July 1st, 2013
One of the things many Yankee fans loved about George Steinbrenner was his “win now at any cost” philosophy of running his baseball team. The Boss not only hated losing, it made him angry, vindictive and often times irrational. In fact, it was the irrational version of Steinbrenner who went nuts after the Yankees got beat by the Royals in the 1980 playoffs and almost ruined his organization. Ten years later he had been suspended for trying to entrap Dave Winfield out of his contract, fired two future Manager of the Year winners, traded away all of his team’s prospects, left his minor league system in a shambles and the Yankee team he had engineered was finishing at the bottom of its division.
Two men are frequently credited with rebuilding the Yankee dynasty in the early nineties, GM Gene Michael and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant. Brian Sabean was a high school baseball player from New Hampshire who played his collegiate ball in Florida and then became a highly regarded and very young college baseball coach. He got the head coaching job at the University of Tampa in 1984 and led the school to its first-ever NCAA tournament appearance. His success caught the attention of one of Tampa’s most famous snow birds, George Steinbrenner and Sabean soon accepted a job as a Yankee scout.
That began a quick rise through the Yankee organization. Sabean was named Director of Scouting in 1986 and was then promoted to New York’s VP of Player Development and Scouting in 1990. It was the duo of Sabean and Michael that drafted or signed Andy Pettitte, Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, JT Snow, Mo Rivera and Jorge Posada and reconstructed the Yankee minor league organization into one of the best in the game.
Sabean’s most celebrated signing was a fire-balling high school phee-nom from North Carolina named Brien Taylor. Represented by a soon-to-be super agent named Scott Boras, Taylor was the first overall pick (by NY) in the 1991 MLB Draft. With Steinbrenner still on suspension, the Yanks were trying to sign the teen-aged southpaw for somewhere near a half-million dollars which was about a million less than Boras was demanding. Even though the Boss was “forbidden” to participate in the negotiations, he made a comment to the press that if the Yanks let Taylor get away “they should be shot.” The Yankee front office responded by quickly agreeing to a $1.55 million dollar deal. Taylor would of course never throw a pitch in the Bronx, after injuring his shoulder in a 1993 offseason fist fight.
As Steinbrenner was negotiating his return from suspension with the commissioner’s office, rumors in the press were rampant that he had ordered his henchmen to fire Michael as the team’s GM and replace him with Sabean. If that indeed was the plan, the Yankees waited too long to execute it because Sabean accepted a job as a Senior VP with the Giants in 1992. He then took over as San Francisco’s GM in 1997 and with that team’s World Series wins in 2010 and 2012, is now considered one of baseball’s best general managers. If he had been a bit more patient, perhaps, just perhaps, the Brian currently serving as Yankee GM might have a different last name.