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Archive for February 22nd, 2011

It must be something in the Chicago water?

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen is best known for speaking out of turn, but this time around it’s General Manager Ken Williams who will likely spend the next few days extricating his foot from his big mouth. According to a report on ESPNChicago, Williams called the idea of paying Albert Pujols $30 million “asinine” and went so far as to advocate a season crippling lockout to enforce a salary cap on the MLBPA. Asinine is right, but only if applied to Williams’ warped perspective.

Despite the labor strife that currently grips the NFL and NBA, Williams’ pining for a salary cap is amusing. However, his insinuation isn’t very funny at all. If other owners and general managers share his corrosive beliefs, then maybe Michael Weiner would be wise to treat the upcoming CBA expiration with much more suspicion? At the very least, Weiner should demand an apology from Williams as well as immediate action from Bud Selig. Not only do comments like Williams’ have the potential to poison the current labor peace that exists in the game, but they also demonstrate a shocking ignorance of its economics.

Baseball is currently in the midst of unparalleled popularity and financial growth, not to mention an unprecedented period of cooperation between the owners and players. The last thing the sport needs is someone like Williams recklessly spouting off, especially when the comments belie such ignorance. Going forward, the White Sox would be wise to keep the microphones away from their general manager before he does any more damage. Just to play it safe, the organization might better off if they let Ozzie do all the talking from now on.

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Proving that he is indeed a chip off the old block, Hank Steinbrenner stopped by the Yankees’ Spring Training camp in Tampa and immediately made his presence known. Speaking to an assembled pack of reporters, the elder Steinbrother sounded off on a variety of topics, including the Yankees’ growing revenue sharing bill as well as the viability of small market teams. However, the comments that raised the most eyebrows pertained to the perceived lack of focus by last year’s team, including those who were “too busy building mansions and doing other things, and not concentrating on winning”.

Each Spring, Steinbrenner would deliver a state of the team address to a horde of assembled reporters, like in this photo from March 1, 1995.

That last comment in particular, which was an obvious reference to Derek Jeter, was right out of the George Steinbrenner play book (in fact, the remark was a reiteration of his father’s December 2002 criticism of the distractions stemming from Jeter’s “bachelor lifestyle”). Predictably, Hank’s outspokenness was widely criticized in the mainstream media and around the blogosphere, but considering his bark is without bite, I am actually kind of glad he took the time to share his thoughts. Since George’s declining health forced him to recede from active involvement, Yankees Spring Training has missed some of the entertainment that the Boss used to provide. Of course, when his father sounded off, it was much more likely to have an impact on the team. With Hank, however, you get all the fun with little of the worry. As long as his comments don’t translate into the decision making, an occasional stream of consciousness from Hank isn’t so bad.

When the Boss was in charge, Spring Training always followed the same pattern. Steinbrenner would report to camp like a general inspecting his troops, vow that he would no longer meddle with the team and then usually break that promise before the end of spring (sometimes even before the end of the conversation). The Boss would also typically single out one of his players for a pointed comment or two, particularly if that player happened to sign a new contract at a displeasing level of compensation during the previous offseason. Listed below are some of George Steinbrenner’s more memorable spring salvos (followed by context).

If Sparky Lyle isn’t mature enough to understand that he has a contractual and moral obligation to the New York Yankees, we certainly are not going to waste one minute of our time in attempting to find out where he is.” – February 22, 1978, Modesto Bee

Sparky Lyle had made a habit of reporting late to Spring Training, but in 1978, he was particularly unhappy because of the exorbitant salaries paid to newcomers like Rich Gossage and Andy Messersmith. The Boss was unsympathetic to Lyle’s plight, but managed to keep a cool head and good sense of humor about the situation. When Lyle finally arrived, Steinbrenner had him greeted at the airport by a 100-piece high school band playing “Pomp and Circumstance” underneath a banner that read “Welcome to Fort Lauderdale Sparky – Finally”. (more…)

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  • Just like his father used to do, Hank Steinbrenner held court at the Yankees’ spring training complex in Tampa, opining on everything from house building to modern psychology to social and economic political systems. The elder Steinbrother also revisited the team’s off season acquisition of Rafael Soriano.

Hank has proven to be the much more vocal of the Steinbrenner brothers (Illustration: nymag.com).

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