Steinbrenner a Louse

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This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.

George Steinbrenner is an anti-sportsman. The owner of the New York Yankees makes a public statement while his team has been backed into a corner and is fighting desperately to keep their season alive. Steinbrenner kvetches that he will fire his manager, Joe Torre, if the Yankees don't pull through and win the World Series. When the last out goes down, when the fat lady has indeed sung, then an owner does what he wants with his money. It's his team and, fair or unfair, the manager often takes the hit for a losing season. But the fat lady hadn't sung yet. And, by the way, can we really call this a losing season for the Yankees? Steinbrenner's boys in pinstripes still had at least a breath of hope that they could come from behind and move past the Cleveland Indians to the American League Championship Series. How terribly unfair to put yet another load of pressure on those players, that if they don't win, their beloved manager gets the axe!

If you gathered an executive search committee to go out and find a Major League manager who is smart, who knows the game inside out, who commands respect of his players, guess who they'd put at the top of their list? Joe Torre. This guy has delivered to Steinbrenner from the moment he took his office at Yankee Stadium twelve years ago. He's brought his teams into the post season every single one of those twelve years. Every team in the country can only dream of such a sterling record. This year alone was close to miraculous for the Yankees, if you look at the steep climb out of their disastrous start, up to their inspired July, August, and September. They should have an owner who applauds them, doesn't berate them. But they have George Steinbrenner who hunts down every superstar free agent his fat wallet and $216 million payroll can buy…and threatens his own players and his own first lieutenant, Joe Torre, when they most need encouragement. There's a distinction between tough love and classless, boorish behavior. Steinbrenner exemplifies the latter. Perhaps he'll take note, as he watches the rest of the post season, that three of the four teams still standing built team chemistry by cultivating their own, instead of purchasing one misfit free agent after another. Heck, Steinbrenner should be humbly apologizing to Joe Torre at this point for not saluting his magnificent achievements over these past twelve years, for not applauding his resolve in rescuing this very season. The Yankees failed to move through to the World Series, not because of Joe Torre. They've got an owner with a misguided vision of building a cohesive team.

Let's move on to Marion Jones for a minute. I'm not sure what busting Marion Jones does. Does it put the fear of God into every young Track & Field athlete? History tells us, from Ben Johnson's colossal bust back in 1988, that athletes are still willing to chance the consequences, because they're desperate enough to win…and they're arrogant enough to think they are step ahead of the doping police. The federal investigators have focused their time and efforts on the big names. Marion fell first. My hunch is that a similar truth will next be exposed about Barry Bonds. If the investigative team turned on the masses roaming our sports corridors, chances are good that they would uncover an epidemic of juiced athletes.

Personally, my heart broke to hear Marion voice her public shame. It must have been gut-wrenching for her to hand back her five Olympic medals. The tragedy of the Jones story is that, for all our educated guesses tell us, most everybody in her sport is dirty. We do already know that the Greek sprinter who finished second to her in the 100 meters, and to whom Jones' gold medal would normally now be awarded, is herself being investigated for performance drug use. Sure, we can agree that Marion cheated the Olympic spirit. But I personally doubt that she cheated her competition.

This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and that's The Score.

Manager Joe Torre #6 of the New York Yankees pulls pitcher Mike Mussina #35 out of the game in the sixth inning against the Cleveland Indians during Game Four of the American League Division Series at Yankee Stadium on October 8, 2007.
Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images



Diana Nyad