Steinbrenner in video

It’s hard to think about anything other than George Steinbrenner today, so to continue our remembrance, here are some clips of Big Stein over the years. If you have any other embeddable clips, leave them in the comments and we’ll add them.

George and Billy for Miller Lite:

George and Derek for Visa:

The entrance at the 2008 All-Star Game:

Before that, George pulled the lever at the first home game in 2008 to start the countdown:

After the 2009 World Series, Hal talks about what the victory meant to his father:

And who could forget Larry David doing George Steinbrenner on Seinfeld? There are plenty of single clips, but if you click through to these two, you can find a compilation of them all. Here is Part 1 and Part 2.

Of course, there’s the time that Steinbrenner actually appeared on Seinfeld:

I’m kind of disappointed that I couldn’t find his SNL appearance anywhere. Again, if anyone can find it leave it in the comments and we’ll embed. Until then, here’s the transcript.

George M. Steinbrenner III passes away at 80

Updated by Benjamin Kabak and Mike Axisa (11:05 a.m.): Longtime New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner III passed away at the age of 80, his family said today. According to reports out of Tampa, George was rushed to the hospital late Monday night after suffering a massive heart attack, and the Boss died at 6:30 a.m. this morning.

“It is with profound sadness that the family of George M. Steinbrenner III announces his passing,” the Steinbrenner family in a statement said. “He passed away this morning in Tampa, Fla., at age 80. He was an incredible and charitable man. First and foremost he was devoted to his entire family – his beloved wife, Joan; his sisters, Susan Norpell and Judy Kamm, his children, Hank, Jennifer, Jessica and Hal; and all of his grandchildren. He was a visionary and a giant in the world of sports. He took a great but struggling franchise and turned it into a champion again.”

Steinbrenner purchased the Yankees in 1973, when he and a group of investors acquired the team from CBS for $10 million. On his watch, the Yanks won 11 American League pennants and captured seven World Series titles. He took the team from an AL has-been to a billion-dollar global enterprise, revolutionizing baseball economics along the way. For better or worse, the sport hasn’t been the same since Steinbrenner took over. This, too, despite one of the most understated introductions in baseball history. “We plan absentee ownership as far as running the Yankees is concerned,” George said nearly 40 years ago. “We’re not going to pretend we’re something we aren’t. I’ll stick to building ships.”

Just a few months later, the Yankees’ Front Office was in turmoil as the people George brought in to run the team had departed. “Nothing,” Yankees limited partner John McMullen said, “is as limited as being a limited partner of George’s.”

In recent years, as his health began to deteriorate, Steinbrenner, famous for his temper and tirades, wasn’t involved in the day-to-day operations of the club. He relinquished control of the organization to his sons Hank and Hal in 2007, and the two have continue to run the team in his image. He is credited with changing the image of the franchise, instilling the famed no facial hair policy and requiring players to wear suits during travel.

Best known for his brash and often overbearing style, George was no stranger to controversy during his time with the Yankees. He was indicted on 14 criminal counts for making illegal contributions to President Richard Nixon’s campaign in the early 1970’s, and was suspended from baseball in the early 1990’s after paying Howie Spira to dig up information intended to smear his own player Dave Winfield. His win-at-all-costs mantra quickly infected fans and the entire New York region.

As an owner, George was temperamental to the max. He criticized his own players in the press and fired managers at whim. He had a particularly contentious relationship with Billy Martin and alienated Yogi Berra to such a degree that the Yankee great refused to set foot in Yankee Stadium for nearly 15 years. Throughout the 1980s, the team suffered under his leadership as George thought he could throw money at the team’s problems without developing an adequate farm system, and it was only upon his suspension in the early 1990s that the Yanks’ baseball minds were allowed to go to work.

Once Steinbrenner reemerged from his suspension, he became a period of nearly unprecedented success for the Yankee organization. He forged the way with a $95 million sponsorship deal with Adidas and formed the YES Network in 2002. In 1988, as the Yanks stumbled through the 1980s, the MSG Network had entered into a 12-year, $500-million deal with the Yankees for their broadcast rights, and the team wanted to capture that revenue for itself. It took the cable upstart just three years to surpass the MSG Network as the nation’s most lucrative regional sports channel, and estimates today peg the value of the YES Network — a River Ave. Blues partner — at a few billion dollars.

