Friday, February 8, 2013
Countdown: 4 days to spring training
By Wallace Matthews
For Hal Steinbrenner, baseball is more a business than a passion. Should he sell the Yankees?
We're practically in the trenches now -- just 96 hours until pitchers and catchers report to Yankees spring training in Tampa on Feb. 12. Every day between now and then, Andrew Marchand, Mark Simon and I have been presenting a list concerning a specific issue facing the Yankees this season. Today's list may not pertain to the upcoming season, but it involves an issue that could have profound long-term effects on the team: the question of whether Hal Steinbrenner should sell the Yankees and put the club into new ownership for the first time in 40 years.
FOUR REASONS HAL STEINBRENNER SHOULD SELL THE YANKEES
1. IT'S A GREAT TIME TO CASH OUT
With the Los Angeles Dodgers having fetched $2 billion last year from a group headed by Magic Johnson, the Yankees have got to be worth in excess of $3 billion, especially if the Yankees' share of the YES Network is included. That's a pretty hefty return on an $8 million investment made in 1973, and it's hard to imagine how a self-described finance geek like Hal can stand to pass that up.
2. THEY'VE ALREADY STARTED THE PROCESS
Letting Rupert Murdoch in the door was the first step toward the Steinbrenners getting out. When Murdoch's News Corp. bought 49 percent of the YES Network in November, with the opportunity to acquire up to 80 percent within three years, it was a sign that the family was at least eyeing the possibility of life after the Yankees. And while it was once famously said that "there is nothing quite so limited as a limited partner of George Steinbrenner," the same can be said of Murdoch. Once his foot is in the door, the rest of him generally follows.
3. HAL'S NOT THAT INTO IT, ANYWAY
By his words and actions, it's obvious the younger son of Boss George looks at the Yankees as a business, not a passion. And while it's no doubt a very good business, anyone old enough to remember when the Yankees were owned by a corporation -- and run as one -- remembers that during the dismal CBS era, the team stunk. Hal's insistence on adhering to a $189 million budget, while it may be a sound business move, is a step back to the CBS philosophy of team ownership, where winning is secondary to turning a profit.
4. MAYBE IT'S TIME FOR A CHANGE OF DIRECTION
Even though they won 95 games and the division last season, there are clear indications that as a ballclub, and maybe as a business, the Yankees are about to embark on a decline. It is probably not a coincidence that this period so closely follows George's death in 2010. As vehemently as they will deny it, clearly, the Yankees' mission statement has changed over the past three years. Maybe it's time for new ownership -- a Mark Cuban type perhaps? -- to inject some new blood and fresh energy into this franchise.
QUESTION OF THE DAY: Do you think it's time for the Steinbrenners to sell the team? Or can the Yankees return to their former glory under the leadership of a man who seemingly does not share his father's almost pathological hunger for winning?