Here we are almost a full year later. The Torre-led Dodgers (currently holding an 83-76 record in a competitively weak division) have clinched a playoff berth. The Torre-less Yankees (with an 87-72 record in what is widely-considered the toughest division in baseball) have been eliminated from the playoffs.
So what's a Steinbrenner to do? Hank's father, George, would make sweeping changes, take verbal pot-shots, and generally look foolish & inadequate in his attempts to defend his own massive ego. However, according to the media & sports talk radio, Hank is DIFFERENT! He's more calculating; he's SMARTER! He won't repeat the mistakes of his father, and he is the agent of change to oversee a new reign of Yankee dominance in the coming years.
Too bad that's just a fallacious fantasy. Hank has already demonstrated that George's same insecure blood runs through his Yankee blue-blooded veins. ESPN's Page2 writer Jim Caple seems to have a skill for lampooning the Steinbrenners, as he did with this hillarious column back in the spring. To me, it came close to topping his famous "Praise Steinbrenner" column (starring the former Iraqi information minister, Mohammad Saeed Al-Sahhaf) from several years back.
So how has Hank responded this week to Joe's success coupled with his own franchise's failure? From an article attributed to him in the Sporting News (thanks to The Newark Star-Ledger):
• On revenue sharing: "That's a system I don't particularly like. It's a socialist system, and I don't agree with it. Does it work? It depends on your point of view. But is it right? Is it even American? I'd argue no on both of those points."
• On the divisional setup: "... If you want to talk about things that infuriate me about the game today, revenue sharing doesn't top the list. The biggest problem is the divisional setup in major league baseball. I didn't like it in the 1970s, and I hate it now. Baseball went to a multidivision setup to create more races, rivalries and excitement. But it isn't fair. You see it this season, with plenty of people in the media pointing out that Joe Torre and the Dodgers are going to the playoffs while we're not. This is by no means a knock on Torre -- let me make that clear--but look at the division they're in. If L.A. were in the A.L. East, it wouldn't be in the playoff discussion. The A.L. East is never weak."
• On Joe Torre: "I'm happy for Joe, but you have to compare the divisions and the competition. What if the Yankees finish the season with more wins than the Dodgers but the Dodgers make the playoffs? Does that make the Dodgers a better team? No."
• On his case for the divisional setup not being good for the game: "Go back to the 2006 season. St. Louis winning the World Series -- that was ridiculous. The Cardinals won their division with 83 wins -- two fewer than the Phillies, who missed the postseason. People will say the Cardinals were the best team because they won the World Series. Well, no, they weren't. They just got hot at the right time. They didn't even belong in the playoffs. And neither does a team from the N.L. West this season."
• On the media: "The divisional setup is not right by any definition of logic. But the sports media rarely deals with logic -- so you never read about this."
I like what Bud Poliquin had to say:
Now, does Steinbrenner have a point to make when he declares the eight best squads in baseball don't necessarily comprise the postseason field? Well, yeah. But so what? That has forever been the case whether we're talking the NCAA Tournament's 65 teams (hello, Syracuse University, in 2007), the NBA playoffs (greetings, Golden State, just this spring), the NFL postseason (where some wretched group from the NFC West will qualify later this winter) and so on and so forth.
Baseball? The geographical gods can giveth (as they have forever done to the Yankees, who enjoy the vast revenue streams generated by the kind of dense population that, oh, Kansas City will never see) and they can taketh away (which they've done for so long now to the Jays and Orioles, to name just two cursed franchises). And [those geographical gods] can do so without having to consult with Henry Steinbrenner, despite what Henry might think.
Yeah, certain things are unfair, all right. And George's son ought to be thankful because if he'd been sired by, say, a short-order cook (not there's anything wrong with that) as opposed to a ship-building magnate, he might be flipping a burger even now.
Ouch. Put simply: "Just hush up, Hank."
Of course I hope my Red Sox win it all this October. But if they or the Rays happen to fall to Torre's Dodgers this October, I will enjoy the heck out of Joe Torre making Hank Steinbrenner look like an absolute fool.