Former Oriole great Ken Singleton, now a television commentator for the Yankees’ YES Network, has been in the New York clubhouse for the last 13 years and saw firsthand how the Yankee players reacted and interacted with owner George Steinbrenner, who passed away early Tuesday morning at the age of 80.
He said that if one player were to take the news the hardest, it would have to have been Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter, who has spent the last fourteen years-his entire MLB career-in a Yankee unfiorm under Steinbrenner’s ownership, and who often saw Steinbrenner as a father-figure.
Why, you might ask? Because Steinbrenner treated his players with the great admiration in the world the last decade and a half, and day-in and day-out put his players in a position to succeed and win, because that’s what Steinbrenner wanted and he knew that’s what his players wanted.
Steinbrenner won 7 World Championships during his 38 year run as owner of the Yankees.
“I think that those players, the ones that have been there the longest…”, Singleton told Drew Forrester on “The Morning Reaction” Friday, “they realize George gives them the opportunity to win each and every year. He is going to go out and do the best he can, spend the money if you will, to put the best team possible on the field. It’s cause he wants the Yankees to win every single year.”
Singleton said in a way, Steinbrenner has spoiled his Yankee players because he knows no other organization in the league has the resources to treat the players this well.
“And those players really appreciate it because they’ve been there the longest. Derek Jeter’s been there 14 years, and been to the playoffs 13 years. He realizes with another team, that might not be the case.”
But Singleton also told Forrester that in the last day, he has talked to several players like Jeter who know that things are not going to change under Hank and Hal Steinbrenner because George built up the Yankees team so well and left it a good enough position to hand off the keys to his sons.
“If you’re a player and you’re competitive like he is,” Singleton said of Jeter, “you want someone who is going to support you. He realizes what Steinbrenner meant. I’m sure he hopes that that legacy continues. I think it will because I think they have the resources to do so.”
And Singleton also said that Steinbrenner’s sons know what kind of responsibility this stepping into their dad’s shoes, but already over the last four seasons in which Hank and Hal have really been in charge, they are a chip off the old block and this doesn’t mean bad news for the Yankee organization.
“I think the sons realize that the Yankees play more against their own legacy more than anyone else,” Singleton said, “because they’ve won so many times. Now that’s expected and that’s the goal every single year.”
Singleton not only wanted to emphasize the fact that Steinbrenner left a great mark on the Yankees, his actions may have saved the game of baseball as a whole as well, just because the other owners of the league had to invest in their teams in order to keep up with Steinbrenner’s above and beyond attitude.
“I think George Steinbrenner has been pretty good for baseball because he’s forced the other owners to try and keep up with him, ” Singleton said. “ With things like building the YES Network, the Red Sox wouldnt have NESN and the Orioles probably wouldnt have MASN if the Yankees hadn’t got YES. What has happened is that it opened even bigger revenue streams for the other teams.”
“In that regard, he’s been good for baseball. Baseball’s been as popular as it’s ever been. When I was playing, the attendance figures were no where near where they are now. The Yankees draw well. The Orioles , when the Yankees or the Red Sox come to town, draw well…I think in a way, it has forced other teams to get their acts together and see how their going to get their revenue streams together to try and keep up.”
Think of it this way. The Yankees may be worth billions of dollars now, and we as Oriole fans may hate that now, but every team in the major leagues had to spend money to make money, and that’s been in the case now with all the other successful teams in the league now, such as the Red Sox, Cardinals, Dodgers, Mets, and so forth.
And Singleton said if skeptics want proof of Steinbrenner’s investments or a physical piece of evidence to take a memento of Steinbrenner’s accomplishments as owner of the Yankees, he said all you need to do was go watch a game at the new Yankee Stadium, which was one of George’s last hurrahs as patriarch of the baseball’s storiest franchises.
“The fans have always had a great venue; it’s a great place to watch a baseball game. The old place had a lot of history, but you still get some of that feel in the New Yankee Stadium.”
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