Sign discrediting World Classic only spells trouble for Yankees

The Kickoff

March 06, 2006|By PETER SCHMUCK

The sign at Legends Field said everything you need to know about the New York Yankees, a team so used to having its way in the economically imbalanced world of Major League Baseball that owner George Steinbrenner (or one of his lackeys) was simply not capable of hiding the franchise's Big Apple-sized sense of entitlement.

Of course, I'm talking about the sign that was visible Saturday on the main concourse of the Yankees' fancy spring training site in Tampa, Fla., which apologized to fans for the absence of several of the club's biggest stars during the World Baseball Classic.

It caused such a stir that Yankees officials ordered it removed last night and insisted that Steinbrenner had nothing to do with it, though all you have to do is read what it said to know who was behind it.

Thank you for expressing your concerns. We are sorry that certain players will not be present for portions of Spring Training. These players have elected to participate in the World Baseball Classic. The World Baseball Classic is an event sanctioned by the commissioner of Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association.

It doesn't stop there, even though it would be bad enough if it did. Steinbrenner was never high on the idea of the Classic, because of the obvious possibility of injury to his big-money stars -- a legitimate concern that is shared by many of his fellow owners. When the event was put before a vote of the 30 major league teams, the Yankees abstained ... and they apparently wanted to make sure that their fans don't forget that.

The New York Yankess (sic) did not vote to support this event. Any comments you have regarding the World Baseball Classic should be directed to the commissioner of Major League Baseball or the Major League Baseball Players Association.

Yes, the professionally produced sign actually had a typo in the name of the most storied team in the annals of American professional sports, which figures to be bad news for somebody in the organization. Trust me, you don't want to be the Yankees' Executive Vice President in charge of spelling right now.

I sort of understand where Steinbrenner is coming from. He has the biggest revenue stream in the major leagues, has spent more than $1 billion on player salaries over the past five years and props up the small-market clubs with huge revenue-sharing transfers and payroll taxes, yet his concerns about the Classic were largely ignored by both his fellow owners and the players union.

There are legitimate questions about the timing of the event and Steinbrenner has a right to be worried that a player (Alex Rodriguez) who is guaranteed $25 million per year might get hurt, but nobody forced him to take on that contract and nobody outside of Pinstripe Nation is going to shed a tear if the Yankees end up being disadvantaged by the Classic.

From all appearances, the sign was a petty act by a selfish man whose team is one of a small handful of franchises that already have a large international following. The further globalization of the sport will only lead to more parity, which is just another threat to Yankees hegemony.

What do you know. The Classic is starting to grow on me.

If I were Jerry Hairston, I might consider skipping spring training altogether. The former Orioles infielder was hospitalized yesterday after being hit in the head with a pitch during the Cubs' exhibition game against the San Francisco Giants.

Hairston, you might recall, basically lost his hold on the second base job in Baltimore after suffering a broken bone in his hand during his first exhibition appearance of 2004.

The sight of Barry Bonds impersonating Paula Abdul during the San Francisco Giants' American Idol spoof on Monday created quite a spring training buzz, and prompted someone at the event to wonder whether Bonds had decided that he would rather be Major League Baseball's "all-time home run queen."

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

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