George Steinbrenner's passing casts shadow on All-Star Game

By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 14, 2010; D05

ANAHEIM, CALIF. -- The impact of the death of longtime New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was felt across the baseball landscape Tuesday, as the flags beyond the outfield flew at half-mast during the All-Star Game on Tuesday night, and a moment of silence was observed before the national anthem.

For the uniformed members of the Yankees -- six players, plus American League Manager Joe Girardi and his coaching staff -- the act of playing baseball the same day as Steinbrenner's passing was particularly poignant, and they all wore black armbands in honor of "The Boss."

"It's a difficult time, on a great day for baseball. . . . A great man in baseball passed," Girardi said before the game. "He's meant so much to not only this organization, but to the game of baseball, and to all of us personally."

Like many in the industry amassed here for the all-star festivities, Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter awoke Tuesday morning to the news that was already widely known on the East Coast, as his cellphone was already full of messages.

Steinbrenner "is a father figure to everyone that was in our organization, past or present," said Jeter, the AL team's starting shortstop, "because he really took care of his players. . . . It's tough, because he's more than just an owner to me. He's a friend of mine."

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said he was awoken by a phone call informing of Steinbrenner's passing, and he spent most of the rest of the day reflecting on someone who was both a friend and adversary -- since Selig, as the longtime owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, frequently saw his small-market viewpoints clash with those of Steinbrenner.

(Photos of George Steinbrenner through the years)

"Neither one of us ever took it personally," Selig said. "I know he was controversial. I know all the arguments. But he was clearly a giant of the sport. I will say this: No one loved his team more than he did. I'm sorry this day happened."

Selig addresses issues

Selig addressed several sensitive issues during a nearly one-hour, on-the-record meeting with members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America on Tuesday afternoon -- including the potential for a boycott by Latin American players of next year's All-Star Game in Phoenix, due to the controversial immigration law in Arizona.

After first defending baseball's previous track record on social issues, Selig reiterated his stance that the league would stay out of a situation he considers a political one.

"This situation will be solved in the political process at the appropriate time," he said.

Several all-stars this week, including Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Yovani Gallardo and San Diego Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, have indicated they would boycott next year's game if they were selected, and if the Arizona law were not struck down.

Selig also acknowledged baseball's internal discussions about possibly altering the regular season schedule, perhaps by moving opening day three or four days earlier, in order to avoid postseason games in November. A full, seven-game World Series this year would end on Nov. 4.

"We're exploring ways to cut the season," Selig said. "I live in fear of November."

Union questions rules

In a separate meeting with the writers' association, union chief Michael Weiner criticized teams for the "manipulation" of rules regarding arbitration eligibility, in which some top prospects are kept in the minor leagues until around June 1 in order to delay their eligibility -- as so-called "Super Two" players, referring to their major league service time -- by a full year.

Weiner specifically mentioned Washington Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg, who made his debut on June 8, as a player affected by the strategy, and he indicated the union plans to address the issue when it begins labor negotiations with management. Baseball's current collective bargaining agreement expires following the 2011 season.

"That kind of manipulation is of concern to us," Weiner said. "[But] arbitration eligibility has never been an easy issue at the bargaining table."

Harper attends festivities

Bryce Harper, the College of Southern Nevada slugger whom the Nationals made the No. 1 overall pick in the June draft, attended Monday night's Home Run Derby and was expected to watch Tuesday night's game with his adviser, Scott Boras.

Harper, 17, was named the winner of USA Baseball's Golden Spikes Award as the nation's top collegiate player on Tuesday. Serious negotiations have yet to begin between the Nationals and Boras. Harper has until Aug. 16 to sign.

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