Fine, I give up. Enough with defending George Steinbrenner for me. While Red Sox fans happily anticipate a trade that will rid them of a headcase in Manny Ramirez and give them oh, only the best player in baseball, Yankee fans are following the antics of Boss George with a slightly upset stomach. Free agent signings in Yankee land have been exciting events during the past several years, but this winter, they seem like omens of the end of the Joe Torre era.
Gary Sheffield is not a Yankee yet, but many baseball insiders still believe that he will be shortly. (The question is: with Vlad G out there, why?) Joel Sherman reports:
It probably won't be long now until Steinbrenner - who ignored the handshake deal Wells once had with Arizona to guarantee Wells six times as much money - temporarily reconciles with Sheffield to get a deal done. Sheffield, with no place else to turn for the big bucks, will return the disingenuous hug. And, thus, Steinbrenner's last chance to get away from a bad movie for which he has already seen the preview, will go the way of any lingering dignity left in this organization.
...As always, Steinbrenner never appreciates what he has. In the home-grown quintet of Pettitte, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Bernie Williams, he not only has been blessed with a nucleus of great players, but also low-maintenance professionals who value winning and honor teammates. He has been equally blessed with Torre and GM Brian Cashman, who have engendered such respect in the industry that they have put whatever positive face there can be on a team owned by Steinbrenner.
Bill Madden, who has seen it all during the Steinbrenner years, weighs in with his take:
As we all know, if there is one thing Steinbrenner is big on, it's accountability. Well, the Boss has got to be accountable for this one. Gary Sheffield has essentially thrown down the gauntlet, and the only way Steinbrenner comes out of this with his "Boss-ness" intact is to tell this certifiable nutcase to take a hike. Because even if Sheffield temporarily comes to his senses and accepts the original deal, the ink will hardly be dry before he starts complaining. And if you don't believe that, then allow me to refer you to all of Sheffield's previous stops - especially Los Angeles - where he constantly carped about money, called the owner a liar, and wore out his welcome while cementing his reputation as an inveterate clubhouse malcontent.
...Steinbrenner was warned that he was dealing with a selfish player - and everything the Joe Torre Yankees of 1996-2001 were not - and now Sheffield has proven this beyond any doubt. However, Steinbrenner apparently isn't listening to the baseball people who have served him so well.
In a perfect Yankee universe, Stick Michael and Brain Cashman would run the show. But this is Boss George's World: we just live in it. Boomer Wells, Kenny Lofton, Gary Sheffield? Oy veh. No wonder some Yankee fans are thinking about the eighties. I hope that the deal with Sheffield now falls apart, but I doubt that will happen. Steinbrenner is convinced that he is doing the best thing for his organization: for Joe Torre and for the fans. But right now he's only doing the best thing for himself. And who knows what that is, since he changes his mind hourly.
And what ever became of the Yankees number one off-season priority? What about Andy Pettitte? That's what Pettitte's father is asking in The New York Times today. Pettitte hopes to ink a deal by the end of the winter meetings in New Orleans this weekend and is puzzled as to why the Yankees have been so slow with negotiations.