How I finally came around on George Steinbrenner

I have come around on this. I must admit, for years the notion of George Steinbrenner gaining admittance to the Hall of Fame sounded like some kind of elaborate practical joke. What it that Groucho Marx said? “I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me.”

Here’s the thing, though.

For years I’ve believed, and I’ve written, that Pete Rose deserves to at least be put up for consideration for the Hall and, if elected, the sins he committed against the game should be included in his plaque, along with noting he’d been barred for years. That feels like an equitable carriage of justice to me. I actually got to ask him one time if that would be an acceptable condition to his getting in the Hall, and Rose didn’t even pause before saying “[Bleep], yeah!”

And here’s the thing: If I’m going to grant Pete Rose an olive branch like that, I have to do the same for Steinbrenner, even if it’s on his permanent record that he was twice suspended from the game — once for a conviction on illegal campaign contributions, once for hiring a small-time hustler to try to blackmail his best player, Dave Winfield.

I’ve never been quite sure how the Hall can simply ignore this. Look, for most fans, the lasting memory of Steinbrenner is a cuddly old curmudgeon who would break Joe Torre’s chops a little and cry a lot when his team won a big game. The folks entrusted with making these votes are supposed to remember the whole George — the bullying George, the flighty George, the George who could be so publicly cruel to his employees. And, yes, the George that got thrown out of baseball twice.

But here’s the thing: In the same way those transgressions shouldn’t be ignored, neither should it simply be forgotten that Steinbrenner, in his day, a day that lasted well over a quarter century, was the quintessential sports owner in New York — and probably the world. The Yankees he bought (with very little of his own money) in 1973 were a mess, they’d totally ceded the town to the Mets, they played in a crumbling ballpark. There’s a reason CBS took a loss on them. They were toxic.

Inside of three years they were pennant winners; in four they were champions; in five they were back-to-back champions.

And yes, you can talk about all the empty years connecting 1982 and 1996, and that’s all on George, but remember: He isn’t being assessed for his Hall credentials for his baseball acumen. He isn’t being considered as an executive, but an owner. And the thing is: Who has ever been more natural in the job of boss than the Boss? Even now, 8¹/₂ years after his death, you want to call an especially active member of your fantasy football league a nickname, do you say “Jones?” Do you say “Cuban?”

No. Odds are good you call him or her “Steinbrenner.” An old St. John’s president who hired multiple coaches on his watch was nicknamed “Father Steinbrenner.” And on and on it goes.

Yes. He belongs in the Hall. He belongs with a plaque that details all the good he brought to the Yankees and to the game; but also detailing why he was such a controversial figure. Let those two facets battle it out forever in Cooperstown. But after Sunday’s vote from the Modern Baseball Committee, just let it be. It’s time. He belongs.

Vac’s Whacks

I’ll say this about Robinson Cano: He did seem more excited to be a Met than Carlos Beltran, who practically showed up for his introductory Mets press conference wearing a Yankees cap

I know it’s easy to rag on the Nets, but when you’ve been in the stretch they’ve been in lately and then manage to hand the Raptors only their sixth loss of the season Friday? That does say something about them.

In case there was ever a question about whether Alan Arkin is a national treasure — and I’m not sure why there would have been — he certainly reminds us of that with his remarkable work alongside Michael Douglas in Netflix’s “The Kominsky Method.”

It’s really not enough for Sam Darnold just to play in Buffalo. Let him go. Let him loose. And see what happens.

Whack Back at Vac

Jeff Moritz: I know Hal Steinbrenner is entitled to mouth fiscal prudence, but I am accustomed to winning championships, overpaying quality players and complaining about them in the final years of the overpay. So, if Hal plans to buy the YES network back, he better keep signing stars and worrying about ratings.

Vac: Past performance tells you the Yankees are holding an ace (or two) in the hole. But it has been a curiously tepid hot stove so far.

Richard Siegelman: I sure hope someone tells Wally Backman, before he fruitlessly drives around for hours, that the Long Island Ducks’ Bethpage Balllpark is actually not in Bethpage, but in Central Islip.

Vac: I suspect he already knows that Citi Field is in Flushing.

@tuckisles: Why do I have the feeling that if we trade Brandon Nimmo, it will come back to bite us in the keister?

@MikeVacc: Because in order to retain your membership in good standing as a Mets fan, you are required to feel that way.

Frank Giordano: Well, if the Jets turn in another terrible performance this week, you can always change the channel and watch Sanchise vs. Eli. That should be good for a few laughs?

Vac: You have a twisted sense of humor, Frank.

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