Let’s talk about Jerry and the George, the original bromance (and I’m not talking about Seinfeld).
Many years ago, a young brash businessman took over a storied franchise and made immediate personnel changes. He brought in his guy to lead the locker room, even though they were both one as stubborn as the other and fought constantly. His team suffered a couple of poor seasons, followed by a return to the team’s glorious history as a title machine.
Unfortunately, success inflated the owner’s ego to the point that all decisions had to go through him. He fired his coach/manager, brought in talented yet selfish free agents, and for many years was not able to duplicate his original success.
Who am I talking about? Jerry or George? You can’t tell these two apart!
I plotted out some successful indicators of a pro-sports season in the chart below, using for year 1 the first year of Steinbrenner’s (1974*) and Jones’ (1989) ownership. For example, 2008 is year 35 for the Yankees and year 20 for the Cowboys.
The results are uncanny. JJ/GS each had 8 years of incredible success followed by 12 years of failure. These years were characterized by poor drafts, high priced free agents, and an overall lack of team chemistry. The question is what did George and the Yankees do to pull themselves up and bring home championships 4 out of the 5 years following the trough?
It is no coincidence the Yankees started to drastically improve after Steinbrenner was banned from baseball in 1990. While he was reinstated in 1993, he was less interfering in day-to-day baseball operations when he returned. He relied more heavily on his executives, and let them institute a plan to rebuild by utilizing young talent acquired while he was suspended; instead of trading it away for veterans on the decline. This young nucleus, including Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera, formed the foundation for the next Yankee Dynasty.
The Yankees are threatening to return to their old ways lately, but love them or hate them there is no doubt that the teams of the late 90’s will go down as some of the greatest in modern baseball history.
Hopefully the remarkable correlation between the Cowboys and Yankees continues, and Owner Jones follows the Boss’ example by letting his executives draft and build a true team like the Yankees of the late 90’s, not an assembly of individuals. Events of the last week are a great start down this path. And there is a new hope coming to football’s version of the Evil Empire.
*George Steinbrenner purchased the Yankees in January, 1973 as part of a group of businessman. He did not have principal control until 1974, after he bought many of his partners out.