Today's news blog comes from the Conley family home in Fairfield, Connecticut.
NEWS BLOG (WSAU) It’s been fashionable for baseball fans to hate the New York Yankees. “The best team money can buy.” Need a pitcher? Go out and sign whoever’s available on the free agent market. Someone like C.C. Sabathia will do. The Yankees will always have the bucks to make a top offer. It’s no different if they need a big bat or a defensive star. Their new cable network and their new luxury-box laden stadium will assure the team is always flush with cash.
But while the Yankees have near the highest payroll year after year, they don’t always win the World Series. They’ve seen mid-market teams with talent that costs half as much win championships. Teams like the Twins, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Reds, and even the Brewers have been champions while George Steinbrenner was writing big checks to the best free agents in the game.
You can say this about George Steinbrenner: Year after year he put a competitive team on the field. Yankee fans will always be appreciative of that, especially after seeing the team languish before Boss George and his business partners bought the club from CBS. And there are many other wealthy big market owners who had the money, but didn’t care as much about winning. The Wrigley family in Chicago comes to mind.
Steinbrenner’s other sporting interest was thoroughbred racing. For many years he owned a share of Tampa Bay Downs, and he raced and bred as The Kinsman Stable. Friends say he wanted to win the Kentucky Derby as much as he wanted to win baseball pennants. His horse Concerto was a Derby contender in 1997, but was injured before the big race. In 2005 Bellamy Road was the Kentucky Derby favorite, but finished a well-beaten 7th.
Horse racing is so much different than baseball; the four-legged sport must have been maddening to Boss George. There are 17,000 horses foaled each year. 20 of them will make it to the starting gate at Churchill Downs for the big race. One will win. Winning a Kentucky Derby isn’t about throwing money around to buy the right horse. It’s about judging which animal will take you there. The vast majority of thoroughbreds sell for under $1-million. A few dozen each year sell above that. Considering the contracts Steinbrenner offered to his ballplayers, he could have purchased any horse he wanted at any time. Instead Steinbrenner preferred to breed his own stock… the equivalent of building through your farm system. And he never won America’s biggest horse race.
I wonder what George Steinbrenner would have thought of The Green Monkey. In 2006 a bay 2-year-old colt with outstanding bloodlines went into the auction ring at Ocala, Florida. A fabulous bidding war erupted between Englishman Michael Tabor and the sheiks of Dubai. When the gavel fell, Tabor owned The Green Money for a record $16-million. The horse had never raced before, and the Kentucky Derby was still a year away. The Green Monkey never won a race. After three unsuccessful starts, each one progressively worse, the horse was quietly retired. Boss George was not among the bidders.
Steinbrenner ran his baseball team by throwing fabulous amounts of money around. Sometimes he won. But not always. Even in sports, there are things money cannot buy.
Operations Manager, Midwest Communications-Wausau