Mancuso: A Boss Like No Other

George Steinbrenner did it best when it came to manipulating the media, all for the benefit of his beloved New York Yankees. It sparked interest and most of all ticket sales. Steinbrenner, love him or hate him, it always came down to doing what was best for the Yankees. In the end it was best for baseball.

They will say that Steinbrenner, named the “boss” by the media and his piers had this passion for winning. But the way he came across at times made the “boss” appear to be what the rival Boston Red Sox would call, his “Evil Empire.” Steinbrenner took the initiative to spend money, all with one goal in mind, to bring the best to New York all for a championship. And for that he became evil.

To the New York Yankee baseball fan, Steinbrenner, on the contrary was not the evil man.  He spent and always got his man. It was Reggie Jackson in the 1970’s, Dave Winfield, Goose Gossage, Randy Johnson, Alex Rordriguez and so many more.

And his team delivered the championships he wanted, most of all wanting title after title for the city he loved, New York. Chaos and anarchy in between with fellow owners, managers, coaches and players, and two suspensions from the game would not stop Steinbrenner from becoming the most important and historical owner of  a professional sports franchise.

The tributes immediately came in when word reached from Tampa Florida early Tuesday about the passing of “the boss.”  It was a massive heart attack that ended a life of fulfillment. Because since January 3, 1973, until his last breath, all George Steinbrenner thought about was, his family and the New York Yankees.

He wasn’t seen the last few years around the Bronx. They would say “the boss” was feeling better but we all knew it was not the same Steinbrenner when he handed most of the responsibilities to his sons Hal and Hank.  And statements about a Yankee icon passing on, or about the state of his team would come from his friends at Rubenstein Associates.

We tried to get a glimpse of him when he came to the Bronx for what would be his last time, in October to take in Game 3 of the World Series. Secluded from all with the exception of the captain Derek Jeter, he anointed, and the manager Joe Girardi who was his second choice over Yankee favorite Don Mattingly.  They came to see him in his suite at the new billion dollar Yankee Stadium that is known as the “House That George Built.”

Jeter always referred to his boss as, “Mr. Steinbrenner.” We never knew why, but it had to do with respect, because Jeter considers himself, never wearing any other uniform but Yankee pinstripes and owes that all to Steinbrenner.

The new stadium was always a priority, because Steinbrenner felt his fans deserved a stadium that had all the amenities of all those other new ballparks that were built The Bronx at one time was his enemy, There were harsh words and threats to move his team across the river to the Meadowlands in New Jersey.

Cooler heads prevailed and Steinbrenner got his commitment for a new stadium. Those around him say, George would rant and rave, threaten those near him about losing their job, and some would, but he would always make peace and have that compassion to bring them back to the Bronx.

He cared about people, some who he would adopt into the Yankee family. Bill Stimers is a main stay in the Yankees press box. They met in front of the old stadium by the press gate. Stimers, a former employee of Entermann’s Bakery would give Steinbrenner a box of cookies. George would become his friend and assist him with paying off his home in Brentwood New York,

There were numerous and continued contributions to charitable organizations, sitting on boards of foundations, and always a Steinbrenner assist leaving tickets for kids in the Bronx who wanted to go to their first New York Yankee ballgame and could not afford to do so.

Ask Yankees legend Yogi Berra, and just about every player that passed through the Yankee clubhouse.  George would have his say, the football mentality in him from his assistant football coaching days at Northwestern and Purdue. But as they all say, “We kissed and made up.”

After all he was “the boss” that delivered and got the right players in place over the years, good enough for seven world championships. He wanted to win, had the desire and will, and he got it. More so his love-hate relationship with the manager Billy Martin that constantly got headlines.

Who would ever know, that this shipping baron from Cleveland Ohio with no ties to New York would eventually become the most influential and recognized owner of a professional sports franchise.

As for the media we all had some stories. There was a time Steinbrenner could be seen often at the old stadium walking from his private box through the auxiliary press box where we sat.  Jason Giambi, his $19 million a year ballplayer would ground out into a game ending double-play with the bases loaded, and the Yankees would lose a tough one.

Steinbrenner, standing above this writer would put his hands up in dismay and say, “Geez, I pay this guy 19 million for that,” And he would rant and rave later saying, “and don’t you write that or I will remember you,”

It was written, he remembered, and later requested only a select few to sit in that auxiliary box area. It got yours truly to finally have a brief face-to-face with the person they called “The boss.”

‘You were only doing your job,” he would say.”  Yeah, it was his box, his stadium and had the authority to say what he wanted. But bygones were bygones, and Steinbrenner always remembered the face.

They were his Yankees also, for New York City and the Bronx. Yankee fan or not you had to admire that personality and style.