On the field, George’s mantra was “spend, spend, spend.” In late 1976, he made waves when he inked superstar Reggie Jackson to a five-year, $3 million, and from there, baseball salaries had nowhere to go but up. Over the years, Steinbrenner has courted the game’s best superstars even as personalities clashed in the Bronx Zoo years of the late 1970s and money didn’t translate into postseason appearances in the 1980s or early 1990s. Over the past 15 years, Steinbrenner hasn’t scaled back his spending; as Yankee attendance reached past the 4-million mark, the team’s payroll ballooned to over $200 million.

One of Steinbrenner’s lasting acts as owner will be the construction of a new billion-dollar Yankee Stadium. Since the early 1990s, the Boss had been clamoring for a new palace for the Yankees in the Bronx. Although the historic House that Ruth Built could have been renovated, George wanted to see if he could maximize his revenue stream by building a state-of-the-art facility, and the new stadium opened last year to a World Series championship. It will forever be the House that George Built.

Despite his glaring shortcomings, George was also an extremely loyal and extremely generous man. He donated millions to charity and often carried longtime players and executives on the payroll long after their time with the team came to an end. A Tampa area high school now bears his name.

It’s a terribly sad day in baseball, and especially in a Yankeeland still mourning the loss of Bob Sheppard. George went out on top, presiding over one last World Championship before he passed. He will undoubtedly go down as the one of the greatest and most controversial owners in the history of American sports.

RIP, Boss.

Credit: The photo above of Billy Martin, George Steinbrenner and Yogi Berra comes via The Daily News. Sports Illustrated has just published a slideshow of rare photos of the Boss that are well worth checking out. The Times has a full obituary.

First Half Review: Seven who exceeded expectations

With the first half of the season in the rear view mirro and the Yanks all enjoying a few days off for the All Star break, we’re going to offer up some first-half reviews but with a twist. Instead of a rote overview of how the players are doing, we’ll use the spot usually reserved for the game recap to discuss a few select performances. Tonight, we start with the overachievers.

As a club, the Yankees are sitting pretty in first place. With the best mark in baseball, they’re 56-32, two games up on the Tampa Bay Rays and five games better than the third-place Boston Red Sox. They’ve scored 469 runs and have allowed 352. Both of those marks are second best in the American League. So clearly, the team is rife with good performances, but seven players stick out for the headlines they’ve made.

Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

We start with the one who is arguable the team’s first half MVP. Although a recent 16-for-75 slide has seen his season totals dip to .336/.389/.556, Robinson Cano is among the team leaders every offensive category. His batting average is tops on the club; his OBP is second; and his slugging first. His 115 hits place him behind only Josh Hamilton and Ichiro Suzuki in the AL, and his 23 doubles are tops among his Yankee teammates. His 4.4 WAR is tops on the team.

For Cano, 2010 has been a breakout season. We wondered in our season preview which Robinson Cano would show up, and the various projection systems pegged him to hit a respectable .304/.343/.484 with 20 home runs and 31 walks. He should top both the walk and home run totals before July is out. With Mark Teixeira heating up, the Yankees don’t need Cano to carry the team as he was in late April and early May, but at age 27, Cano seems to be coming into his own.

Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

On par with Cano has been Nick Swisher. Hitting .298/.377/.524, Swisher is the only other member of the starting nine to carry an OPS over .900 into the All Star Break. Although he failed to escape the first round of the Home Run Derby earlier tonight, the Yanks have no complaints with Swisher, and he too is far outpacing his season projections. If he hit just .242/.360/.454 with 25 home runs on the season as the various systems projected him to, his second half would be a major disappointment.

