On Monday, December 5, the Today’s Game committee of the Baseball Hall of Fame — the replacement for the Veterans Committee which covers the years 1988-2016 — will vote on candidates for the 2017 induction class. This week we are looking at the ten candidates, one-by-one, to assess their Hall worthiness. Next up: George Steinbrenner
The case for his induction:
It’s certainly a lot harder to make a Hall of Fame case — for or against — an executive or anyone else who didn’t actually play the game. There aren’t many good numbers to look at and the ones that do exist — how many rings did the guy win? — are pretty crude and vague. On the surface, one might say “hey, George Steinbrenner owned the Yankees and the Yankees won seven world titles,” but as we’ll see below, that’s not the be-all, end-all consideration either.
If one wants to go beyond just the rings, one could argue that it’s awfully hard to talk about baseball in the last quarter of the 20th century without mentioning George Steinbrenner’s name. And not just for the tabloid headlines he constantly generated. Steinbrenner was a lot of things, but he made an 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. Whether you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing, it certainly changed the game and that’s worthy of . . . something.
The case against his induction:
There is an argument to be made — a pretty good one, actually — that 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. There’s a strong 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 his column.
Would I vote for him?
I’ve gone back and forth on him for years. He was a piece of work, at times a bad guy and not the biggest reason for the Yankees’ success during his reign. At the same time he was definitely a transformative figure and an historic one. If you’re wanting to explain baseball history, you really can’t do it without including The Boss. I’d probably vote for him he’s baseball’s weird uncle who makes everyone uncomfortable but hey, he’s family.
Will the Committee vote for him?
There was a time I thought he’d get in easily, the way a lot of team owners and executives have over the years. But he didn’t have the same sorts of allies among the baseball establishment as a lot of those guys for a lot of obvious reasons. And I think players liked him only insofar as he was signing checks. So my guess is that he won’t get a ton of support. Really, though, nothing would surprise me.