Where Are They Now: Steve Swindal

Swindal and Joe Torre in 2007. (Bukaty/AP)

Five years ago, Steve Swindal was the heir apparent to the Yankees. The husband of Jennifer Steinbrenner and a general partner of the team since 1998, Swindal had been appointed George Steinbrenner‘s successor back in 2005. That plan changed in early-2007, when he was arrested for DUI and Jennifer filed for divorce a month later. The team bought out his ownership stake that November, and The Boss instead handed the reigns to his son Hal.

After his time with the Yankees ended, Swindal served as the head of a marine towing company in Florida for a while. He’s now back in baseball though, having launched a youth academy in the Dominican Republic with Abel Guerra (the Yanks’ former VP of International Ops) and Hans Hertell (former U.S. ambassador to the D.R.) in 2009 according CBS New York. They house, feed, train, and educate young prospects in exchange for a portion of their future signing bonuses. More than 40 prospects have gone on to sign with a big league club after a stint at Swindal’s academy. “[It’s] the nicest academy of any agent,” said Rafael Perez, MLB’s director of Dominican operations. “And they produce a lot of players.”

Swindal’s son still works for the team in stadium operations (in the Bronx), and his daughter Haley sings the national anthem before games a few times a year. There doesn’t appear to be any animosity on either side, and in fact Swindal was at the club’s Spring Training complex last weekend. “I’m always going be pulling for the Yankees,” he said. “That’s never going to go away.”

As Ben wrote soon after the DUI and divorce, Swindal was seen as the perfect heir to Steinbrenner’s throne back then. “Swindal was everything that George was and more,” he wrote. “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.”

That all sounds well and good, but we’ll never know how the course of Yankees history would have changed had Swindal taken over the team as planned rather than Hal. Perhaps all this talk of getting under the luxury tax threshold in 2014 would not exist, or perhaps the reduced payroll would have happened years ago. It’s hard to complain about the team right now, but there’s still that what-if element. “It’s a strange turn,” said Swindal to CBSNY. “Life is going to be full of turns and changes. It’s how you deal with it that’s important. I had the best ten years of my life with the Yankees, of my professional life. I don’t regret a minute of it.”

[h/t HBT]

The ousted heir-apparent speaks

Jim Baumbach tracked down one-time Yankee honcho Steve Swindal recently, and Swindal, now the head of a marine towing company in Florida, talked with the Newsday reporter. Swindal left the Yanks after a drunk driving incident and a subsequent divorce from George Steinbrenner‘s daughter Jennifer. He says he still roots for the Yanks: “Honestly, I wish them the best. I’ll always be pulling for them, and I’d rather just leave it at that.” That’s a rueful quote if ever I heard one.

Changing the line of Yankee succession

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:“I’m the boss. I continue to be the boss, I have no intention of retiring, and my family runs the Yankees with me.”

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 — among other things, he is listed as the chairman of Yankee Global Enterprises, the umbrella company for the club and the YES network — 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.

Steve, you’re out of the family

George Steinbrenner‘s daughter filed divorce papers this week against husband Steve Swindal, a move that appears to end his chance to take over as head of the New York Yankees.

Jennifer Swindal filed the papers Tuesday in Hillsborough County Circuit Court’s family law department, Yankees spokesman Howard Rubenstein said Wednesday. Rubenstein said the papers cited “irreconcilable differences.”

Reached by telephone, Swindal said he didn’t want to comment beyond the statement or address his role with the team.

In honor of every man that’s been screwed over in a divorce, I say he should ask for half of Yankee Stadium in the distribution of assets.

Asked whether he still viewed himself as Steinbrenner’s successor, Swindal replied: “I can’t answer that other than it would be speculation.”

He’s out. Just can’t see it happening.

(hat tip to Pinto, with an honorbale mention to YF vs SF)