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Great Moments in “if The Boss was alive”

May 31, 2013, 8:52 AM EDT

1970s Steinbrenner

As we’ve noted several times in the past, the easiest column a New York writer has is the “if The Boss was alive …” column. You lose your press pass, I assume, if you don’t crank out a couple of these a year. Ian O’Connor works to fill his quota today at ESPN New York:

Brian Cashman was on his way home from a four-game, two-stadium, one-city sweep suffered at the hands of the New York Mets when he fielded a question that summoned a bad memory from the not-too-distant past.

What would George Steinbrenner have said to you tonight?

Cashman paused over the phone as he measured the chilling thought. An inquiring mind thought the call had dropped before the general manager of the second-best team in New York this week finally broke the silence.

“I can’t even imagine,” he said.

It’s also possible that Cashman considered the thought far more silly than chilling, what with the fact that Steinbrenner has been dead for three years and hadn’t been actively running the team for several years before that. AND that The Boss that these columnists constantly invoke — the angry, fire-first, ask-questions-later Steinbrenner — more or less ceased to exist in the early 90s when he came back from his suspension. The latter-era Boss would bark a lot, but he also let Gene Michael and Brian Cashman run the teams most of the time.

Asking “What Would The Boss Do” may be a fun game for writers who wished they had the kind of drama now that they had back in the 70s and 80s, but it’s almost completely irrelevant to the state of the New York Yankees in 2013. And explaining the state of the New York Yankees in 2013 is sorta their job.

  1. jerseygirl57 - May 31, 2013 at 8:57 AM

    Craig, you might find it irrelevant, but as a life-long Yankee fan, the first thing I thought when the game ended last night was “If George was still alive, Girard would be fired tonight.” Yes, he was not as rash toward the end of his reign, but I can guarantee getting swept by the Mets (especially these God-awful Mets) would have gotten someone canned.

    • deadeyedesign23 - May 31, 2013 at 9:05 AM

      I doubt that would be the case, but if it would have been that’s an argument for why George Steinbrenner was not the great owner Yankee fans remember him as.

      • fanofevilempire - May 31, 2013 at 10:06 AM

        you are wrong, Jersey girl hit it dead on.

      • fanofevilempire - May 31, 2013 at 10:07 AM

        deadeye,you are wrong Jersey girl had it right.

      • genericcommenter - May 31, 2013 at 10:29 AM

        You are right. I am a life-long Yankees fan, and most of my life has occurred since 1980. George’s reign throughout the 80s was terrible. He terrorized his best players, not to mention managers, made bad trades and wasteful signings, and did very petty hurtful stuff to the team. Then after the early 90s, he’s neutered to an extent, and the team starts coming around. Then because the team becomes great in the mid-90s, all kinds of fans act like George was some great guy and responsible for their great run. It’s just revisionist, and as someone who watched this guy’s behavior during my childhood and formative baseball-fan years, I just can’t get with that.

      • bigharold - May 31, 2013 at 11:47 AM

        “.. fans act like George was some great guy and responsible for their great run. …as someone who watched this guy’s behavior during my childhood and formative baseball-fan years, I just can’t get with that.”

        In my formative years the Yankees were a hollowed out inept franchise that seemed like it was about to completely collapse. GMSlll took them from that to three WS and two WS championships in 5 season. Managers came and went, .. GMs came and went, .. players came and went. GMSlll was the one constant. Like it or not he was the driving force of the Yankees during his tenure. Even the last three or four years of his life, as his health slowed him, his philosophy and mantra of winning the WS each and every year was the standard.

        I’ve no illusion about GMSlll nor do I engage in revisionist history. I remember ALL the profoundly stupid things GMSll said and did during his time as owner. But, to ignore that he was integral to the Yankee’s success or to insinuate that their success was in spite of him is at best naive. And, to paraphrase Joe DiMaggio, I thank the good Lord the day he made GMSll the Yankee’s owner. In fact I had a life long, dyed in the wool, Met fan tell me last night, while getting in some well deserved crowing about the recent Yankees/Mets series, he wished GMSlll was the Mets owner all those years.

