During the late 1990s it was well-accepted doctrine that New York Yankees’ owner George Steinbrenner was jealous of the credit everyone else was getting for the team’s championship dynasty.
King George could do nothing while the Yankees were winning titles. But, when Luis Gonzalez single settled into the Arizona outfield grass and the Yankees lost the 2001 World Series, the opening was there. The Yankees scored just 14 runs in the seven games, first baseman Tino Martinez hit .190 in the Series and Jason Giambi was a free agent.
Steinbrenner pounced. He jettisoned a player who had been part of the Yankees’ championship heart, spending huge money for a player with big stats, big muscles, a big name and a big ego. It is not Giambi’s fault, but the Yankees have not been the same since.
Those Yankee championship teams were built on pitching and the everyday lineup was filled with good players who became great because of what they accomplished as Yankees. Not great players who came to the Yankees hoping to get something from wearing the uniform.
That was Giambi. In Oakland he couldn’t be compared to Mickey Mantle, couldn’t be the same type of superstar, probably couldn’t win a ring.
Hideki Matsui, the biggest superstar in Japanese baseball, showed up in 2003. That worked out well. Gary Sheffield in 2004. Despite his numbers, that didn’t work out so well. Alex Rodriguez in 2005. Johnny Damon in 2006. Superstars all, yes. Players who were able to put ego aside, work together and do the small things needed to win? The answer to that yes proven to be no.
We could spend days talking about A-Rod. Let’s keep it short, though. Is it A-Rod’s fault the Yankees haven’t won in his five seasons? Probably not. He is a great player, he has two MVPs and he’s had some brilliant moments. He has also had some embarrassing ones.
Problem is, A-Rod shouldn’t be in New York in the first place. He is only in New York because Steinbrenner wanted to twist the knife on the Red Sox, who desperately wanted A-Rod prior to the 2004 season but screwed it up.
He was a trophy for Steinbrenner, nothing more. He replaced the magic of Aaron ‘Bleepin’ Boone, and the Yankees became more traveling carnival show than they did baseball team.
What we are calling the ‘Superstar Syndrome’ is why I am against the signing of Mark Teixiera. The Yankees are finally out from under the Giambi contract and have an opportunity to begin re-structuring their every day lineup. I hope they choose wisely.
– Next: Part 2, It’s the Pitching Stupid