Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Death could propel the Boss to Hall of Fame

George Steinbrenner's death could have the perverse effect of actually propelling the Boss into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

There will always be a contingent in baseball blaming the Boss for creating a competitive imbalance or wanting to punish him for his brutal treatment of his managers, executives and players. They will want to penalize him for constantly flouting the rules of baseball, especially in publicly criticizing baseball officials, opposing team executives and umpires, or tampering with other teams' players. And they will definitely want to keep him out for his most notorious acts: pleading guilty to making illegal campaign contributions and paying a known gambler for dirt on one of his own players.

But if Dave Winfield, who suffered the most public violation at the hands of his Boss, can find it in his heart to forgive Steinbrenner and insist that he deserves a place in the Hall, other people will follow his lead. Listening to all the tributes that poured in yesterday, it seems clear that many are ready to look past Steinbrenner's temperamental ways and horrendous abuse of his employees and support his candidacy.

It's not like Steinbrenner hasn't done a lot for baseball. His determination to return the Yankees to greatness elevated the entire sport and helped turn it into the thriving business that it is today. He turned a $10 million investment into a $1.6 billion franchise and won seven World Series titles in the process.

But it’s hard for me to say that I would vote for the Boss. I’m not a Steinbrenner hater by any stretch and I truly appreciate his determination to put a championship-caliber team in the Bronx every year. But it’s too difficult for me to overlook his torment of so many people, even if he did privately try to right the wrongs. And I don’t think his charitable works offset all his negative actions, including his willful law and rule-breaking. I would probably vote no on the Boss, but wouldn’t be surprised or offended if others decided he deserved a place in the Hall of Fame.

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