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Alex Beam

The sorrow and the pity: a Bronx tale

Email|Print| Text size + By Alex Beam
Globe Columnist / November 7, 2007

Admit it, now that the World Series trophy has paraded through every Middlesex village and farm. You are starting to feel a little sorry for them. The New York Yankees, I mean.

Truth be told, they are pathetic. Their greatest current player, Me-Rod, is stinking up the sport, baying for lucre that he doesn't need. Their Murderers' Row of pitching aces is headed for the glue factory. Mussina, Pettitte, Clemens, Rivera - stick a fork in 'em. They're done.

The mark of greatness is empathy, and we are wallowing in it. This has been a very tough year for the Bronx Bombers, and we feel their pain. We mourned the passing of the legendary Scooter, Phil Rizzuto. We suffered alongside model citizen Jason Giambi as he weathered the hurtful reports of steroids use. We sympathize with Alex Rodriguez, the victim of distasteful tabloid insinuations about his marriage. We reach out to his charming wife, Cynthia, who appeared at Yankee Stadium this summer wearing a tank top emblazoned with the words: "[Blank] you."

Boston to the Yankees: We will be there for you. We care.

It has taken us nine decades to experience the full Elisabeth Kübler-Ross-ian gamut of baseball emotions: fear, hatred, contempt, and now pity. Don't take my word for it. Here is columnist Joel Sherman, writing in the New York Post about baseball's pitiful, helpless giants: The Bombers "are bleeding legends," Sherman writes. "They are no longer the Yankees, at least not in the fashion we have known them under George Steinbrenner."

Do you have any idea who is running the Yankees? A few months ago, Portfolio magazine writer Franz Lidz encountered the onetime fire-breather Steinbrenner outside his Florida home. The Boss was wearing Yankees-blue silk pajamas and a terrycloth bathrobe in the middle of the day. "He looks dreadful," Lidz reported. "His body is bloated; his jawline has slackened into a triple chin; his skin looks as if a dry-cleaner bag has been stretched over it."

Yes, it's a little graphic, but New York is a tough media town.

The plan was for George's son-in-law, the unfortunately named Steve Swindal, to take over the team. But some unfunny things happened on the way to the corner office. Swindal and Steinbrenner's daughter Jennifer separated on Valentine's Day, and he was nabbed for drunken driving by police in St. Petersburg, Fla., early the next day. Even Jonathan Papelbon couldn't save that marriage, and the mantle of Yankee ownership passed to Steinbrenner's sons, Hank and Hal.

So far, Hank seems like a chip off the old leather-lunged block. He's mixed it up with Me-Rod: "He doesn't understand the privilege of being a Yankee. . . . I don't want anybody on my team that doesn't want to be a Yankee." He has also dumped on beloved, outgoing manager Joe Torre: "Where was Joe's career in '95 when my dad hired him?" Steinbrenner asked the New York Post. "My dad was crucified for hiring him." New York sportswriters look to the Steinbrenners for colorful copy; it appears that the sons will not disappoint.

Contrast that with the Red Sox. Who owns the Sox? The commodities trader, the sitcom czar, and the baseball guy own a lot of the company. And, as a stockholder in The New York Times Company, I own part of the team. Compared to Steinbrenner père, I am in terrific shape. Compared to Hank, I am the milk of human kindness. So we can agree that the team is in good hands.

What is the worst thing that can happen to the Red Sox in the off-season?

Losing Series MVP Mike Lowell would be a blow, but as long as I am part of ownership, that won't be happening. Otherwise, next year's team looks very strong.

What of the Yankees? They will have to spend the off-season rebuilding their decrepit pitching rotation and beefing up their diminished force de frappe in the batting order. Management's attention will be distracted by construction of the $1.3 billion new Yankee Stadium, a taxpayer-supported temple of excess in the Bronx. Incoming manager Joe Girardi's media honeymoon will last about as long as an Eric Gagne relief appearance.

I'm not sure I've ever felt this sorry for anyone in my life.

Alex Beam is a Globe columnist. His e-dress is beam@globe.com.

(Correction: Because of a reporting error, Alex Beam's column in yesterday's Living/Arts section misspelled the name of Franz Lidz, a writer for Portfolio magazine.)

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