Friday, July 16, 2010

With Boss Gone, Uncertainty Creeps Into Yankee Universe

We begin the season's second half tonight living in a post-Boss world, and I for one am a little uneasy about it.

We heard from Hal Steinbrenner's people on Thursday that the family doesn't plan on selling the Yankees. But since Hal kind of looks like a bad guy from an eighties ski movie, I'm not quite buying it just yet.

A sample conversation:

Accountant: "Here are your options, Hal. You can keep the team, deal with the day-to-day headaches of running a major sports enterprise, inhale your brother's second-hand smoke for the next 30 years, and futilely attempt to live up to the impossible standards set by your old man.

Hal: Okay ...

Accountant: Or, a filthy rich entrepreneur cuts you a check for $ 1.7 billion and you spend the rest of your life sipping daiquiris in the South of France.

Hal: (Checking flights to Charles de Gaulle Airport) Let me sleep on that.

If you were Hal and Hank, wouldn't you at least have to think about the upside of selling?

Hank already tried his hand at running the day-to-day operations of the club and quickly burned out. Now he's in charge of the family's horse business in Florida, which is kind of like when the Corleones shipped Fredo off to Vegas. Out of sight, out of mind.

From an outsider's perspective, it doesn't seem like Hal has the same fire that drove his father to make the Yankees a winner. Hal is a private guy, and it's impossible to know whether his running of the show is out of choice or responsibility.

Even the general manager is left to speculate:

“I think their family loves this,” Brian Cashman told the New York Post . “They are all involved. They like it. This is their life. It is a part of them. Their name is branded on the team.”

The sentiment is nice, but Cashman, like the fans, can only hope that's true.

George may have died on Tuesday, but his days of running the Yankees were long over before that. The new regime of Hal, Randy Levine, Lonn Trost, and Cashman proved in 2009 that they have what it takes to keep the Yankees relevant going forward.

But until we hear from Hal himself that the team is staying in the Steinbrenner family, there will be reason for nerves along River Avenue.

Dan Hanzus writes the Yankees blog River & Sunset and can be reached via e-mail at dhanzus@gmail.com. Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.