      • donal145 - May 31, 2013 at 1:03 PM

        Integral to their success? By getting kicked out of baseball so he couldn’t trade away Jeter and Petite as prospects?

      • bigharold - May 31, 2013 at 5:40 PM

        “.. so he couldn’t trade away Jeter and Petite as prospects?”

        Try getting your facts straight. GMSlll was reinstated in 1993, when Jeter and Pettitte were prospects so if he really wanted them gone they would’ve been gone. Talk about revisionist history.

        As I stated, I remember GMSlll, and every thing he did for the Yankees, not just the good things nor only the bad. And, I completely understand Gene Michael role in rebuilding the Yankees. He’s only now getting his share of the credit. But, whether you’re willing to admit it or not GMSlll was integral to the Yankees success for the 37 years he was the owner. Ignoring that is just ignoring the facts.

        For someone to say that they are a Yankee fan or a knowledgeable baseball fan and be unwilling to admit GMSlll’s contribution to the Yankees, .. in it’s totality, .. is either being profoundly myopic or is unwilling to temper their visceral dislike for the man. Which is fine. If you hate the man, it’s OK with me but at least admit it’s not being intellectually honest.

        GMSlll will likely be the last hands on MLB owner that is a true sports entrepreneur. Most of today’s MLB owners are guys that made their money elsewhere and see this as just another business to run, .. profit and lost, .. market share and the bottom line. GMSlll’s bottom line was winning WS as he often stated. Hate him all you want. Even if you will not consider the things he did well, you can’t argue with the results on the field or the balance sheet.

      • deadeyedesign23 - Jun 1, 2013 at 12:40 AM


        I’m wrong in saying that firing the manager of a team who is a game out of first place because they lost 4 in a row is the mark of a bad owner? Here’s hoping you and I don’t root for the same teams.

      • deadeyedesign23 - Jun 1, 2013 at 12:47 AM


        To be fair it’s not lock Steinbrenner didn’t have a history of pushing to trade prospects for aging veterans to try and win sooner. Ask Fred McGriff and Mike Lowell. Personally I don’t have an opinion of him one way or the other. I loved that he was willing to open his checkbook for players. You don’t often seen ownership willing to pay labor what it’s worth in that era of baseball.

        That said, left ot his own devices he was terribly detrimental to his own teams success on many occasions and was, in general, a slimy business man.

        Taking all of that he was still a good owner, but this canonization of him now that he’s gone is absolutely insane. His plaque in centerfield is viewable from Alpha Centauri and is bigger than Babe Ruth’s.

      • bigharold - Jun 1, 2013 at 4:45 PM


        I’m not canonizing him. I keep saying I remember everything. But I’m willing to put things in perspective to and see the entire picture. Where he started with the Yankees, what the Yankees accomplished while he was owner as well as the scandals and what they are today. And, whether anyone likes it or not, he was more responsible for that than any other individual. He was the owner. By any measure, .. any quantifiable examination, .. the Yankees weren’t just successful they wildly successful.

        As for the slimy businessman thing, .. he earned that reputation with the illegal Nixon contributions but mostly with for the Howard Sipira/Dave Winfield mess. He deserves that. But, he also paid for it too.

        You mention McGriff and Lowell but look at some of the players that survived that, Mattingly, Williams, Jeter, Pettitte, Posada, Rivera and Cano. Two sure fired HoFers. In all fairness a couple of them certainly wouldn’t have been Yankees if it wasn’t for guys like Gene Michael but nevertheless they are in fact Yankees. And there is no doubt that GMSlll could have dumped everyone of them had he insisted. Trading away young talent for established veterans, .. yeah but that was the win the WS every year philosophy more than anything. Considering that they won more WS than another team during his tenure, .. I’d have to say it was successful.

        As for his plague being bigger than Ruth’s, .. The Babe didn’t own the team. GMSlll didn’t own the team when that plaque was installed his children did. And, if my Dad left me the Yankees Universe, worth about 2-3 billion dollars and had the good grace to expire mere months before the inheritance tax was reinstated I’d give him a great big ass plague too.

