Sunday, October 7, 2007

Far Safer to be Feared Than Loved

Two fascinating and divisive Yankee figures are front and center today: George Steinbrenner talked to the Bergen Record's Ian O'Connor, in his first in-depth interview in quite some time, and for better or worse seems to be old self; meanwhile, Roger Clemens will be on the mound representing the Yankees' last chance against the Indians.

If you needed further proof that all those carefully composed Steinbrenner "statements" PR guy Howard Rubenstein has been releasing all season were complete BS, the old Steinbrenner style will come as a refreshing smack in the face. On Torre:
"His job is on the line," the Yankees' owner said in a phone interview. "I think we're paying him a lot of money. He's the highest-paid manager in baseball, so I don't think we'd take him back if we don't win this series."
And the umpiring:
"The umpire was full of [expletive]," Steinbrenner said of the retiring Froemming.
But, guys, even George is going easy on A-Rod:
"I think we'll re-sign him," Steinbrenner said of Rodriguez. "I think he's going to have a good run the rest of the [postseason]. I think he realizes New York is the place to be, the place to play. A lot of this [postseason] is laying on his shoulders, you know, but I think he's up to it."
So if you've been screaming for Rodriguez to be let go, just keep in mind that this makes you less patient than George Steinbrenner. Deep breaths!

Clemens, like Steinbrenner, became a larger-than-life figure a long time ago, and by now it's hard to separate the person from the hype. A lot of Yankee fans are conflicted about him -- unlike fans of other teams, who almost universally loathe him. But while you can argue endlessly about his personality, the endless retirement melodramas, the huge contracts, or the Mike Piazza Incident, there's no debating the fact that he's been one of the most dominant pitchers of his era, and very possible of all time. Just as Steinbrenner's been, like it or not, one of the most influential owners in sports.

This year, finally, despite flashes of dominance, Clemens hasn't been able to pitch like an ace, and Steinbrenner's no longer the feared, overbearing force he once was -- but apparently The Boss won't be going out quietly; we'll find out whether Clemens will in a few hours.


aslump said...

"A lot of Yankee fans are conflicted about [Clemens]."

I dont see that at all, period.

According to Buster Olney, he received 6 standing ovations when he returned in June, vs the Pirates.

It was a mad house when he mad his surprise return, ask Suzyn. In his blog, Peter Abraham compared to the day Lou Gehrig retired (and he meant it as a compliment).
No one has ever questioned whether he's a "real Yankee" they way they questioned ARod's cred, nor do I recall Rocket EVER receiving boos. Even when he was relieved in the worse of circumstances during Game 7 of the 2003 series, he received a standing ovation.

"Divisive" ?? Yes, in terms of media coverage (I too saw today's Post and News).

And the same time, there were around a 1,000 posts on Lohud (the most popular Yankee blog) yesterday, and what divisiveness emotions were aimed at ARod and Torre.

I recognize the media sentiment, but that has to be seperated from the public. I don't read Bronx Banter everyday, but when I have yet to pick up a devisive Clemens thread, ala the "fire-cashman" threads from May.

Emma, I find your post very disappointing.

It reminds me of the decade long disconnect between the DC Beltway political reporting and the public (ie Bill Clinton - wildly popular, yet despised by the talking head set (Sally Quinn famous denunciation); were Bush and Cheney - truely despised, are fawned over by the David Broders and Howard Finemans).

You need some more grounding, before your voice take on an elitist-not-in-touch-Lupica tone.

Emma said...

I don't know, aslump. I know a lot of Yankee fans who have mixed feelings about Clemens, even if they were glad to have him back and hoping he'd stabilize the rotation. You can see that in online comments from that day too...

It's tough to say for sure without conducting a more scientific poll, but I don't think "conflicted" is too strong a word -- it may be a minority, but I don't think it's an insignificant one. A lot of fans were peeved when he unretired and went to Houston; they forgave him because it was that or Tyler Clippard. You have to respect everything he's accomplished, and his return was a great dramatic moment, but I certainly wouldn't compare his popularity to Lou Gehrig's (though obviously I wasn't around to gauge that firsthand) -- hell, he might not even be as popular as Scott Brosius.

I meant the "divisive" in the context of baseball in general, though, not among Yankee fans -- sorry if that wasn't clear.

Anonymous said...

Of course it was a madhouse the day he returned, in fairly grandiose fashion. That Clemens was back with the Yankees was Major News. That hardly makes him a universally beloved figure. "Conflicted" is a good way to put it.