THERE’S A MACABRE joy in watching Hank Steinbrenner carrying on his father’s work.
Until age took its toll on George Steinbrenner, the now-deceased New York Yankees owner ruled with an iron fist and a calamitous tongue.
And just like Santino ‘Sonny’ Corleone could never go on to become the Don in The Godfather, Hank brings a similar degree of chaos and unpredictability to his family’s dealings, allowing bad energy get in the way of good diplomacy.
His latest masterstroke was to publicly blast the Yankees players for enjoying the 2009 World Series a little too much thus destroying any hopes of repeating that success in 2010 – they fell short against the Texas Rangers in the American League Divisional Championship last October.
Of course any normal team would be content to fall at baseball’s penultimate hurdle but the Yankees famously give this city a bad name with their psychotic addiction to success.
If he had instead opted to simply land a subtle jab at their slump in form, it would have been acceptable. However, in true Steinbrenner style, he went after team captain Derek Jeter with the sort of veiled attack that a five-year-old would pick up on.
(Not to mention a short stop who has seen all this before. In 2002, Steinbrenner Snr questioned Jeter’s commitment after reading reports that he was out late at a birthday party. Jeter said he could take it if he was been criticised about his performances at-base but he didn’t appreciate comments that questioned his work ethic. They patched it up by starring together in a cute ad for Visa.)
“I think, maybe, they celebrated too much last year,” Steinbrenner Jnr said on Monday. “Some of the players, too busy building mansions and doing other things and not concentrating on winning. I have no problem saying that.”
OK, he didn’t name names but although an outwardly not-bothered Jeter protested on Tuesday that he wasn’t the only Yankee to throw a new gaff up, no baseball expert was able to come up with anyone else whose luxurious abode merited its own nickname.
His new 30,875 square-foot mansion in Tampa, Florida cost in the region of €7 million and earned the moniker St Jetersburg for its Grade-A ostentatiousness.
Having negotiated a $51m three-year contract in December, Jeter took the sensible route of playing the mini-drama down when asked about Hank’s comments at his team’s Spring Training facility: the George M Steinbrenner Field in Florida.
When Jeter finalised that lucrative deal after his worst ever offensive season, it wasn’t Hank who sat in on negotiations but his more placid, less Steinbrenner brother Hal. So it’s tempting to concoct an image of bad cop and ecstatic Hank lapping up the fallout from his throwaway comments while sitting in a room full of cigar smoke.
Because on the day that New York moved on from the finalisation of the Carmelo Anthony will-he-won’t-he saga, the Yankees co-owner managed to coral the short attention span of the city’s sports fans with a bit of outrageous trash-talking of his own star player.
It bodes well for a chaotic season in the Bronx.
John Riordan writes a column for the Irish Examiner. He works as a freelance journalist in New York; check out his blog here.
Read his weekly pieces for TheScore here.