- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 8, 2004

George Steinbrenner experienced an adolescent-like meltdown after being inconvenienced by Mother Nature from afar this week.

He is the gale-force blowhard who exhibited a pronounced lack of empathy to the residents of Florida who felt the wrath of Hurricane Frances.

The numbers associated with the violent storm are still being adjusted upward: nine deaths, 3.4million lacking electricity and more than $5billion in damage.

That apparently was small stuff to the owner of a baseball team in the throes of a collapse, unable to cope with the modest personnel of the Orioles at home last weekend.

Steinbrenner could not begin to fathom why members of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays wanted to ride out the storm in the company of their loved ones.

They could have made it to the Bronx in time to play a doubleheader Monday if their priorities were truly in order. They could have kissed their loved ones goodbye and told them to have a blast with Frances, while they tended to the life-affirming business of baseball, Steinbrenner and the Yankees.

Don’t they know that Steinbrenner and the Yankees have fallen within sights of a team that was fitted with a wild-card berth months ago? Don’t they know what this does to Steinbrenner, to have the Red Sox intruding on his quality of life?

The Red Sox are the team of the Psychobabblers, the team that yoked the 190-year-old Don Zimmer last fall. They also are Ben Affleck’s team and John Kerry’s alleged team. They come with the curse of Babe Ruth and Bill Buckner. They are Steinbrenner’s worst nightmare. His team’s tenuous position is not part of the master plan.

Steinbrenner is accustomed to playing God in baseball. He huffs and puffs and blows the competition down with his money. He spends whatever it takes to make all his potential troubles go away.

If it were possible, he would have dispatched several million dollars to Hurricane Frances not to beat down on the Tampa-St. Petersburg area.

He has a team to micromanage, a pennant to win and a pitching staff that is in disarray after Kevin Brown fought the wall and the wall won. How dare Frances and the Devil Rays not conform to his reality.

Odd as it is, Steinbrenner’s team was one of those that contributed to the emotional healing following September11. Steinbrenner was only too happy to provide Rudy Giuliani with a box seat and hold his team up as a beacon of light. It was good box office, great theater.

Steinbrenner was the perfect host, tapping into all the talk of a national epiphany, of everyone insisting the attack put things in perspective.

Fast forward to this week and the Frances-induced devastation in Florida: Here was Steinbrenner angling to get a forfeit victory out of it. Here was Steinbrenner sending out his mouthpiece, Randy Levine, to make his case to the press.

“The rule states that if your team is here and ready to play, and the other team isn’t here and not ready to play, there should be a forfeit, and we believe there should be a forfeit,” Levine said.

As if to bolster Steinbrenner’s case, Levine also accused the Devil Rays of lying to the commissioner’s office about their weekend travel plans.

Some people in Florida have lost their homes and their possessions. Others are dealing with the muck in their basements that Frances left behind. There are nine fatalities.

None of that resonated with Steinbrenner. He was looking to benefit from the misery of others.

His team is engaged in a tight race with the Red Sox, and darn it, it was up to Steinbrenner to seek every possible competitive edge, no matter how myopic and callous it came across.

With his hubris not playing well in Peoria, the Yankees withdrew their forfeit request yesterday.

Next time Steinbrenner should do what he usually does in times of stress. He should fire someone to feel better.

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