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Baseball Fan, Boston Red Sox, Dave Winfield, Early Tuesday, Evil Empire, Evil Man, Fellow Owners, George Steinbrenner, Goal In Mind, Goose Gossage, Last Breath, Mancuso, Massive Heart Attack, New York Mets, New York Yankee, New York Yankee Baseball, New York Yankees, Professional Sports Franchise, Randy Johnson, Reggie Jackson, Rich Mancuso, Rubenstein Associates, Top Story

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on July 13, 2010

Mancuso: Mets End A Bright First Half

Four days from now for the New York Mets to think about what is ahead for the remaining 75 games. At the All-Star break they are 48-40 and four games back of the second place Atlanta Braves in the NL East.  They will take it, so will their fans.

An accomplishment because last season at the break the team was 42-45, in fourth place trailing first place Philadelphia by 6-1/2 in the standings. The Mets know they are contending, and know extra help is here with Carlos Beltran coming off the disabled list and making his season debut in San Francisco Thursday evening,

Though Beltran, out since surgery on his right knee, does present some type of dilemma for manager Jerry Manuel. Well sort of, four outfielders and three spots. Someone will have to sit among Jason Bay, Angel Pagan and Jeff Francoeur.

The plan, according to Manuel is to bat Beltran fourth, a spot currently held by the rookie Ike Davis who will be dropped to the sixth spot. And you can’t sit Pagan down, the Mets most consistent hitter who got another three hits Sunday as New York took the final game over Atlanta salvaging their three-game series.

So what will be the situation when the Mets reconvene Thursday for an 11-game three- city trip that also takes them to Arizona and Los Angeles, a trip the Mets say is crucial as the second half begins. The Mets proved to be a good team at home, 30-16 but their fortunes away from Citi Field not as good at 18-24.

“We didn’t want to go onto the break the way we played the past few days,” commented Manuel after another pitching gem by his ace Johan Santana, which ended the first half on a positive note. New York looked lethargic at the plate the past two games against the division leading Braves, and their other pitcher with first half success, Mike Pelfrey, on Saturday once again could not get past the fifth inning.

But Beltran passed through the Mets clubhouse prior to the finale Sunday, afternoon and Santana gave the team an added lift, more so optimism for a good second half. Nothing but a spot for October baseball is what the Mets want. And they believe with Beltran healthy, and the usual second half success of Santana will get them there.

Francoeur was told by Manuel that he would most likely be regulated as a bench player. Occasionally he will get the start in right, that is, if Pagan hits a tailspin and all indications are that’s not going to happen. Pagan is healthy and shows continually, he is a key offensive cog at the beginning of the lineup.

“It’s not my decision,: commented Pagan about the lineup decisions Manuel has to make, He finished the first half with a string of four consecutive multi-hit games and batted .484 with three doubles, a triple, and two home runs since July 4th in a seven game span.

Pagan added he would like to stay in the lineup. Manuel only indicated that Beltran will get the start and Francoeur will probably sit for the moment, but there is every reason to believe that there will be a platoon of Francoeur and Pagan. Jason Bay, who sat down Sunday, on his bobble head give-away day has been an offensive disappointment but his multi-million dollar contract leaves him in the lineup.

It is no problem for Francouer, He will go with the plan, and the return of Beltran will not disrupt a Mets clubhouse that has good chemistry and has looked forward to his bat back in the lineup.  You heard the comments from the players and realize how important it is to win.

“We’re not satisfied to be three or four games out of first place,” said David Wright who entered Sunday tied for the National League lead in runs batted in with 65 and starts at third base for the NL all stars.  “Our goal is to win the division. There is need for improvement.”

Santana has improved and has thrown shutout baseball the last two starts. The fastball is back and it is helping his other pitches. Now the Mets need to get Pelfrey back into form and with R.A. Dickey and Jonathan Niese having good first halves, perhaps GM Omar Minaya will try and get another starter,  to, compliment them before the trading deadline.

There is the possible return of pitchers Oliver Perez and John Maine from the disabled list, one or the other could be going to the pen. It has been the pitching that has put the Mets in this position of contention and they would like it to stay that way.

With or without Francouer in the lineup, they know what lies ahead in the coming weeks and months. Jose Reyes also is a part of the plan and needs to stay healthy as that catalyst in the lineup.

“Obviously it’s a good problem we have, it’s a good thing to see,” said Francoeur about Beltran. A good problem for this clubhouse if indeed, Beltran stays healthy and shows signs of once again being the run producer that the Mets have lacked since April.

Francoeur said he will do his part when he is in the lineup to make sure “this team wins.”  So do the rest of these New York Mets who feel they are on the footsteps of their first postseason since 2006.

Beltran won’t hurt their chances and neither would a platoon of Pagan and Francoeur. Now if Bay can finally find his home run swing the way Santana rediscovered his fastball.

