August 23, 2014

Torre, Mattingly Share Thoughts on the Passing of George Steinbrenner

The death of George Steinbrenner (1930-2010) this morning at the age of 80 made me reflect on how great an owner he was for the New York Yankees.  Yes, he was controversal in more ways than one, but he delivered results, restored glory to the Yankee organization and changed the way baseball was run with the introduction of revenue sharing.

As the McCourt divorce continues to slowly (and excrutiatingly) plays out, I’m reminded of how great ownership can truly shape the direction of a franchise.

Following are quotes from those within the Dodgers organization that knew George Steinbrenner best (quotes courtesy of the Los Angeles Dodgers PR staff):

“George was a friend who I admired very much.  He was a giant in our game and he built an empire.  All he was was a winner.  He wanted to give the fans a winner, and that’s exactly what he did.” 

- Dodger Hall of Fame Manager Tommy Lasorda

“I will always remember George Steinbrenner as a passionate man, a tough boss, a true visionary, a great humanitarian and a dear friend.  I will be forever grateful that he trusted me with his Yankees for 12 years. My heart goes out to his entire family. He will be deeply missed in New York, Tampa and throughout the world of baseball. It’s only fitting that he went out as a world champ.”

– Dodger Manager Joe Torre

“I am deeply saddened to hear the news of George Steinbrenner’s passing.  His vision, passion and commitment to winning, recharged the New York Yankees and revolutionized the game.

I remember a man driven to succeed.   He was the owner, “The Boss” and number one fan of the Yankees.  Our relationship was built on mutual respect.  I will never forget and always be grateful for how he treated me and my family both during my playing days and after I retired.

I will miss him very much and extend my deepest condolences to his wife, Joan, and all the members of the Steinbrenner family.”           

– Dodger Hitting Coach Don Mattingly

“George Steinbrenner was the first owner to contact me to congratulate me when I purchased the Los Angeles Dodgers.  From that day forward we built a strong and meaningful friendship.  He was a larger than life owner who cared deeply about winning.  George helped shape the game of baseball during his incredible stewardship of the Yankees.  My deepest sympathies go out to his wife, Joan and his four children, Hal, Hank, Jennifer and Jessica and the entire Steinbrenner family.”

– Dodger Owner Frank McCourt

Rest in Peace, George Steinbrenner!

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Chris O’Meara

Thoughts on the Dodgers-Yankees Crowd Makeup

Wow, that game was ugly, ugly, ugly. I’m going to need a little time to process everything that happened, but I do have a theory on the crowd tonight, and I welcome your feedback.  Here goes:

The Dodgers were only selling tickets to this Yankees series if consumers also bought a ticket plan of some sort.  This means that the average Dodger fan who can’t afford to go to a bunch of Dodger games could theoretically be priced out of the Yankee series altogether.  In theory, the people that could then afford the higher ticket output for multiple games are less rabid about the Dodgers than those that can only attend a few games a year.  If the mix of fans at Dodger Stadium changes and includes a smaller number that are willing to scream their guts out, it stands to reason that we’ll hear more cheers for the opposing team throughout the game, and we’ll also see more Dodger fans leaving early.

Second, the Yankees are by far the hottest regular season draw on the Dodgers’ schedule, so these tickets would be worth the most on Stub Hub, eBay, etc.  If consumers who purchased the mini-plans felt that the total cost of the required plan was too much, it’s within reason that a certain percentage would take advantage of this increased interest and sell their NYY tickets to the highest bidder, thereby reducing their total financial output for the mini-plan they quite possibly did not want in the first place.  This could then lead to even more less passionate Dodger fans, as well as more Yankee fans at the games.

I don’t have any knowledge of the Dodgers ticket-selling practices or what percentage of fans traditionally root for the visiting team at Dodger Stadium compared to this series, but I think there’s something to this.

Enjoying the Hype of the Dodgers and the Yankees

I have to say, I’m pretty psyched for this weekend’s Dodgers-Yankees series at Dodger Stadium, and all the hype that goes along with it.  It’s only the second time the two clubs have faced each other in the regular season, and the Dodgers have won 10 of 14 games played at Chavez Ravine.  Overall, the Dodgers are 31-38 against New York.

And the big series couldn’t come at a better time.  After losing 11 of their last 13 games, the Dodgers’ bats came alive last night in a critical win.  Plus, the club could use a distraction, and this weekend will be all about Joe Torre - the perfect way to take some of the pressure off of the team’s players.  I’ve got to admit, there are some intriguing story lines with Joe Torre and Don Mattingly facing their old team, to say nothing of Manny Ramirez playing against one of his former rivals.

According to the Dodgers pre-game notes, Ramirez has the fourth best batting average against the Yankees in the regular season, going .321 with 55 home runs in 200 games.  Oddly, Garret Anderson has the fifth best average against the Yankees at .310.  Something tells me that the surging Manny has a MUCH better chance to come through in the clutch this weekend than GA does.  Prove me wrong GA, prove me wrong.

On the surface, the Yankee influence on the Dodger coaching staff reminds me a lot of Mike Scioscia and the Dodgers influence on the Angels coaching staff (the big difference being that Scioscia has delivered a championship and is in place for the next 10 years, while Torre could retire as soon as the end of this season).

One of my earliest Dodger moments was being 11 years old and listening to the Dodgers-Yankees play during the 1981 World Series while my mom drove us to soccer practice.  This is the baseball equivalent of the Lakers and the Celtics, and cold only be topped if the two clubs met in the World Series later this season.

And just to wrap up, following are a few interesting notes in how this series, and some of it’s sideshows, are being painted by the New York and national media:

The New York Post looks at Alex Rodriguez’s frosty take on Joe Torre, while Derek Jeter says “He has been like a father figure to me.”

The New York Daily Newsparticipates in Joe Torre’s pre-game media session yesterday, where the skipper shared his thoughts about the weekend series against his former team.

Lee Jenkins at SI.com looks at “Joe Torre vs. Joe Torre.”

Photo credit: Fantasysportsday.com