I have no problem with sports figures who are the personality equivalent of a stiff drink. Ted Williams is one of my all-time favorites. To me, Bobby Knight is a genius coach. If I shut down the moral center of my brain, I can even appreciate Kobe Bryant and Ty Cobb for their statistics and work ethic.

So it’s not out of character prejudice that I think George Michael Steinbrenner III can wait to get into the Hall of Fame. Mr. “breathing first, winning next” certainly has the credentials to have earned a spot. Consider these facts and stats under his ownership:

– Seven World Series championship teams
– Eleven pennant winners
– Seventeen division titles
– Six no-hitters (and two perfect games)
– Four MVP and three Cy Young winners
– Eight 100-win seasons
– Twenty-two first or second-place finishes from managers Billy Martin, Lou Piniella, Buck Showalter, Joe Torre, Don Zimmer and Joe Girardi

And consider just a few of the Yankees who played during his years: Reggie Jackson, Thurman Munson, Catfish Hunter, Ron Guidry, Goose Gossage, Don Mattingly, Ricky Henderson, Wade Boggs, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mike Mussina, Roger Clemens and Alex Rodriguez.

Under the glow of that shining record, it seems like a no-brainer that the Veterans Committee should have voted in George just five months after his death.

But, historically, the Veterans Committee hasn’t been what you could call “timely.” The last two executives they voted into the Hall, in 2008, were Bowie Kuhn and Walter O’Malley. Kuhn’s career ended in 1984, O’Malley’s in 1979.

They should consider themselves swiftly blessed. The committee didn’t recognize William Ambrose Hulbert—one of the founders of the National League and president of the Chicago White Stockings—until 1995.

I should mention he died in 1882.

I could give more examples of the committee’s history of giving late appreciations—including references to the Hartford Dark Blues and the Boston Beaneaters—but maybe it’s more important to note that the only executive they voted in the year he retired was Kenesaw Mountain Landis.

The best reason I can think to explain the ice age it usually takes the Veterans to vote someone in is the reverence baseball has for time. Both they and the members of the BBWAA tend to like some dust on their inductees before they consider them fit for a Hall spot.

I respect their patience. I mean, think of all the movies you considered awesome the year they were made, only to realize not even a decade later that, while arguably great by 2003 standards, “The Matrix Reloaded” doesn’t stand the test of time.

Sometimes we need time not only to respect a list of accomplishments from an objective distance but also to let the likes of Pat Gillick through the door before the obvious guys are acknowledged.

And for those of us with a sense of humor about the Yankees, there’s this sweet irony to enjoy: a man notorious for his impatience in all things will have to wait for his place in Cooperstown.

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