Swisher seems to have emerged in 2010 with the help of Yanks hitting coach Kevin Long who broke down Swish’s swing and made him keep still at the plate. Particularly at home, Swisher has shown much improvement. After hitting .226/.382/.394 with 8 home runs last year at home, Nick is off to a .291/.371/.496 start in the Bronx this year with 7 round-trippers, and I laugh every time I remember that Cashman landed him for a wing and a dream.

Photo credit: Seth Wenig/AP

The final offensive player making a statement this year has been the speedy Brett Gardner. After languishing behind Melky Cabrera for much of 2009, Gardner earned himself a starting spot out of Spring Training this year, and he’s been on fire since. He’s hitting .309/.396/.415 with 25 stolen bases in 31 tries and had a higher slugging percentage than Mark Teixeira for much of the first half. Our projection for Gardner had him at .270/.347/.372 with 31 stolen bases and three home runs. Aided by an inside-the-parker last week and a grand slam the day before, Gardner has already topped that total. The real test will be to see how he holds up over the next 74 games.

Credit: AP Photo, Elaine Thompson

Moving to the mound, we find two names that do not come as a surprise and one who does. The surprise, of course, is Phil Hughes. During the season preview, we wondered about Phil’s and Joba’s futures, and so far this year, Phil has gotten the better of that debate. He’s 11-2 in 16 starts spanning 101 innings, and he sports a nifty 3.65 ERA and a 3.96 xFIP. He’s striking out 8.1 per nine innings and walking just 2.6 while keeping the ball in the yard. Although an innings limit may curtail his late-season pitching, Hughes took a huge step forward during the first half.

Photo credit: Frank Franklin II/AP

Next, we have the Big Man. It’s hard to beat expectations when you’re making $23 million a year, but CC over his last eight outings is 8-0 with a 1.81 ERA. On the season, he’s 12-3 with a 3.09 ERA. His projection called for a near replica of 2009, and so far, the southpaw has delivered. The strike out totals are down a bit this year, and the walks are up a tick, but opponents are OPSing just .645 against Sabathia.

It’s easy to forget Sabathia’s early 2009 struggles, but through the first half last year, he was just 8-6 with a 3.86 ERA. He went 11-2 with a 2.74 ERA and a struck out hitters at a rate of nine per nine innings pitched in the second half. In his career, his second half ERA has been approximately 0.50 runs better and he strikes out a batter more per nine innings. If he can be even better in the second half this year than he was in the first, Cy Young considerations will not be out of the question.

Credit: AP Photo, Elaine Thompson

We can’t talk about pitching without mentioning another lefty. Part of the Core Four with five rings, Andy Pettitte has far better than what we termed his rosy projections. We had him pegged at a 4.26 ERA/4.08 FIP with 138 strike outs in 190 innings. Instead, Andy has gone 11-2 with a team-leading 2.70 ERA, albeit with a 4.00 xFIP, and has mowed down 87 opponents. Like a fine wine and Mike Mussina, Pettitte has matured into a finesse pitcher who can still dial it up to 91 or 92 when the moment arises. He’s showing no signs of slowing down, and a strong second half could put him on the cusp of 250 career victories.

Photo credit: Ross D. Franklin/AP

Finally, we arrive at the best of the best. There isn’t much left to say about Mariano Rivera. At age 40, he’s 2-1 with a 1.05 ERA (and a 2.27 FIP thanks to the Jason Kubel grand slam). He’s striking out 8.65 per nine innings and has a ridiculous 5.50 K/BB ratio. With the cutter darting in and out, opponents can’t do much against him, and he has 20 saves this year. We’ll have to see if he can sustain a .190 BABIP, and we’ll have to see how his 40-year-old body holds up. Deservedly or not, though, if Rivera duplicates his first half, he too will garner Cy Young votes this year. Mariano Rivera, it seems, refuses to let age be more than just another number.

