In the 2006 Major League Baseball season, the New York Yankees once again fizzled in the post-season, losing to the underdog Detroit Tigers in four games. While for many teams an epic run of nine straight division titles would have brought some wiggle room for post-season failure, not so for imperious Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. With a one hundred and ninety-four million dollar payroll, Steinbrenner expects a World Series title every year and nothing less. Such is the pressure on Yankee players to accompany the pride that comes from playing on a team that featured legends such as Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, and Mickey Mantle. Michael Morrissey, a columnist for the New York Post, delves deep into the fishbowl that is the New York Yankees as they go through the vicissitudes of the 2006 season.
It is clear from the book’s outset that Morrissey is interested more in how the players react to being Yankees than in the mundane details of the games. Brian Cashman, the youthful-looking general manager of the team, having wangled complete control of the baseball operations at the end of the previous season, realizes that the responsibility for success is completely his. In telling detail, Morrissey presents the changing demeanor of the general manager, who goes from exuberance and hope in the book’s opening chapter to dismay in the book’s middle when Alex Rodriguez goes through a nightmarish stretch to abject misery at the season’s premature end.
The epicenter of the Yankees’ season (and of the book) is the relationship between the two superstars, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, particularly in the aftermath of Rodriguez’s very public professional nadir, when he could neither hit nor field ably. Many observers felt that, as captain, Jeter had to offer his public support for Rodriguez during the latter’s travails, but the Yankee shortstop chose to keep quiet. Morrissey addresses this issue squarely, but the denouement does not identify a palpable villain nor a victim. It is clear, though, that Rodriguez’s disingenuous comments to the press alienated him, while Jeter maintained his pristine aura even after the season.
Morrissey, a hardboiled veteran of the New York tabloid wars, holds nothing back in this searing narrative of runaway egos of individual players and inflated expectations of the owner. It is clear from reading this book that what happens on the baseball field is but a tiny fraction of what happens to you when you play for the New York Yankees. As the author rightly points out, for every Derek Jeter and Don Mattingly who shone under the bright lights, there are several Kevin Browns and Carl Pavanos who came up considerably short in the Big Apple.