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.