Posted: Tuesday February 28, 2006 3:17PM; Updated: Wednesday March 1, 2006 2:03AM
If this fellow says the sun will come up in the morning, you'd best stock up on candles.
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Yankee haters rejoice, for the prophet George Steinbrenner hath predicted ultimate victory: "We haven't won [the World Series] in a while," he declared unto the media last week. "We are going to win it this year."
When it comes to Famous Last Words, George wrote the good book. He has a long, colorful history of issuing rosy proclamations and ending up with powder burns on his puss.
Who can forget his cheery "I just won you the pennant" to manager Lou Piniella after trading for left-hander Steve Trout in July 1987? Trout promptly turned into an 0-4, 6.60 ERA basketcase, and the Yankees finished fourth.
There's the all-time classic "I won't be active in the day-to-day operations of the club at all" (1973) or the same year's "Bobby Murcer will be a Yankee as long as I own the team." (Murcer was traded to San Francisco in October '74.)
Wait, there's more!
"Billy Martin will manage the entire season." (Issued June 27, 1978; Martin was canned on July 24.)
"Gene Michael will be here when they redo Yankee Stadium." (Issued Nov. 1980; manager Michael was fired the following September.)
"Bob Lemon will manage the entire season ['82], win or lose." (Lemon was squeezed out after 14 games.)
"Yogi Berra will be the manager for the entire year ['85], win or lose, bad start or no bad start, no matter what." (Yogi lasted 16 games.)
Yankee fans have every reason to feel queasy with dread. As the five times hired and fired Martin so rightfully noted, "George's word is his bond."
All kinds of interesting things happen during seasons when the Boss tells you how it's gonna be.
"I won't interfere as much as I did last year," he intoned in March 1978. That season featured the Boss firing Martin in July after hectoring the harried manager into his "One's a born liar, the other's convicted" appraisal of Reggie Jackson and the Principal Owner, respectively.
How about this corker from spring training 1982: "This is the best balanced team I've ever assembled." Steinbrenner had let Jackson go while stocking up on speed (Ken Griffey Sr.,Dave Collins). He soon felt compelled to add even more balance by hording shortstops (Bucky Dent, Roy Smalley) and first basemen (Griffey, Collins, John Mayberry, Steve Balboni, Lee Mazzilli, and Dave Revering -- who was part of a brief "experiment" at third base, where Graig Nettles and Butch Hobson were ensconced).
On March 10 of that season, George delivered his "first and only" pep talk of the season. On June 26, he delivered another 40-minute gust to his balanced bunch, who went on to collapse in a heap -- in fifth place.