E-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Atlanta Braves, Carlos Beltran, City Trip, Fifth Inning, Final Game, Fortunes, Four Games, Game Series, Jason Bay, Jeff Francoeur, Johan Santana, Mancuso, Mets Clubhouse, Mike Pelfrey, New York Mets, Nl East, Outfielders, Reconvene, Rich Mancuso, Season Debut, Top Story, Two Games

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on July 12, 2010

Mancuso: Santana Comes Up Aces In Mets Win

New York – Joey Votto swung, missed and struck out off a Johan Santana fastball in the first inning.  The Cincinatti Reds would strand Brandon Phillips at third who led off the game with a double. Santana would only get better as the game went along, because his fastball was that good and it allowed his other pitches to work Tuesday evening at steamy Citi Field.

Santana, (6-5) who has been struggling got the Reds to swing and miss, also getting them to hit the ball to center.  In the end it was a complete game shutout thrown by Santana, a 3-0 win, and in the process the Mets discovered that he also can contribute to the lineup.

The Mets pitching ace hit his first career home run in the third inning off Reds rookie pitcher Matt Maloney That got cheers from the crowd and also a coronation of sorts from his teammates in the dugout. “I hit it and started running,” Santana said about the home run. “I’m on the board. At least I hit one.”

It was a 12- pitch at bat for Santana. The home run ball banged off the foul pole and Santana gave his team a 1-0 lead they would never relinquish. Santana had the fastball, as well as the changeup and breaking ball working to perfection.

“I felt better throwing my fastball and it makes my other pitches better,” said Santana who won one game in his last seven starts. After the Phillips hit in the first, he would not allow another until Orlando Cabrera singled in the sixth.

The key was the fastball. It has always been a vintage pitch that has lost some velocity. But this night, Santana was throwing hard and had the command. He would allow three hits, walked three, and struck out five in throwing the Mets’ second complete- game shutout of the season.

And it wasn’t until the ninth inning before Mets manager Jerry Manuel contemplated taking Santana out of the game. But he let him finish off the Reds after a brief visit to the mound. Scott Rolen singled with one out, and then left fielder Jason Bay dropped a Jay Bruce fly ball for an error.

Bay snapped a personnel string of 263 games of errorless ball and also drove in two of the Mets runs as he continues his resurgence at the plate. As to what was said at the mound, Santana said to Manuel, “I’ll finish it, simple.”

And finish it he did. Jonny Gomes lined out and Drew Stubbs ended the game on a ground out force. “I wanted him to hear him tell me that he wanted to finish it,” explained Manuel about his visit that got some boos from the remaining 27,473 fans that braved the game time temperature of 96 degrees.

“I hate to remove a guy because of a defensive mistake,” added Manuel who said he expects big things from Santana in the second half of the season. “You see a little more in the fastball. You saw it challenging Brandon Phillips,” he said about Santana retiring the Reds .307 leadoff hitter to fly out three times to center and right.

Ready in the pen was Frankie Rodriguez the Mets stopper with 20 saves, but, as of late, having trouble closing the door. In the end, he wasn’t needed. “Of course I know what type of competitor he is and it paid off,” said Rodriguez about Santana completing the game.

Santana got his home run ball for keeps and is undefeated in four career starts against the Reds. A win for the Mets also that kept them two games in back of first place Atlanta. For Santana, even without great stuff he proves to be a competitor.

Now that the stuff is back, he also has the bat to go with it.

NOTES FROM CITI FIELD:  It was the 45th home run by a Mets pitcher in their history and first since John Maine did it against Pittsburgh on July 24, 2007 at Shea Stadium…  The three hits tied the fewest Santana has allowed in a complete game, his seventh career complete-game shutout, and the second Mets pitcher to throw a complete-game shutout and hit a home run in the same game. The last to do that, Pete Falcone on September 29, 1981 over the Phillies 7-0 also at Shea…

Jose Reyes returned to the lineup after missing six games with a sore right oblique, finishing 2-for-4 with a run scored. The Mets improved to 30-9 when Reyes scores a run… It was the Mets 12th shutout of the season which tied San Diego for most in baseball…

Oliver Perez threw 5.2 innings, allowing two runs, two hits and three walks and striking out seven in his second rehabilitation start for St. Lucie (A) of the Florida State League… Final game of the series is this evening with Bronson Arroyo (8-4) on the mound for the Reds opposing lefthander Jonathan Niese (6-2) for New York.

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Brandon Phillips, Breaking Ball, Changeup, Cincinatti Reds, Complete Game, Dugout, Fastball, Foul Pole, Jason Bay, Joey Votto, Johan Santana, Left Fielder, Mancuso, Matt Maloney, New York Mets, Ninth Inning, Orlando Cabrera, Pitches, Rich Mancuso, Rookie Pitcher, Scott Rolen, Top Story, Tuesday Evening

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on July 7, 2010