So yeah, about that whole line of Yankee succession thing? It’s not looking too good right now.
Once upon a time, Yankee fans could rest easy knowing that the legacy of George Steinbrenner and the ownership of the Yankees would lie in the hands of Steve Swindal, George’s son-in-law. Swindal had all the right qualities. He was devoted to guys who knew about baseball. Now, I’m not talking about George’s “Baseball Guys.” I’m talking about Brian Cashman and Gene Michael; I’m talking about Joe Torre and a front office that has put a playoff-bound team on the field every year since 1995 (or 1994 if you want).
Swindal was everything that George was and more. He exhibited the same win-at-all-monetary-costs attitude that Yankee fans have come to crave, but he also exhibited a whole lot of Baseball Smarts. He knew the value of constructing a Major League team through sound investment and an organization that could develop a steady stream of home-grown players to complement the free agent signings.
But now, everything is up in the air as Swindal and Jennifer Steinbrenner are no more. Really, we should have seen this coming. Swindal landed himself a DUI a few weeks ago during the early days of Spring Training. If that’s not a harbingers of bad things to come, I don’t know what is. By now, the DUI is water under the bridge. Bigger problems loom for the Bronx Bombers.
The general consensus among the Yankee writers, as explained by Tyler Kepner in today’s edition of The New York Times, is that Swindal is out as the Boss’ successor. George, speaking nowadays through his publicist Howard Rubenstein, was cryptic:â€œIâ€™m the boss. I continue to be the boss, I have no intention of retiring, and my family runs the Yankees with me.â€
Kepner had more:
When Swindal leaves the family, he will effectively leave the Yankees. According to an individual with direct knowledge of the matter, Steinbrenner no longer plans to promote him, and he would seem to have no future with the team. But the situation is complicated because Swindal has a small financial interest in the team â€” among other things, he is listed as the chairman of Yankee Global Enterprises, the umbrella company for the club and the YES network â€” and the specifics of that interest will have to be untangled. Rubenstein would not say if Swindal still worked for the Yankees.
So that leaves the Yanks in the hands of the Boss and Randy Levine. George’s biological sons Hank and Hal have, according to all reports, shown little interest in running the team, and his other son-in-law Felix Lopez has worked for the team. But little is known about Lopez’s role and fate.
It’s an uncertain time for the Yanks, and with The Boss showing his age, some behind-the-scenes worries can creep up quickly. First, when George passes, if there is no successor to the throne, the family could try to sell some or all of their stake in the team. While it may be hard to find someone who wants spend $1 billion on a baseball team and its associated properties, I’m sure someone is out there with money to burn.
But could this new owner be trusted to do what George has done? Or will, as Steve Lombardi is right to ponder, the Yankees become the MLB version of the New York Giants, a poorly-managed team with a solid financial backing?
I hope someone investing in the Yankees and running the team would be aware of the history and pressure put on the team by its fans to win. But only time will tell if this divorce is a turning point for the Yankees in the 21st Century or just something we can write about before Opening Day.