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Gene Michael never has been called one of the bright stars of baseball's front offices, the way Joe McIlvaine always has, with both the Mets and the Padres. George Steinbrenner frequently talks about his "baseball people" as if they do not include Michael, his own general manager. Steinbrenner wanted to fire Michael over a drunk-driving arrest in spring training, and it is more than likely that Michael will leave the Yankees after this season, when his contract is up.
"Sometimes you have to be patient," Michael said. It is a rare skill around Steinbrenner's Yankees. He has it. If the Yankees do something in October, Steinbrenner will try to take credit for everything. But these Yankees still belong to Michael and Buck Showalter. The team is more their vision than anyone else's, even though Steinbrenner keeps trying to run the team with Tampa nobodies and Dick Williams.
Al Harazin got fired because he traded David Cone and signed Bret Saberhagen and Bobby Bonilla and Eddie Murray and Vince Coleman and the Mets ended up lousy. Harazin is gone and the Mets are still lousy. It is McIlvaine's team now. Once 1996 was supposed to be a turnaround year for the Mets. Now it is 1997, or beyond. Maybe one of these days, [Fred] Wilpon and [Nelson] Doubleday will put McIlvaine on the line, the way Gene Michael is every day.