What’s Happening to Yankee Tradition?

When the late George Steinbrenner owned the New York Yankees, you wouldn’t hear an interview with him that didn’t include the words “Yankee tradition.” George grew up a Yankee fan in the 40’s and 50’s, and had a chance…as a kid in Cleveland…to watch Joe Dimaggio, Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey, Whitey Ford, Phil Rizzuto and Mickey Mantle.

All of those players spent their entire careers with the Yanks, and Steinbrenner was proud of that fact. He loved old-timer’s day at Yankee Stadium, and was fond of saying “he’ll die a Yankee” about any great player.

Well, George died during the summer, and boy have things changed. Yankees for life Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera weren’t offered salary arbitration by the team, and both players can move on with the Yanks not due any compensation if they do. Clearly, Steinbrenner’s sons, Hank and Hal, have changed the approach of the franchise, and thrown tradition out the window in favor of cold, hard business.

Yankee G.M. Brian Cashman threw down the gauntlet. “We’ve encouraged him to test the market and see if there’s something he would prefer other than this,” he told “If he can, fine. That’s the way it works.”

Wow. The Yankees without Jeter? Jeter without the Yankees? Granted, he had his worst offensive season last year, but Jeter’s gravitas would make the Cardinals, for example, America’s team. If Bill DeWitt and John Mozeliak swoop in with a four year offer of $68 million and provide a short window to accept, how great would that be for the Cardinals…to have Jeter and Albert Pujols?

The Tigers are in Jeter’s home state, and have money to spend. The Orioles need a shortstop and like to spend, too…although Jeter would only go there for spite. There is a chance he could leave New York.

George Steinbrenner would have never let this happen. Yankee tradition meant too much to him. Even the chance of Jeter departing wouldn’t have been broached. If he and Rivera leave, the Yankees will never be the same. The tradition will end. And what it shame it would be that we wouldn’t be able to talk about and to live George Steinbrenner’s Yankee tradition any more.