the sports section

Steinbrenner’s Masterpiece Theatre

There’s an absurdity to the debate raging over Joe Torre’s future across the sports pages. The Daily News says Lou Piniella is in, the Post says the News is wrong, the News says the Post is wrong about its being wrong. The chorus of support for Torre expands to include super-agent Scott Boras and super-mayor Rudy Giuliani. Mike Lupica, who came out against Torre yesterday, today feels the agonizing weight of the Boss’s decision.

And once Torre is out of the way, there’s a laundry list of other scapegoats: A-Rod, pitching, age, even Steinbrenner himself. The surprising thing is that people are debating the logic of Steinbrenner’s actions — it’s like talking theology with a desert hermit.

George Steinbrenner is not just crazy, he’s iconically crazy, like Charles Manson or Captain Ahab or Michael Jackson. He’s crazy on a sublime, allegorical level. He’s devoted his entire being, wallet, and soul, to an impossible dream: to make one of the world’s least-rational sports — a game in which a dominant team wins only 60 percent of the time and the difference between a Hall of Famer and his backup is one hit every ten at-bats — obey the rules of logic. Every year the Boss puts a small country’s GNP into a slot machine and then rages when it doesn’t come up all cherries.

Torre is, by all accounts, not crazy: respectful, meticulous, realistic, soft-spoken. But there must be a little touch of insanity in him, since he knowingly signed up for a major role in the Boss’s morality play. As did the rest of us — because the true measure of Steinbrenner’s genius is that, like a great impresario, he draws an entire city into his drama.

Instead of wearing ourselves out in the non-debate over Torre’s competence, we should just revel in one of the city’s classic shows: waiting to see whether George sacrifices a great manager to appease the baseball gods, who’ve already given him the best harvest they know how to give. Do your thing, George. Go crazy. We’re with you.

Sam Anderson

Steinbrenner’s Masterpiece Theatre