    • Liam - May 31, 2013 at 9:06 AM

      The 2004 Mets lost 91 games and swept the Yankees in a three game series at Shea and both Cashman and Torre kept their jobs. I also recall that team going on a highly embarrassing four game losing streak later that season and both Cashman and Torre were there on Opening Day 2005.

    • yankees27times - May 31, 2013 at 9:09 AM

      Any Yankee fan who remembers the heyday of the Boss well, for better or worse, had to be thinking “If George was alive…” during this series. Does the question make for great journalism? Of course not, but it is certainly on the minds of readers and no more inane than most of the filler columnists are asked to provide.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - May 31, 2013 at 9:27 AM

      “If George was still alive, Girard would be fired tonight.

      Yes, it’s entirely Girardi’s fault that the Yanks are down to their third string 3b, third string SS, backup 1b, backup OF (Granderson), Sabathia hasn’t been pitching well, and Pettitte has been injured. Entirely the manager’s fault…

      • genericcommenter - May 31, 2013 at 10:31 AM

        Yes, but that doesn’t mean firing Girardi would be the right or rational thing- just that George might do it. He punished people for things that weren’t their fault. That was his style, and the Yankees were better off once he stopped running things.

      • bigharold - May 31, 2013 at 11:22 AM

        George was alive in 2008 when Girardi didn’t make the playoffs in his first year and nobody got canned.

        The GMSlll of the 70s might have said something bombastic but nobody would’ve gotten fired for this mini slump. Somebody, .. perhaps even GMSll himself, might have pointed out that all things considered, injury wise and the Yankees current place in the standings as well as the relatively early part of the season, that the Yankees were doing pretty good.

        And, I’ve been watching and going to Yankee games since the 60s so I remember every bit of the GMSlll tenure, .. the good, the bad AND the ugly.

    • fanofevilempire - May 31, 2013 at 10:04 AM

      all true, but he would have hired Girardi back @6:00 am this morning. :-)
      people don’t understand, George brought back a standard of winning, he always
      pushed to be better, as a Yankee fan I appreciate that winning tradition he wanted
      to uphold.
      the funny thing is a team like the Yankees set a standard of what you should be as
      a organization and what every mlb team should aspire to be, so, I have a question,
      what the heck would George have done after being swept by the Mets.
      don’t worry Yankee faithful, the big boys are coming to help soon.

      • tycobbfromfangraphs - May 31, 2013 at 10:44 AM

        LOL@fanboy children

  2. lazlosother - May 31, 2013 at 9:06 AM

    As a lifelong Yankee fan I had no thoughts about the Boss until I read this post.

  3. pizzadawg - May 31, 2013 at 9:06 AM

    I’ve got two words for you Brian: hot tub.

    • heyblueyoustink - May 31, 2013 at 9:17 AM

      Time machine?

  4. yankees27times - May 31, 2013 at 9:13 AM

    Also, one could say the obligatory blog post about the “If George was alive…” columns is equally unnecessary, both each is amusing in its own right and neither precludes discussion of more substantive issues.

    • bigharold - May 31, 2013 at 12:05 PM

      Ironically, sports writers, the group that stir the pot by saving “.. if GMSlll were alive…” is the same group that write disparagingly about the Yankees efforts to get under the salary cap to minimize luxury tax. And, for the most part, is the same group that gave GMSlll hell about his rash behavior back in the day. Proving that like attorneys, where their immediate interest lay, will determine their position on any given subject and therefore drive their editorial narrative.

      I get it, .. it’s a sport’s writers job to write, to stir the pot but a wee bit of consistency would be appreciated.

  5. proudlycanadian - May 31, 2013 at 9:21 AM

    If the “boss” was alive today, he would be senile. A senile “boss” would probably try to hire Billy Martin as manager.

