A Sure Sign of Hypocrisy
BEFORE we get to the World Baseball Classic, let's deal with a peripheral issue and make one thing perfectly clear. His denials to the contrary, George Steinbrenner was responsible for the ridiculously self-serving sign that was posted Saturday at Legends Field in Tampa, Fla.
Having covered him for his entire 33-year baseball career, I know a Steinbrenner statement when I see it. The sign bashing the Classic, Commissioner Bud Selig and the union did not have to carry Steinbrenner's byline.
How many times over the years has Steinbrenner, the Yankees' principal owner, called his public-relations man in a press box somewhere and dictated a statement with his comments on some issue? It was always entertaining to watch the poor P.R. guy scribbling furiously to keep up with Steinbrenner.
Selig declined again yesterday to talk specifically about the sign, but he, too, has known Steinbrenner for a long time, and he knows a Steinbrenner message when he sees it.
Howard Rubenstein, Steinbrenner's spokesman, said Steinbrenner had nothing to do with the sign, and that if he had, the word Yankees would not have been misspelled.
Rubenstein is good at coming up with irrelevant, obfuscating responses. For instance, when asked about a year ago if Steinbrenner had sustained a medical setback, Rubenstein responded, "George lifts weights every day."
Of course, Steinbrenner can spell Yankees, but the poor guy who was ordered to print the sign got it wrong and didn't proofread it. Rubenstein said the ticket office was responsible for the sign. That would be a first. Never in 33 years has any Steinbrenner minion dared do something like post that sign without direction or approval from on high.
The sign offered an apology to fans for not being able to see certain players, who instead of being with the Yankees are off playing in the inaugural Classic. Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter play for Team USA against Mexico in Phoenix today, and Bernie Williams plays for Puerto Rico in San Juan against Panama tonight.
Having set the precedent, will Steinbrenner post signs of apology when Manager Joe Torre decides not to play a regular in an exhibition game, as he does in spring training?
Last spring, for example, the Yankees played 30 exhibition games, but Rodriguez played 23, Jeter 21 and Williams 16. Yet Steinbrenner made no apologies to the fans who showed up for games and didn't get to see one or more of those players.
That Steinbrenner should oppose the Classic demonstrates his hypocrisy. Steinbrenner, a big booster of the Olympics and a former official of the United States Olympic Committee, opposes the globalization of baseball. If he could, the Ugly American would shut down the Classic.