There is an alternate universe where Hank Steinbrenner — who died on Tuesday at the age of 63 after battling liver problems — and not his brother Hal, assumed control of the Yankees as their father George’s health declined in the years before The Boss’ death in 2010.
We got a glimpse of it in 2007, when Hank and Hal together took charge. As Alex Rodriguez opted out of his contract during that year’s World Series between the Red Sox and Rockies, it sent Hank into a conniption, as he told the New York Daily News, “It’s clear (Rodriguez) 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.”
A month and a half later, A-Rod agreed to a $275 million deal that kept him in pinstripes for the rest of his career, saying, “All along, I knew I wanted to be a Yankee,” and that “within two conversations we got a deal done.”
That was the way things were with Hank Steinbrenner. Hank was the son who inherited his father’s bombast, who would call Red Sox Nation “a bunch of bullshit” or rage against the National League for not having the designated hitter after Chien-Ming Wang got hurt running the bases in Houston. Hal, on the other hand, has run the Yankees with an eye on the luxury tax, talked big about Bryce Harper and Manny Machado but didn’t sign them, and has generally been anything but bombastic in his stewardship of the club.
Would the Hank Steinbrenner-controlled Yankees have signed Robinson Cano, rather than let him go to Seattle as a free agent? Would Hank have pushed to make a trade that would have sent Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Luis Severino as part of a package to Atlanta to get Jason Heyward, Andrelton Simmons, and B.J. Upton? You know that they would’ve at least talked to Harper as a free agent.
As much as Hal Steinbrenner’s steady hand has put the Yankees in position to be possibly the best team in baseball whenever baseball returns, the Bronx Bombers still went the entire 2010s without making it to a World Series.
They may have done that with Hank running the show, too, but it would’ve been a lot more fun along the way. In his limited time in the spotlight, Hank Steinbrenner was a true baseball character. He will be missed, and it’s a shame the baseball world never really got to know him.