The Steinbrenner Good for MLB Debate… The Boss Was Hated For a Reason

Read the opposing argument from Babe Ruthless.

Love him or hate him George Steinbrenner was a big part of baseball for many years. The man, and his Yankees teams, has definitely caught some harsh words from me over my years of existence. That’s not simply because the Yankees beat my Atlanta Braves in 1996 and 1999. It’s because I didn’t, and don’t, like the idea of trying to buy the World Series.

I will give Steinbrenner one credit. He loved being an owner, though he didn’t always love his current players, former players, and employees. Why more isn’t brought up about the infamous Dave Winfield incident is beyond me.

Let’s just look at what The Boss and his organization has done recently. It’s moves by the Yankees that have made Major League Baseball a big market league, perhaps more than any other league (yes, I’m aware that can, and quite possibly will, be debated at a later time). Just look at the Yankees payroll since 2000. These numbers are rounded, but the payroll – starting in 2000 – has been (rounded) $92M, $112M, $125M, $152M, $184M, $208M, $194M, $189M, $209M, $201M, and $206M this year. No team can come close to that. Not even sort of close. Unfortunately, there are teams like the Florida Marlins, who as recently as 2006 had a payroll of $14,998,500. It’s important to note that the 2006 Yankees had five players (Randy Johnson, Alex Rodriguez, Mike Mussina, Derek Jeter, and Jason Giambi) that made more money that single season than the entire Marlins roster. Tell me again how that is good for baseball? I’m waiting?

I want to look at the 2005 season. In 2005, eight teams had payrolls of under $50M. Those teams have absolutely no chance of making the post-season when spring training rolled around that February. Steinbrenner’s Yankees made the days when every team had a chance non-existent. The Yankees, by the way, had a 2005 payroll of $208,306,817 in 2005, which just happened to be the year after the hated Red Sox won the World Series. Looking at the 2005 roster, of the 21 players who made at least $1M, only four (Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, and Bernie Williams) were home-grown players, guys who came up through the Yankees farm system.

There just is not parity in baseball, and the Yankees are a big reason why. Critics like Babe Ruthless may say that George Steinbrenner was merely operating under the rules and was just trying to improve his investment. But at what cost? There’s a reason the NFL is the most popular sport and it has a lot to do with parity and revenue sharing. I realize that the Yankees have absolutely nothing to do with that, but it is most definitely something that Steinbrenner and the Yankees would never agree to. It never was in Steinbrenner’s nature to take one for the team or to do what was best for the league. He was out for number one, and he was out to be dictator of Major League Baseball. In the words of Frank Sinatra, he was out to do things “My Way.”

He had the sport at his beckon call and he knew it. Unfortunately, his spending ruined the sport for many kids in much of the country. Kids in small market areas don’t follow baseball because the teams in their cities aren’t competitive. Those teams can’t compete with teams like the Yankees. This is not an issue in other sports. It is a monopoly that Steinbrenner helped establish, and it will exist long after his passing.

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