Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Hank Steinbrenner is not "the Boss"

Hank Steinbrenner needs to stop trying to be his father George Steinbrenner. He's really bad at it.

His latest attempt to act like "the Boss" involved him taking a shot at his shortstop Derek Jeter for building a massive mansion in Florida rather than focusing on winning another World Series. How that could be a distraction is beyond me. It's not like Jeter was hammering nails himself.

It was almost exactly like George calling out Jeter for staying out too late at his own birthday party back in 2003. But there was a major difference in the father/son comments. At least his father had the guts to call out Jeter specifically. Hank's mansion comments were obviously directed at Jeter, but he did not mention him by name and demurred when given the opportunity to say he was calling out his shortstop. Hank is now in full damage control mode insisting he was not referring to Jeter.

At least publicly, Jeter never seemed to mind the Boss mouthing off, just as he seems to be blowing off Hank's comments. But it obviously grated on him that the Yankees made his contract talks a public spectacle this offseason and privately he has to be bewildered and frustrated by this latest drama.

I just don't understand what Hank and the New York Yankees are thinking. They should be planning an even bigger celebration and marketing push for Jeter's quest for 3,000 hits than they did for Alex Rodriguez's lame chase of 600 home runs. Instead, they seem to want to keep taking pot shots at their iconic shortstop.

Why would Hank go out of his way to alienate his most popular player? Perhaps he is annoyed about having to pay Jeter $51 million for the next three years, even if it was a pay cut. Or perhaps Hank is jealous of Jeter, as this column interestingly speculates. Despite that one dispute that they later turned into a hilarious VISA commercial, Jeter had an unbelievably close relationship with the Boss and Steinbrenner's affection for Jeter was obvious

My guess: I think Hank wanted to pull a classic George by trying to motivate his shortstop, coming off a rough season by his standards, with this indirect, but very public criticism. But this attempt was ill timed because the press was starting to let go of the storyline about Jeter and the Yankees locked in battle. Hank stirred it all up again with his clumsy comments, proving that when it comes to mastering the media and motivation techniques, he is nothing like his dad.

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