1970s Steinbrenner

George Steinbrenner not making the Hall of Fame is not “a mistake”

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The guy works for George Steinbrenner’s son and, I assume, he also happens to believe it. But know that Yankees president Randy Levine says that The Boss should be in Cooperstown.  From Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York:

“I think it was a mistake,” Levine told ESPN New York by telephone. “I congratulate Joe Torre, Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa. All of them were thoroughly deserving but I think there is no doubt that George Steinbrenner was one of the greatest figures in the history of baseball. He, more than anybody, deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. I fully expect he will be one day.”

I dunno. Maybe not a huge mistake.

The Hall of Fame test I tend to go back to on non-players is whether or not you can tell the story of baseball of their era without mentioning their name. And in my view it’s awfully hard to talk about baseball in the last quarter of the 20th century without mentioning George Steinbrenner. And not just for the tabloid headlines he constantly made. Steinbrenner made a somewhat important mark on baseball in that he was the first owner to take full advantage of free agency and forced other teams to keep pace. That pretty radically changed how teams were built. And if you think that someone else would have done it had he not, remember that baseball owners were busted for colluding in a plot to NOT spend money on free agents three times. Steinbrenner was a radical in wanting to pay top dollar for free agents and, whether you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing, it certainly changed the game.

At the same time, others make good points about the Yankees greatest successes during Big Stein’s reign coming in spite of him rather than because of him. He was suspended twice during his time as owner of the Yankees, once in the mid-70s, once in the early 90s. One can make a pretty compelling argument that the seeds of the 1977-78 and then the 1996, 1998-2000 World Series championship teams were planted during Steinbrenner’s absence, with his underlings finally being given free reign to make smart moves Steinbrenner would have avoided in the name of BIG moves. If you add in character considerations, Steinbrenner’s legal issues and his treatment of Dave Winfield which led to his second suspension are not gold stars in Mr. Steinbrenner’s column.

So: Steinbrenner is a tough case. I think he belongs in the Hall of Fame, but I’m a softer touch than many when it comes to such things. For that reason I don’t think I’d call his omission a “mistake” as much as I’d call it a case of reasonable people being fully entitled to disagree on a pretty damn divisive figure.

Report: Extension talks between Mets, Neil Walker are “probably dead”

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: Neil Walker #20 of the New York Mets sits in the dugout before the game against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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On Sunday, it was reported that second baseman Neil Walker and the Mets were discussing a potential three-year contract extension worth “north of $40 million.” Those discussions took a turn for the worse. The Mets feel extension talks are “probably dead,” according to Mike Puma of the New York Post.

Walker underwent a lumbar microdisectomy in September, ending his 2016 season during which he hit .282/.347/.476 with 23 home runs and 55 RBI over 458 plate appearances.

The Mets may not necessarily need to keep Walker around as it has some potential options up the middle waiting in the minor leagues. Though Amed Rosario is expected to stick at shortstop, Gavin Cecchini — the club’s No. 3 prospect according to MLB Pipeline — could shift over to second base.

Rick Ankiel drank vodka before a start to deal with the yips

9 Apr 2000: Rick Ankiel #66 of the St. Louis Cardinals winds back to pitch the ball during the game against the Milwaukee Brweers at the Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. The Cardinals defeated the Brewers 11-2. Mandatory Credit: Elsa Hasch  /Allsport
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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 disintegrating. 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.