With all due respect to baseball great Henry Aaron, there’s a new “Hammerin’ Hank” in baseball, and his last name is Steinbrenner. With a
statement that pleased this long time Yankee diehard, Hank Steinbrenner
essentially told Alex Rodriguez, Scott Boras, and the baseball world, that no
one player is bigger than the New York Yankees.
Reacting to the news that Alex Rodriguez was opting out of his contract with
baseball’s most storied franchise, George Steinbrenner’s oldest son made points
in Yankee Universe when he said the following:
"It’s clear he didn’t want to be a Yankee. He doesn’t understand the privilege
of being a Yankee on a team where the owners are willing to pay $200 million to
put a winning product on the field. I don’t want anybody on my team that doesn’t
want to be a Yankee."
Bravo, Hank. Bravo.
Steinbrenner’s words were music to my ears because as a fan, I’ve always felt
this way. Playing for the greatest franchise in sports IS a privilege.
When a player can call Yankee Stadium his home, play in front of 52,000 fans in
that “home”, and has a chance to be linked to legends like Ruth, Gehrig, and
DiMaggio, he not only should consider it a privilege, he should consider it a
very special gift.
On Sunday night, Alex Rodriguez decided to give up that privilege and return the
"gift". As a Yankee fan for 40 years, his decision did not upset me, because
like Hank Steinbrenner, if a player willingly gives up his pinstripes, it’s his
loss, not mine.
My reasoning for not getting angry at A-Rod is simple. You see, unlike Alex, I
do consider it a privilege and gift to be a fan of this team. I feel that way
every time I enter Yankee Stadium, and will always feel that way whether Alex
Rodriguez is there or not. In other words, I’m not concerned about any Yankee
“opting out”. In my book, no one Yankee is more important than the franchise
that has made us proud for so many years. I was so reassuring that Hank
Steinbrenner feels the same way.
I think my words have some weight here because I was never an A-Rod basher.
times during his tenure as a Yankee, I “went to bat” for Rodriguez and scolded
many Yankee fans for giving him such a hard time. Unlike many fans, I won’t
deride Rodriguez with name calling and be foolish enough to say, “He’s not that
good.” Truthfully, he’s one of the best baseball players I’ve ever seen since I
began following this game in 1967.
That said, the Yankees continued to thrive after the losses of Ruth, Gehrig,
DiMaggio, and Mantle, so I won’t be fretting over A-Rod’s departure. He doesn’t
want to be here, so it’s time for him to move out quickly, so the Yankees can
replace him with someone who wants the privilege, and accept the gift of being a
New York Yankee.