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George Steinbrenner as The Prince

October 8, 2007
By: KJ

This past summer, ESPN, as it often does attempted to put on a quality television series. Most of the time they fall short of expectations. This is fascinating because ESPN is owned by the Disney cooperation which consistently puts out quality sports films. ESPN has had its stinkers from Players, a muck raking show about pro football, to Tilt, a series about crooked card players. This year's attempt was The Bronx is Burning, a mini-series about the 1977 New York Yankees. While being more of a Players rather than a Remember the Titans it still had some quality facets that I enjoyed. What I particularly think is good is the portrayal of manager Billy Martin and George Steinbrenner. That portrayal when applied to the boss's statements about Joe Torre yesterday reveal how Steinbrenner is a master manipulator of men.

The first episode of the Bronx is Burning begins with the World Series sweep of the Yankees by the Big Red Machine. John Tuturro, portraying Martin, is seen in his office weeping after the final result of the loss is then castigated by Oliver Platt, playing Steinbrenner. The Boss essentially takes the reigns of the team and decides that he will be the final decision maker on matters relating to the team. While doing this he seems to push the right buttons of the skipper and the team. It was in that offseason that the boss went out to get his first of soon to be many me first overrated and over-payed ballplayers in Reggie Jackson. He does this with the objections of Martin. The next season, Steinbrenner's method seemed to work. The Bronx bombers went on to win the American League East, finding themselves in another pennant race. Just as it looks as all is lost for New York, Steinbrenner gives Martin a contract extension and the Yankees win the whole shebang.

It was in this way that propelled Steinbrenner to make these comments to a New Jersey paper. "[Torre's] job is on the line." While this was the conventional wisdom due to the fact that Joe Torre's contract is up after this season. The Yankees always have high expectations and none with more so than Steinbrenner. In the Bronx, not winning a world series since 2000 and not winning a pennant since 2003 despite winning their division every year is justification for removal. The Boss's product is the team, and the team costs two hundred million bones a year. If a business is selling a product that does not outperform others in the same market while spending considerably more than their competitors this should be considered a loss and whoever can be considered responsible should rightfully be terminated. If it was commonly thought that Torre's job was in jeopardy, why did Steinbrenner say it?

It could be a number of things. First could be, listen to what I tell you. For example, maybe loosening the reigns of the "Joba rules" was called for by the boss. He is the best pitcher in their bullpen and don't give a damn about blowing the kid's arm out, we need to win. Next could simply be, sacrifice everything to win this game and the subsequent games. Sure, Phillip Hughes could pitch tomorrow, but if we do not win this game there is no tomorrow, so have him pitch five innings and win. Finally, it could have been a call to arms for the men in pinstripes who love and respect Joe Torre so much to go out and get one for the gipper. There certainly was a certain fire in the eyes of many Yankees, none more so than Derek Jeter who has only known the leadership of Torre for the entirety of his career.

Like the Yankees of 1978, the boss's prescient statements led to a win. Whether or not it was the biggest factor related in the comeback is impossible to determine. It may have been high sinkers by Indians pitcher Jake Westbrook and a Trot Nixon error. Nonetheless it appeared to work so it did work. Just as Machiavelli would prescirbe, the boss is wearing multiple hats. Sometimes you must wear the hat of a beast and be feared, other times the hat of a man is proper. Fear is a big motivator and you never have to keep your promises because that makes your subjects answerable to you. Nowhere is this less seen than in the plaque that sits on Steinbrenner's desk, "lead, follow, or just get the hell out of the way." That is the Yankee way.

KJ can be contacted at kjcity520@yahoo.com

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