Along with a subpar May, comparisons to 1965 and premature eulogies for Alex Rodriguez, unsourced whispers of an impending Yankee sale seem to crop up annually. This year, it all happened during the same week as a few hours after Joel Sherman compared the 2012 Yankees to the 1965 crew and A-Rod homered twice to end a long dinger drought, The Daily News reported that the Yankees may be for sale.
The article itself announcing the alleged sale was replete with Wall Street insiders and baseball sources. No one wanted to go on the record saying much of anything. “There has been chatter all around the banking and financial industries in the city for a couple of weeks now,” a baseball source said.
Noting that the Dodgers’ sale could lead to a $3 billion valuation for the Yanks, another unnamed source agreed on the timing. “It would definitely be the right time for the family to sell,” the source said. “The value of the team couldn’t be higher, but at the same time, it’s an older team in a division with younger teams getting better at the same time a lot of the Yankees’ core veterans are starting to go into decline.”
Of course, the age of the current team would have little impact on the intentions of someone looking to make a long-term investment in the Yanks. No one today cares about who was on the Yankees in 1973 when George Steinbrenner bought the team.
Reading the Daily News article closely though, we see the thesis begin to fall apart. The unsourced quotes concern timing. Everyone agrees now would be a great time to sell the Yanks, but “now” is always a great time to sell a baseball team. As baseball is growing with no signs of slowing down, any team — and especially the Yankees — is a valuable commodity. The News’ strongest argument for the sale seemingly is Hal Steinbrenner’s reluctance to hand out large contracts and his hands-off ownership approach. I’m not so sure either of those are negatives.
The Yankees, meanwhile, went into full-scale on-the-record denial mode. “I can say to you there is absolutely, positively nothing to this,” Randy Levine said. “The Steinbrenners are not selling the team.”
“I just learned of the Daily News story,” Hal Steinbrenner said in a statement. “It is pure fiction. The Yankees are not for sale. I expect that the Yankees will be in my family for many years to come.”
Even as Bill Madden stuck by his story, Lonn Trost too denied the rumors. “We’re aghast at such a story,” he said on the radio this morning.
“My impression is not only do they all love being part of it, I think they are interested in handing it to their kids,” Yanks’ GM Brian Cashman said to Joel Sherman. “I think they want the family to be involved for generations to come. The Steinbrenners love owning the Yankees — and they are damn good at it. I have gotten no impression that they want to do anything but own the Yankees. They are the only ones who know the truth, but my impression is they are not even entertaining selling the Yankees.”
Furthermore, Major League Baseball, involved in the sale of all of its member clubs, put out its own statement: “Major League Baseball has received no indications from any representatives of the Yankees or anyone else that the Club is for sale.”
So on the one hand, we have speculation that the club could be put up for sale, and on the other, we have everyone on record denying that the club is for sale. That doesn’t even account for Richard Sandomir’s note on the Yankees trust. In my mind, the fact that the family would incur significant tax penalties is likely the biggest factor keeping the club off the market.
As fans of the team who have long grown accustomed to the Steinbrenner’s free-spending and largely hands-off ownership, what are we to make of this? Yankee fans live in fear that a rich New York family with sports ties such as the Dolans could buy the team and ruin it. No names, though, have been attached to this offer. So are the Yanks floating this story to gauge interest? The across-the-board denials suggest not. Is someone trying to make interest in the team known? Perhaps.
Right now, we know what’s on the record: The Yankees are not for sale, and no one is on the verge of buying them. But money talks, and if the right offer comes around, the Steinbrenner family will be tempted to cash out. It’s only, after all, a business, and the Yankees today aren’t for sale until the day they are.