    • dirtyharry1971 - May 31, 2013 at 9:58 AM

      so in otherwords he would be exactly like you proudly? Is that what you are trying to say? Hey another nice game by dickey, so glad you guys have him next year too

      • proudlycanadian - May 31, 2013 at 10:36 AM

        The mouse has been quiet for a while. His team must be on an extended losing streak.

      • aceshigh11 - May 31, 2013 at 11:04 AM

        For once your bile was justified.

        Bagging on Steinbrenner for being senile towards the end of his life is a pretty low blow, proudly.

  6. historiophiliac - May 31, 2013 at 9:42 AM

    This is a trick question, right? Cuz if Papa S was still around, the Little S’s wouldn’t be running things the way they are, I assume.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - May 31, 2013 at 10:01 AM

      In this world, wouldn’t George be Gargamel?

      • anxovies - May 31, 2013 at 3:05 PM

        No. that would be Al Davis.

    • fanofevilempire - May 31, 2013 at 10:14 AM

      I don’t think the Yankees have done a bad job since the Boss has passed.
      They got some BIG stacks for half the Yes Network, won a world series and have
      been making some nice cash from that shiny new stadium in da Bronx.

  7. rvnc - May 31, 2013 at 9:44 AM

    everyone seems to forget that under Steinbrenner’s iron rule the Yankees went 18 years without winning the big one…

    • fanofevilempire - May 31, 2013 at 10:17 AM

      you may have forgotten, he also won 7 championships and returned his team to glory.
      by the way, he paid a little under 10 mil for the Yankees, with none of his money, not bad.
      we can do this ALL day!

      • aceshigh11 - May 31, 2013 at 11:07 AM

        When you put it that way, it DOES sound pretty badass.

      • donal145 - May 31, 2013 at 1:06 PM

        No, they won those last 5 because he got kicked out while Jeter, Williiams and Petitie were still prospects and he couldn’t trade them away for another broke down has been.

        Michael and Watson are why those teams won.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - May 31, 2013 at 10:57 AM

      I don’t think the point of these types of articles is to say that Steinbrenner Sr made good choices. Only that he made very emotional decisions and frequently over-reacted to certain types of losses.

    • bigharold - May 31, 2013 at 12:18 PM

      “.. Yankees went 18 years without winning the big one…”

      During that 18 years they in fact played in one WS. Not to mention winning more games than any other team in the 80s and having the best record in MLB when the season shut down in 94.

      Late 80s to early early 90s wasn’t pretty but there are a whole bunch of teams out there that wish they only had an 18 year drought. And, had the playoff format included three divisions and a WC during that time that Yankees might have won more WS than they had during GMSll tenure rather than simply winning the most of any other team during his tenure.

  8. sdelmonte - May 31, 2013 at 10:21 AM

    Hey, I had that same thought independently of Mr. O’Connor. Is it really relevant to fixing the current Yankees? Of course not. But it’s kind of fun. No one overreacted to things like the Boss, and as much as I was not his fan, there was something to be said for his tantrums and his bluster. And as I noted in other posts, he took the Mets-Yankees “rivalry” a lot more seriously than it deserved.

  9. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - May 31, 2013 at 10:59 AM

    I think he would have said, “Let’s send some AAA pitchers back to AAA and call up Teixeira and Youkilis for tomorrow’s game!!”

    Eerie, isn’t it? It’s like his ghost is still walking the stadium.

  10. yahmule - May 31, 2013 at 11:08 AM

    “If The Boss was alive…”

    Why speculate on such negative things?

  11. bigleagues - May 31, 2013 at 11:52 AM

    “If The Boss were alive…” is like every Yankees fans lil blue blankey.

    When the AL East feels like a scary uncertain place, and the veil that obscures the Yanks mortality is now blocking the view through pinstriped glasses, Yankees columnists know how to offer comfort and escape to the despondent masses.

    Having said that . . . and contrary to what Yankees fans will say here, I think Craig pretty much nailed reality.

    Carry on.

  12. foreverchipper10 - May 31, 2013 at 1:51 PM

    Bruce Springsteen is dead!?!?!

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