Whatever their feelings about the hagiography that was written about George Steinbrenner when he died last summer, everyone who follows the Yankees has to agree that we lost a man who, for better or worse, made life more interesting in the Bronx.
In the days after the Boss first ceded control of the team, it looked like there would be a suitable heir to the throne in his son Hank. Hank was more than willing to give reporters a sound bite on any topic, with the usual content of those blasts following in his father's pattern of being light on facts and heavy on bombast. It didn't bode particularly well for the Yankees getting back to the World Series, but it did foretell an era of great back pages and superior fodder for those who missed the days of the Bronx Zoo.
Alas, Hank's reign was brief and Prince Hal took over to quiet any storms in Yankeeland. The cult of personality at the head of the franchise became a practical CEO ensconced in a corporate pleasure dome who was about as exciting as plain yogurt. The Yankees won, but they were a far cry from the old days when every three-game losing streak turned into a Defcon Three situation.
We may be heading back in that direction. Hank crawled out of whatever undisclosed bunker the team stashed him in a couple of years ago and spoke to Kevin Kernan of the Post about his goals for this season while finding a way to take shots at both Cliff Lee and the Seattle Seahawks.
"We just have to (bleeping) win ... The fans pay the bills, we owe it to ourselves and to them to put the best product out there. If we couldn't get Cliff Lee, I'm really happy about getting Soriano. I just wish Lee would have given Brian the chance to meet with him, but [Lee] was on a hunting trip. He's got his own reasons ... The argument I made three years ago that I got attacked for -- the absurdity of divisional play in any sport -- was proven this year with the Seahawks. I don't care that they won their first playoff game. They were 7-9 in a bad division. What are they doing in the playoffs?"
Nothing too extreme there, but the mouth roaring again does make you wonder if Hank was unhappy living life on the sideline. If so, he just might make his thoughts known more often this season. In and of itself, that's not such a big deal but there's a new, potentially explosive ingredient in the mix this time around.
Brian Cashman has been unusually candid this offseason, from publicly denouncing the decision to sign Rafael Soriano to Tuesday's breakfast discussion of missing starters and Derek Jeter's future. If he's going to keep that up in an atmosphere where ownership is taking a more aggressive approach to business, the prospect of the two sides butting heads is pretty great. Add a manager who doesn't react all that well to intensified media attention and a team with high expectations and serious competition to the mix and you've got yourself a recipe for an explosive summer.
We'll have to wait and see if things play out this way, but we'd be lying if there wasn't a small part of us hoping that we're turning the clock back to the bad old days.