Yankee family loses “Stick”

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Updated: September 7, 2017

Sad news today for Yankee fans with the passing of Gene “Stick” Michael at the age of 79. One of the brightest baseball minds of his or any generation, Michael brought the Yankees back to prominence despite owner George Steinbrenner’s best attempts to sabotage his efforts.

For those who don’t know the back story, Stick was the unsung hero of the late 90’s/early 2000’s Yankee dynasty teams. The foundation of those squads was built by Michael when New York was given the greatest gift of all: George Steinbrenner being suspended from baseball operations for a three-year period for paying a known degenerate to dig up dirt on Dave Winfield.

With Big Stein relegated to the sidelines, as general manager Stick was finally able to develop young talent rather having to trade it away (as they had done in the 1980s to little success). Michael successfully rebuilt the Yankee farm system from the ground up, and when he was done they had players such as Jeter, Posada, Rivera, Pettitte, and Williams either coming through the ranks or on the main roster. This foundation paid off with championships in 1996 and from 1998-2000, though naturally he was fired in 1995 before the Yanks reached the pinnacle.

Stick will always be remembered by supporters for sticking to his guns and not trading away players that he knew would help the franchise down the line. Steinbrenner was impulsive and typically wanted to dump guys at the first hint of trouble and bring in veterans from other teams, and took a special kind of guy to reason with an often unreasonable boss.

If Brian Cashman had the same kind of vision and fortitude as Michael, the Yankees wouldn’t have wasted so many years of the Core Four’s careers without capturing more championships. After 2000, Cashman reverted back to chasing big name free agents, stripping their farm system bare in the process while the Red Sox built a stable of new stars. It wasn’t until these last few years that the Yankees reached back to the Stick playbook, investing in young players that should lead them back to glory in the coming years.

Gene Michael was Billy Beane before Billy Beane was, Moneyball before Moneyball, and his baseball acumen was off the charts. On top of that, he was described as nothing but a great guy who cared about players and treated them the right way. The outpouring of love and kinds word for Stick from those in the Yankee family truly says it all, and he will be sorely missed.

 

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