"I want to congratulate the Boston team. They did very well. They have a great team."
Ummmmm what? Where was the vitriol? Where was the sarcastic throwaway comment like, "Hey, when you're beating someone like a rented mule for 80 years, the odds eventually swing in their favor"? Where was the story leaked to Buster Olney about how George destroyed three deli trays, four plasmas and two leather chairs in his suite during the game? Where was the announcement to Yankee fans that the public guillotining of Torre, Mel Stottlemyre, Flash Gordon and Jason Giambi would take place Oct. 28 in Times Square? Where was the AP Headline, "Yankees GM Cashman Missing for 3 Days, Family Said To Be Increasingly Concerned"?
December 2004: After Boston won the World Series, everyone assumed money wouldn't be an object for the Yanks -- they would trade for Randy Johnson (the No. 1 starter they sorely needed), spend $140 million on Carlos Beltran (the center fielder and leadoff hitter they sorely needed), then sign Pedro for $75 million (just as an added insult to Red Sox fans). As it turned out, they did trade for the Big Unit, but they allowed Beltran and Pedro to sign with (drumroll please) the Mets.
The New York Mets????
In his absolute prime, would Steinbrenner ever have allowed his crosstown rivals to sign two marquee free agents like that? This was the moment when I started entertaining the possibility that he was being kept alive on a respirator in a secret hospital room underneath Yankee Stadium, with his body double from "Seinfeld" pretending to be him in public.
January-March 2005: When the Balco Scandal breaks, Giambi emerges as the poster boy of baseball's impossible-to-ignore steroids problem, a public relations disaster that eventually leads to tougher drug testing policies and a goofy congressional hearing that gave dozens of politicians a chance to get face time and pretend they gave a crap about what was going on. Poor Giambi ends up holding a press conference and repeatedly apologizing for well, something. He won't say what. But if you read between the lines, here's what he probably meant:
"Over the last few seasons, dating back to my Oakland days, I took so many steroids that my pituitary gland pretty much self-combusted like Duran Duran in the mid-'80s. These steroids improved my performance to the point that I landed a nine-figure contract from the Yankees. Unfortunately, I can't take steroids anymore, so here's what you're getting for the next five years -- a .250 average, 20-25 homers, crummy defense and somebody to boo lustily at every home game. Plus, I killed your team's budget to the point that the Yanks didn't sign Beltran this winter. Again, I apologize. My bad."
Imagine George's reacting to Giambi's pseudo-apology back in the day? This is the same vindictive blowhard who became so disenchanted with Dave Winfield's play during the mid-'80s -- with Winnie in the prime of a Hall of Fame career, by the way -- that he paid a scumbag named Howie Spira $40,000 to dig up unflattering dirt on him. Now Giambi basically dupes him to the tune of $120 million and gets away with it? And remains on the team? And they can't find out a loophole to void his contract? And he's allowed to live? And George just shrugs his shoulders and moves on?