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Remembering past Yankees feuds between player and front office

This whole Sonny Gray situation got us thinking...

Boston Red Sox v New York Yankees Photo by Andy Marlin/Getty Images

This Sonny Gray situation has been peculiar, to say the least. Sure, we’ve seen Brian Cashman frustrated with players at times, but some of his quotes of late regarding his 2017 trade acquisition have people wondering if Cashman is envisioning giving Sonny Gray the Sonny Corleone treatment (it would be easy to bring a car to a standstill at the GWB tollbooth).

So far, Cashman has told reporters that Gray’s time with the Yankees “is going to expire.” Earlier in the month he also said, “We are going to move him if we get the right deal because I don’t think it is going to work out in The Bronx,” before adding, “I don’t feel like we can go through the same exercise and expect different results.”


Of course, Cashman has a point given Gray’s awful 2018 where he posted a 4.90 ERA. Still, it’s rare for Cashman to be so vocally fed up with a player. Regardless of the reasoning behind Cashman’s transparency regarding his “expired” patience with Gray, it got us thinking of other times where the Yankee front office clashed with its own players.

Fortunately, at least for the sake of content for this article, the Yankees had one of the most controversial and animated owners in sports for over 30 years (of course, we speak of George Steinbrenner), so it shouldn’t be hard to dig some stories up. Here are the main ones that come to mind.

Dave Winfield vs. George Steinbrenner

While we’re on the subject of Steinbrenner, let’s start with one of the most memorable Bronx Bomber battles between executive and player. It started like most feuds with Steinbrenner did, by a player not single-handily winning him another World Series ring. Winfield, after signing a mega-contract with the Yanks, went 1-for-22 in the 1981 World Series, prompting Steinbrenner’s “Mr. May” comments in reference to Winfield. Oh, and he also paid $40,000 to gambler Howie Spira to dig up dirt on Winfield, resulting in Steinbrenner’s ban from baseball (allowing other Yankees executives to actually build up the farm system and rebuild). The two reportedly made up about a decade later, and Winfield did get his big World Series moment in 1992, just not with the Yanks.

*Other Steinbrenner-induced feuds: Calling the late Hideki Irabu a “fat (expletive that rhymes with wussy) toad,” after the pitcher failed to cover first base for a second time. The insult was so public and demeaning that Irabu asked to stay behind at their spring training complex in Tampa. Steinbrenner would also catch some heat for the Irabu signing while testifying in court in a case involving his former employee George Costanza.

**Let’s not also forget Steinbrenner’s mini-feud with Derek Jeter, when the owner questioned the shortstop’s late night escapades. At least they found a clever way to make amends.

***Also of note: Steinbrenner vs. Yogi Berra, Steinbrenner vs. Billy Martin, etc.

Brian Cashman vs. Alex Rodriguez

As stated earlier, Cashman rarely speaks out against his own players. Note that I said rarely, not never.

Alex Rodriguez was in plenty of hot water with the league after another steroid-related suspension caused him to miss the entire 2014 season, and the Yankees saw it as a potential opportunity to bail themselves out of paying Rodriguez numerous milestone-based bonuses in his contract. That wasn’t even the Cashman-laced tirade I’m referring too.

Rewind to the spring of 2013, when Rodriguez was recovering from another offseason hip procedure and found himself back in the steroid spotlight after the Biogenesis scandal. Rodriguez denied any involvement and continued to rehab, perhaps at a quicker pace than Cashman may have liked. Conflicting with Cashman’s medical updates on Rodriguez, the third baseman provided social media updates that rehab was going great, and was cleared to play. When asked about Rodriguez’s update, Cashman said “Alex should “just shut the (expletive that rhymes with puck) up.” Of course, the two eventually made up and Rodriguez now serves as an adviser for the Yanks.

Babe Ruth vs. Jacob Ruppert and Miller Huggins

Ruth was obviously the man who changed the course of Yankees history, but ownership and management sometimes didn’t care for the headaches that came along with all the winning. Ruth would party late and miss curfew, yet still manage to post OPS numbers that still rank highest in baseball history. Still, Huggins was fed up one day after Ruth missed curfew and told him he wouldn’t play that day, plus receive a $5,000 fine. The two almost came to blows, and Ruth declared that if Huggins was back the following year, Ruth wouldn’t be.

Still, the owner Ruppert backed his manager, so Ruth declared he was fed up with him too. Despite Ruth’s ahead-of-his-time ability to market himself as a true celebrity, ownership held all the power. Ruth finally succumbed and apologized to Huggins in front of his teammates, after Huggins had denied a few of Ruth’s initial half-hearted apologies. After Huggins’ passing, Ruth served as a pallbearer at his former manager’s funeral, and later returned to visit his grave in Cincinnati in 1932.