Looking back on George Steinbrenner’s legacy

2 May 1997: New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner watches pensively at the 123rd Kentucky Derky at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.

You may have hated his brash attitude, the way he ran his team or the way he conducted his business. You may even feel that he ruined baseball.

But regardless of how you may have felt about him, there’s little denying that George Steinbrenner will forever be one of Major League Baseball’s icons.

Steinbrenner passed away this morning at the age of 80 after suffering a massive heart attack. He died just two days after longtime Yankee Stadium public address announcer Bob Sheppard passed away at the age of 99.

From 1973 to his death this morning, Steinbrenner oversaw 11 American League Pennants and seven World Series championships. His tenure as owner was the longest in club history.

But it wasn’t only what Steinbrenner was able to accomplish on the field that made his legacy so profound. He also helped revolutionize the business side of baseball by being the first owner to sell TV cable rights to the MSG Network. When things eventually went south with MSG, he created the YES Network, which is currently the Yankees’ very own TV station that generates millions in revenue.

During his tenure, he took the Yankees from a $10 million franchise to a $1.2 billion juggernaut. In 2005, the Yankees became the first professional sports franchise to be worth an estimated one billion dollars.

While many baseball fans came to despise the way he ran his team (mainly because he purchased high priced free agents with reckless abandon due to the fact that he could and others couldn’t), don’t miss the message he often made year in and year out: The Yankees are here to win. He didn’t line his pockets with extra revenue (albeit he generated a lot of extra revenue for his club) – he dumped his money back into the on-field product. Losing wasn’t acceptable and if the Bombers came up short one year, you could bet that Steinbrenner would go after the best talent in the offseason, regardless of what others thought of the approach.

Let’s not forget that the Yankees were a downtrodden franchise before Steinbrenner took over again in 1993. Before they lost to the Mariners in ’95, they hadn’t made the postseason since ’81 when they lost to the Dodgers in the World Series. They had some winning years during that long playoff drought, but finished no higher than second in their division in that span.

It took Steinbrenner’s aggressive philosophy towards acquiring talent for the Yankees to become what they are today. Fans and other MLB personnel may hate the way that the Bombers’ monopolize talent, but they won seven championships under his ownership. Loathe him or the organization all you want, but he found ways to win. Ask fans of the Cubs, Pirates and Royals if they would want an owner even half committed to winning as Steinbrenner was.

Rest in peace, George. Go find Billy Martin and fire him once more for old times.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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