From his head scratching organizational moves to a main character on Seinfeld, George Steinbrenner is a man who will do whatever it takes to win it all.
Since taking over the Yankees in 1973, the team has won 11 pennants and seven World Series titles. That might not seem like much, but Steinbrenner has done everything in his power to try and win as many championships as possible.
He has made some very good decisions throughout his tenure as owner of the Yankees.
After losing the 1976 World Series to the Reds, Steinbrenner realized the Yankees needed just a little more to push them over the top, and he went out and got the biggest free agent out there—Reggie Jackson.
With Jackson, “the straw that stirs the drink”, the Yankees won the fall classic in ‘77 and ‘78, bringing big George his first two rings in back-to-back fashion.
While Mr. October’s stint in the Bronx ended in 1981, after several disagreements with Steinbrenner , the Yankees had found a new star in Dave Winfield who began his nine year tenure with the Yankees in Jackson’s final year.
Despite having both Jackson and Winfield together, the Yankees failed to win the 1981 World Series, finally falling to the Dodgers after beating them in both ‘77 and ‘78.
With Jackson gone, the Yankees struggled after that ‘81 World Series defeat, never seeing the light of day in the playoffs for the rest of the decade.
Yet, Winfield continued to prosper and build upon his Hall of Fame career, even while on a very bad team for nearly 10 years. In pinstripes, Winfield hit 205 home runs, had 818 RBI, and collected 1,300 of his 3,110 career hits.
He also won five Gold Gloves, appeared in eight All Star games, and got five Silver Slugger awards.
He was clearly the best player on the Yankees for that miserable decade, but another young star emerged from within the Yankee organization, Don Mattingly .
Mattingly would be one of the few Yankees developed form their own farm system for the better part of the next 15 years.
Making his debut in 1982 and taking over full time first base duties by 1984, Mattingly turned into a very good hitter, to go along wi th his slick fielding.
Throughout the mid ’80s Mattingly was among the best hitters in baseball, winning the MVP in 1985 and three consecutive Silver Slugger awards, he also led the league in hits twice.
Meanwhile, the controversies continued to go back and forth between Winfield and Steinbrenner .
After paying a small time gambler, Howie Spira , to get some dirt on Winfield, who sued Steinbrenner for not owning up to a clause in his contract, MLB commissioner Fay Vincent banned Steinbrenner for life.
Gene Michael took over every day operations of the club from there on out, which allowed the Yankees to develop some of their young talent, such as Bernie Williams, who would have probably been traded away for veteran players had Steinbrenner still been in charge.
With Winfield being traded in the middle of the 1990 season, and a back injury limiting Mattingly’s production, the 90’s looked as if they were going to be just as bad as the 80’s.
Steinbrenner was reinstated in 1993, but was less inclined to run the Yankees every day operation, leaving Gene Michael in charge.
The Yankees were leading the AL East in 1994 when the players strike wiped out the rest of the season, and they returned to the playoffs in 1995 for the first time since ‘81, also making this Mattingly’s first and only playoff appearance.
In ’96, under new manager Joe Torre, the young Yankees won the World Series for the first time since ‘81 and got Steinbrenner his third ring as owner.
Torre, alongside his new core four players; Derek Jeter , Andy Pettitte , Jorge Posada , and Mariano Rivera would go on to win three straight titles from 1998 to 2000, proving that the talent from within the organization can be enough to win titles.
The Yankees would win the AL Championship series in 2001 and 2003 but failed to win either of those years, putting an end to the dynasty years.
After 2003 the Yankees started signing more and more free agents, and their team payroll has never been less than $185 million since, needles to say, but they have led the MLB with the highest payroll since as well, but never missed the playoffs for 12 years until 2008.
After dumping several of those monster salaries after 2007 and 2008, like Jason Giambi , the Yankees went out and invested in three very good players; CC Sabathia , A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira .
Withthe new three players, along wi th the same core four from the dynasty years and Alex Rrodriguez , the Yankees had the best record in baseball and eventually won their first World Series since 2000, bringing Steinbrenner’s championship total to seven.
Upon winning the 2009 World Series, that team had a message for Steinbrenner , “This one’s for you boss.”
Many people criticize Steinbrenner for all the money he has shelled out to free agents over the past decade or so, and for all the terrible trades he made in 80’s, but in his mind, he was just trying to do what was best for the team and lead them a World Series title every year.
As a fan of the Yankees, I know that as long as the Steinbrenner’s own the Yankees they will try to put the best team in baseball on the field, and if that takes $200+ million every year I’m fine wi th that, because I obviously want to see the Yankees win, and that’s what George Michael Steinbrenner is all about.
Happy 80th Birthday to the Boss.