By Jason Keidel
» More Columns
About a month ago I interviewed Doc Gooden, who mused over the 1996 Yankees and his relationship with George Steinbrenner.
Beyond the nostalgia that comes with such memories, it makes you wonder how how the Boss would feel about the 2016 Yanks.
More startling than the lack of noise from the Yankees on the field is the silence from the owner's box.
Forget about Wednesday's rousing walk-off win; fourth place doesn't cut it. Nowadays, it seems like the Yankees are resigned to their place in AL East obscurity, buried in mediocrity. When they whiff on a Jacoby Ellsbury, they retreat to corporate cliches and fawn over the farm system, which hasn't produced an everyday All-Star since Robinson Cano.
Would George just stand pat, and wait for the cosmos to kick in? Would he talk about the process?
Maybe King George didn't always do the right thing, but he always did something. What he didn't do was speak in half-baked platitudes about grinding and keeping the faith.
Sure, Theo Epstein wasn't hurling phones through windows when he built Boston into a powerhouse, and he's equally laconic while building that juggernaut in Chicago. Likewise, you don't hear rants or read missives from the brain trust in San Francisco, where the Giants win a World Series every other year.
But this is New York, and it's the Bronx -- the ancestral home of volume, and victory.
The only murmurs out of Yankeeland speak to being sellers, not buyers. Since when is this all right?
Imagine the Boss holding a fire sale, a flea market for his underperforming, overpaid players. George, if nothing else, was a bull, not a bear.
Brian Cashman hasn't changed since he assumed the helm in the '90s. But the perfect counter to his low-key regularity was the Boss's fire for winning and ire for losing.
Maybe the monetary landscape has changed. The Yankees can no longer go on their yearly spending binges, poaching the more forlorn franchises of their budding studs.
Between revenue sharing and regional cable deals sprouting like weeds around the MLB map, many clubs can lock up their young stars before they hit the free agent market, before Cashman shows up with suitcases of cash.
But there were no such networks before King George started with YES. Lord knows how many more innovations would have been hatched on River Ave had the old man been around.
The Yankees don't even have the sport's highest payroll. The Dodgers, of all teams, have a more robust budget. Maybe you can't buy titles -- as so many have accused the Yankees of doing, despite all the evidence to the contrary -- but they can flash some of that fire, the lust for winning, that made the Yankees the singular, American team. The very qualities that made them the Bronx Bombers.
The Yankees haven't been the same since the Boss collapsed at Otto Graham's funeral in 2003, which many consider his de facto retirement from daily operations. The next year, the club had its historical choke against the Red Sox, and, other than 2009, haven't won a pennant since.
Like many New Yorkers, I grew tired of George's mood swings, missives, and Army metaphors. But they sound like Mozart now compared to the galling silence and indifference from his successors.
As soon as his sons took over, Hal bragged about being a "numbers geek," as if that were some sort of baseball aphrodisiac.
How's this for a number? One. One World Series title -- and appearance -- since George ran out of steam. The Yanks haven't won a single playoff game in four years.
Cynics point to the 1980s, the only decade sans a title since Babe Ruth. The Boss's business model of doubling down on bad contracts made them a punchline for years.
But the more recent blueprint, 15 trips to the playoffs in 16 years, speaks more to Steinbrenner's legacy than Jack Clark and Steve Trout.
Picture the Boss on the heels of not only another playoff failure -- if you'd care to call 87 wins and a shutout loss to the Astros as a playoff run -- but also being the second-best team in his own town.
Imagine the Boss watching the Mets in the World Series. Imagine another forgotten fall while the other team plays in the Fall Classic. Imagine his reaction to all the blowhards -- like yours truly -- declaring the Big Apple a Mets town.
King George would be asking why. Why don't we have Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz? Why don't we have men with monikers, like Thor? Where's our Dark Knight? Where's our Wheeler? The Mets sold how many Bartolo Bobbleheads after his historic homer. Didn't we have Bartolo?
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel
for more features.