost the ability to throw strikes and his pitching career was soon over. He came back, however, against all odds, and remade his career as a solid outfielder.
It’s inspirational and incredible. But there is a lot more to the story that we’ve ever known. We will soon, however, as Ankiel is coming out with a book. Today he took to the airwaves and shared some about it. Including some amazing stuff:
On drinking in his first start after the famous meltdown in Game One of the 2000 National League division series against the Braves:
“Before that game…I’m scared to death. I know I have no chance. Feeling the pressure of all that, right before the game I get a bottle of vodka. I just started drinking vodka. Low and behold, it kind of tamed the monster, and I was able to do what I wanted. I’m sitting on the bench feeling crazy I have to drink vodka to pitch through this. It worked for that game. (I had never drank before a game before). It was one of those things like the yipps, the monster, the disease…it didn’t fight fair so I felt like I wasn’t going to fight fair either.”
Imagine spending your whole life getting to the pinnacle of your career. Then imagine it immediately disintegrate. And then imagine having to go out and do it again in front of millions. It’s almost impossible for anyone to contemplate and, as such, it’s hard to judge almost anything Ankiel did in response to that when he was 21 years-old. That Ankiel got through that and made a career for himself is absolutely amazing. It’s a testament to his drive and determination.
A couple of weeks ago our president wrote one of his more . . . vexing tweets. He was talking about immigration when he whipped out the phrase . . . “Easy D”:
No one was quite sure what he meant by Easy D. Was it the older brother of N.W.A.’s founder? The third sequel to that Emma Stone movie from a few years back? So many questions!
Baseball Twitter had fun with it, though, with a lot of people wondering how they could work it in casually to their commentary:
It wasn’t a scout who did it, but twelve days after that, a player obliged Mr. McCullough:
I have no more idea what Turner was talking about with that than Trump was. We’ll have to wait for the full story in the L.A. Times. But I am going to assume Turner was doing McCullough a solid with that one rather than commenting on the president’s tweet. Either way, I’m glad he made the effort.
And before you ask: yes, it’s a slow news day.