Honorable Mentions: Marcus Thames is hitting .294/.398/.447 but with only three home runs, and he’s been to plate just 103 times…Post-June 3 Mark Teixeira: .314/.403/.599 in 159 plate appearances. He has 9 home run — or a 42 dinger pace — over that hot stretch of hitting. He’ll be on another post in this series though…Nick Johnson‘s 24 walks are still two more than Curtis Granderson has drawn in 152 more plate appearances…Javier Vazquez has a 2.78 ERA over his 64.2 innings spanning 10 outings. He’s only 5-3 during that stretch though because the Yanks have scored just 2.9 runs per start for him.

Laird hurt in Trenton win

Triple-A Scranton is off until Thursday for the All Star break.

Double-A Trenton (10-5 win over Bowie)
Justin Christian, CF & Luis Nunez, SS: both 1 for 5 – Christian scored a run … Nunez doubled, scored twice & K’ed
Dan Brewer, RF: 2 for 5, 2 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 K, 1 CS – had been just two for his last 19 (.105)
Brandon Laird, 3B: 0 for 2, 1 K – left the game after fouling a ball off his ankle, and it doesn’t sound too good … neither Laird or the trainer was around after the game, and he’s already backed out of the Eastern League All Star Game, which is obviously a bad sign
Marcos Vechionacci, 1B: 3 for 3, 1 R, 1 2B, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 1 SB – seven for his last 16 (.438)
Jack Rye, LF: 0 for 4, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 E (throwing) – got picked off first
Rene Rivera, C: 2 for 4, 1 R, 2 K
Justin Snyder, 2B :0 for 3, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB
Edwar Gonzalez, DH: 1 for 3, 1 3B, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 1 CS – got picked off first … six for his last ten
Lance Pendleton: 6 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 3-8 GB/FB
Ryan Pope: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 1-2 GB/FB
Cory Arbiso: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 2-1 GB/FB
J.B. Cox: 1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 1-2 GB/FB – 27 H allowed in 16 IP … comeback’s not going to well

[Read more…]

2010 Home Run Derby Thread

"Wait, Vernon was serious about being in this thing?" (Photo Credit: Kathy Willens, AP)

I think we all share the same opinion on the Home Run Derby: It’s fun for a while, but in general the damn thing is just too long. Oh, and the participants. Why not get some actual, you know, home run hitters in there? Adam Dunn, Mark Reynolds, Carlos Pena … get those guys in the competition. No one wants to see Vernon Wells hit three balls just over the fence. But I digress.

We Yankee fans actually have a rooting interest in this year’s event, since Man of the People Nick Swisher is slated to participate. He’s going to swing lefthanded (12 of his 15 homers have come as a lefty) and have Tony Pena pitch to him, but he’s going to have to deal with that big wall in right-center. David Golebiewski at FanGraphs did a real in-depth breakdown of the Derby contestants, so make sure you give that a read if you haven’t already.

Here are the eight contestants, not necessarily in order…

American League
Miguel Cabrera
David Ortiz
Nick Swisher
Vernon Wells

National League
Corey Hart
Matt Holliday
Hanley Ramirez
Chris Young

My money’s on Matt Holliday, but of course I’ll be pulling for Swish. The fun starts at 8 p.m. ET and can be seen on ESPN.

Albaladejo takes home IL Pitcher of the Week honors

Via The Times Leader comes the news that Scranton closer Jonathan Albaladejo has taken home International League Pitcher of the Week honors. Over the last nine days, says Donnie Collins, Albaladejo has thrown six scoreless innings while striking out nine and racking up four saves. He now holds the marks for most saves in a single season and most career saves for the Scranton franchise. On the season, Albaladejo is 2-1 with a 1.01 ERA and 29 saves. He has struck out 59 while allowing just two home runs and 12 walks in 44.2 innings, and barring a promotion, he’ll soon set the IL record for most saves in a single season.

At this point, the Yankees should give Albaladejo a good, long look in the Majors. At 27, he’s not really a prospect any longer, and most scouts who have seen him this year have been impressed with his command and velocity. The Yankees have Dustin Moseley, Chad Gaudin and Chan Ho Park all taking up space on the big league roster, and the need for all three inconsistent and ineffective relievers just isn’t there. Albaladejo can’t do much worse than those three, and he could be better, giving the beleaguered pen a shot in the arm.