Remember Hank Steinbrenner?

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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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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!
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  • 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.
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  • 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.”
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  • 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.
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    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.

    UPDATE: Donald Trump declines Nats offer to throw out the first pitch

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    UPDATE: Welp, we wont’ get to see that:

    Sad!

    8:53 AM: It’s just gossip now, but Politico is hearing that Donald Trump is in talks to throw out the first pitch at Nationals Park on Opening Day. The Nats are not commenting. Neither are the Palm Beach Cardinals of the Florida State League, who no doubt feel slighted given that the president effectively is a local.

    With the caveat that, on Opening Day, tickets are likely to be more expensive and thus you’re likely to have a lot more rich people and friends-of-the-owners in attendance, thereby ensuring a more conservative crowd, I’m struggling to imagine a situation in which Trump strolls on to a baseball field in a large American city and isn’t booed like crazy. He’s polling as low as 36% in some places. He’s not exactly Mr. Popular.

    Oh well. I look forward to him three-bouncing one to Matt Wieters and then grabbing his phone and tweeting about how it was the best, most tremendous first pitch in baseball history. Or blaming Hillary Clinton for it in the event he admits that it was a bad pitch.

    2017 Preview: Texas Rangers

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    Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Texas Rangers.

    The Rangers somehow won the AL West last year despite not being super great at any one aspect of the game. There are stars here — Adrian Beltre, Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish and Rougned Odor are all spiffy players — but the Rangers won the division by being greater than the sum of their parts. They scored a decent number of runs despite some bad collective peripheral numbers and they allowed more runs than anyone in the AL except the Twins and Athletics. Yet they had a great record in one-run games and outperformed their pythagorean record by a WHOLE lot. Luck shined brightly on the 2016 Rangers.

    It’s hard to expect luck to hold in any instance, but that’s especially the case when there have been some pretty significant changes. Changes like the loss of Carlos Beltran, Ian Desmond and Mitch Moreland. In their place: A full season, the Rangers hope, from Shin-Soo Choo, a converted-to-outfield Jurickson Profar and Mike Napoli. That may wash out OK, especially if Choo is healthy, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see some regression in two of those offensive slots.

    Starting pitching is also a big question mark. Cole Hamels at the top is not a problem, obviously, and if Yu Darvish is healthy and durable the Rangers have an outstanding 1-2 punch. Martin Perez in the third spot presents promise, but he’s been exactly average so far in five major league seasons. The back end of the rotation has some real problems. Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross are hurt at the moment and even if healthy, Cashner seems to be a shell of his once-promising self. A.J. Griffin is looking to pitch in his first full season since 2013. If the Rangers are strong contenders all year it’s gonna be on the “Spahn and Sain and two days of rain” model, but I have no idea what rhymes with “Darvish” and that’s sort of a problem.

    The bullpen is going to look a lot like it did last year. Sam Dyson will close, but manager Jeff Banister has shown in the past that he’s not a slave to keeping guys in any one role down there. Jeremy Jeffress will likely set up but he’s closed before. Some think Matt Bush or Keone Kela could close. We’ll see Tanner Scheppers and lefty Alex Claudio. Banister has a Manager of the Year Award on his mantle and while that often doesn’t mean anything, it usually suggests that a guy knows how to deal with his pen. Banister will do OK with what he has.

    Really, though, the rotation is a concern, as is hoping that a 35-year-old Mike Napoli and a soon-to-be 38-year-old Adrian Beltre can continue to be the types of players who can form the offensive core of a playoff team. There’s talent and a track record here, but there’s a lot of uncertainty. For that reason, I suspect the Rangers will fall back a smidge this year, even if they’re a playoff contender.

    Prediction: Second Place, American League West.