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Baseball has lost a giant today.  Whether he was a giant in terms of greatness or a giant pain in the ass is completely in the eye of the beholder.  But, regardless of your opinion of George Steinbrenner, you can’t deny his impact on the game of baseball.

Every sport has its controversial figures, but Steinbrenner was one of the most polarizing out there.  Many people consider him the epitome of what has gone wrong with the game.  He was brash, explosive, outspoken, and meddling as an owner.  But, he was also a shrewd businessman.  He recognized, as most owners do, that the thing that sells tickets and merchandise is championships.  And he set out to get the Yankees back to their winning ways.

By any means necessary.

His detractors will say he bought his World Series wins.  That he used the resources and power of the largest sports market in the country and the legend of one of the most storied franchises in all of sports to bid for players in stratospheric levels of salary that few other teams could hope to match.

In many ways they have a point.

But, any study of sports history will show that it really is impossible to buy championships.  It has been tried time and again, and never truly works.  Did Steinbrenner go after marquee players ruthlessly and in a way that made it close to impossible for others to compete?  I would say that could be seen as an accurate statement.  But, he was shrewd enough to target players who had enough of a “team” mentality that clubhouse chemistry didn’t take a nose dive.  Yes, the Yankees have plenty of prima donnas on their roster, but they still function well as a unit.

I have never been a big fan of Steinbrenner.  I think he has more than once played dirty pool when negotiating contracts and the like.  Hell, he was banned for life from the game for a time over what he did in that respect.  That, of course, was later overturned and Kind George rode back into Yankee Stadium like a conquering hero.  There are others like him in nearly every major professional league, but what made George so loved, and so hated, was his ability to turn what should have been disaster into pure gold.

Goodbye, George Steinbrenner.  I doubt we will see your like again.  I’ll let the readers decide whether that is a good thing or a bad thing.

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