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by Harold Friend
George Steinbrenner, it seemed, was always in charge, but in a few instances, he was not. When Gabe Paul was general manager, George Steinbrenner was not in charge. Steinbrenner brought in Gabe Paul as a limited partner when he purchased the team in 1973, and Paul eventually became Yankees’ president and general manager. He built the Yankees into the team that won the pennant in 1976 and the World Series the following two seasons. He traded for Willie Randolph, Chris Chambliss, Bucky Dent, Lou Piniella, Mickey Rivers and Ed Figueroa. Few individuals knew baseball as well as Paul, who was considered the voice of reason between George Steinbrenner and volatile manager Billy Martin.
"A New Manager and a Whole New Team"
When he left to take over the Indians, Gabe Paul was replaced by two individuals, Cedric Tallis and Al Rosen. Asked whether Tallis or Rosen would be in charge, Paul, not one to pull punches, answered that George would be in charge. No one stopped George Steinbrenner for long. Third baseman Graig Nettles commented that "Every year is like being traded---a new manager and a whole new team."
Why Thurman Was More Valuable Than Reggie
After leaving the Yankees, Paul was asked to rate the value of the players he had left behind. "Thurman Munson is their most important player, then Reggie Jackson, Mickey Rivers, Willie Randolph, Graig Nettles, and Chris Chambliss...." One of Paul's last acts as Yankees' general manager was to recommend to Steinbrenner that he not trade Munson because Munson was great in a position that is hard to fill. He was a catcher who could hit. According to Paul, there are three positions where defense is more important than offense---catcher, shortstop, and second base, which is why Thurman was more valuable than Reggie.
When asked why the Yankees allowed 1977 World Series hero Mike Torrez to sign with the Red Sox for $2.5 million, Paul explained that the Yankees had a top offer of $1.5 million, which was rejected. "...After that, my recommendation was to let Torrez go and sign Rich Gossage instead. Torrez is a power pitcher but he'll be 32 during the season. If his power goes even a little bit, he can't compensate.... Gossage gives the Yankees exactly what they need---a relief pitcher who can get the big strikeout...."
The Yankees are a difficult team to handle but Paul believes that Billy Martin is the best man for the job. “...Billy's got an intangible something that helps him stimulate the players---even those who hate him. Maybe the thing about Billy is his lack of fear of the consequences rubs off on the players. He's always positive. He never has a defeatist thought."
George Steinbrenner Wanted to Trade Ron Guidry
George Steinbrenner wanted to trade Ron Guidry soon after Guidry joined the team. Gabe Paul threatened to leave if Guidry were traded, and Steinbrenner backed down. Gabe Paul wanted to trade for Dave Winfield but refused to send the Padres the players they wanted. In December 1980, Steinbrenner signed Winfield as a free agent, giving the outfielder who batted .045 with one single in 22 at bats in the 1981 World Series a $16 million contract. George Steinbrenner and Dave Winfield
Much to George's chagrin, he misinterpreted Winfield's contract, which had a cost of living escalator clause. The contract would cost George $23 million, not $16 million. After Winfield's horrible World Series performance, Steinbrenner facetiously referred to Winfield as "Mr. May," knowing full well that would bring Reggie's "Mr. October" to fan's minds.
George Steinbrenner's Lifetime Ban
Throughout the 1980s, George Steinbrenner's leadership produced nothing. After winning the pennant and losing the World Series in the strike shortened 1981 season, the Yankees didn't win another World Series until 1996 and it was with a team that Steinbrenner was forced NOT to build. On July 30, 1990, Commissioner Fay Vincent, not exactly an Allan Selig type commissioner, ruled that George Steinbrenner must resign as the Yankees' general partner and be banned from the club's day to day operations for life. Steinbrenner had given gambler Howie Spira $40,000 to obtain damaging information about Dave "Mr. May" Winfield.
George Steinbrenner's lifetime suspension would be lifetime if he were a newt, a toad, or an ant. On July 24, 1992, Vincent announced that Steinbrenner could return in March 1993, which he did, but the significance of his absence was that it gave Gene Michael and others the opportunity to build the team without Steinbrenner's interference. The result was the last Yankees' dynasty, which won the World Series in 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2000. References:
Anderson, Dave. (1978). Gabe Paul speaks; No munson deal." New York Times. 5 March 1978, p. S5.