The Daily News is trumpeting its big scoop this morning — they even distracted Lupica from using another sports trope to describe Mitt Romney — and at first glance, it looks like a doozy. The lede jumps out at you: "Manhattan without the Empire State Building? New York without the Statue of Liberty? Brooklyn without the Bridge? The Yankees without the Steinbrenners?" Wha? The Yankees are being sold? Holy crap! And then you read the story.
Probably the best way to describe the inherent flimsiness of the story — which claims the Steinbrenners are considering selling the team — is all the weasel verbs it uses, which would be bad enough if they weren't also attached to anonymous sources. There is nothing wrong with anonymous sources, and there is nothing wrong with hedging one's bets when a story isn't officially nailed down. But combining the two, here, makes for a less-than-convincing case.
Here are the statements in favor of the supposed sale, one by one:
“There has been chatter all around the banking and financial industries in the city for a couple of weeks now."
“It would definitely be the right time for the family to sell."
"I’m just not sure that [Hal Steinbrenner] considers baseball to be a smart business."
(Emphasis ours.) So, basically, you have an anonymous source — a "high-level baseball source," whatever that means — who can't even be counted upon to say anything for certain; he/she keeps hedging, saying things like "it would be" and "there has been chatter." This source sure isn't providing much certainty for his/her anonymity. Frankly, it sorta sounds like they're just pulling this out of their arse.
Particularly when the Yankees are so unequivocally, unquestionably, you're-crazy-you scoffing at the story. Randy Levine says, "I can say to you there is absolutely, positively nothing to this. The Steinbrenners are not selling the team.” Richard Sandomir of the Times reaffirmed this morning: "Yanks prez RLevine vigorously denies NYDN story of possible sale; says HSteinbrenner reaffirmed today it will stay in family for generations." Now, obviously, one should not just blankly and blindly accept the word of the head of a corporation, particularly when one's financial health is being discussed. But those are pretty plain statements that are particularly stark when contrasted with the mealy mouthed, unsure anonymous source.
The impetus for this, like every "holy crap this here baseball team is more valuable than we thought" story in every newspaper in the country over the last three months, was the shocking, so-far-above-market-value-it-sounds-like-a-joke $2.175 billion price tag for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Every franchise had a moment of inflated value, no more so than the Yankees; if the Dodgers are worth $2.175 billion, the Yankees must be worth more than Guam.
But this story is speculative in the extreme; it sounds like one guy going, "Hey, the Yankees could fetch a lot of cash, if they wanted." (That's sort of always the case.) The worst part is the list of "potential buyers," which includes ... the Dolan family. C'mon, Daily News, now you're just trolling. Look, it's possible that someone involved with the Yankees has at some point floated the idea of selling the team; there's too much money floating around for them to not at least explore it. There's nothing in this story that makes us think that's any more or less likely than we did yesterday.
You know how people say where there's smoke, there's fire? We're still looking for the smoke.