Thursday, October 2, 2014

New York Yankees: Hal Steinbrenner, mostly unfiltered

New York Yankees managing general partner and co-chairperson Hal Steinbrenner had a marathon radio interview on ESPN Radio 98.7 FM’s The Michael Kay Show Wednesday afternoon. In it he answered each and every question thrown at him by Kay and co-host Don LaGreca. Most of the questions were answered to the fullest with very few vague or non-committal responses.

During the 20-minute plus chat, Steinbrenner talked about everything from his disappointment in a second straight season missing the playoffs, Brian Cashman, Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, the injuries, Joe Girardi and his coaching staff, the offseason signings and the need for integrating youth into the roster.

Here are some quotes and paraphrasing from the interview along with my comments.

The first thing that struck me is that he referred to his father as “George” and not “Dad,” or “my father.” I guess it points to the relationship that they likely had; one which was very businesslike at least where it related to the Yankees.

On underachieving

Steinbrenner gave Carlos Beltran a pass because of the bone spurs in his elbow, and thinks he'll better in 2015. He thinks Brian McCann and Mark Teixeira will have bounce back years.

I'd have to agree where it concerns McCann. I think we saw flashes of it in September. With Beltran it really does have to do with how he comes back and maybe even Teixeira's wrist was never as strong as it could be. But, the health of Beltran and Teixeira is the key to their chances of coming back better in 2015.

On Cashman

“He’s a good GM.”

He didn’t say fantastic here, but he went on to note that he felt the signings Cashman made in July were very good and helped keep the team “in it.” Steinbrenner is probably right about that, but I think that even if those had faltered, Cashman would be returning. They seem to have a very strong working relationship and because of that Steinbrenner has begun talks on a new contract with their longtime general manager.

On Rodriguez

“I don’t think we can have any expectations…If he is healthy, he can contribute.”

Here, it is safe to say that if they didn’t owe A-Rod $60 million-plus over the next three seasons he might think otherwise. It will be interesting to see exactly how A-Rod fits in next season and if he can stay healthy, let alone contribute. I’m on the record as saying it is unlikely to get either or those.

On Cano

“We made what we thought was a very legitimate good offer and we just weren't even in the same ballpark.”

I can’t argue with Steinbrenner here. I truly think they made an effort to maintain Cano’s services and still have no problem with letting him go for what the Seattle Mariners paid him.

On Girardi and the coaching staff

"If I do deem that somebody is liable or I do deem that somebody is responsible, that things could have been better, I will act."

Steinbrenner seemed generally pleased with Girardi's handling of the team considering the injuries. Steinbrenner's quote as more in reference to a direct question about hitting coach Kevin Long.

I’d have to agree with the assessment. Could Girardi have tested some lineup changes? Sure. But, he got a lot out of little for the second straight season while the team suffered through a multitude of injuries. As far as Long goes, it's anyone's guess as to what will be his fate, but in my view, the hitting coach can only do so much.

On injuries and fighting through them

"We're going to be a little more forceful, if you will, in trying to get that player to play."

He had been talking about all the injuries in this space, but Teixeira and his comments about not playing every day was brought up by LaGreca. Steinbrenner later backed up a bit on the word “forceful” instead saying Girardi might have more discussions with players about whether they can push themselves a bit more when absolutely necessary.

On yearly expectations

"Our DNA, my family, is such that we expect to win a championship every year."

This is nothing new and he proclaimed this attitude will not change. He mentioned several times that prior to the season he felt that this was a championship caliber team, and that they intend to enter spring training with what he’ll consider a championship caliber roster.

On creating the 2015 roster

"We've got to have a good balance of young players and seasoned veterans."

The Yankees have tried to make this happen with a new outlook on the draft and international signings. Steinbrenner stated that the Yankees will continue to look for ways to get younger players onto the roster so they can impact the team dynamic. But, he stressed that he felt there was a need to have “seasoned” players as well. Don’t expect the Yankees to penny pinch but rather to blend the two sides of roster formulation going forward.

Steinbrenner’s apology

"I apologize. We did not do the job this year. We know what you expect of us and we expect the same thing of ourselves and we certainly did what we thought we could do in the offseason to field a pretty good team come April 1, but it didn't work out."

Steinbrenner ended the interview with an apology. He said he understood the fans’ frustrations and felt them himself. He said the organization would strive to get back to the postseason and win a championship.

I have no doubt that the Steinbrenners want to win. They’ve proven time and again that they’ll spend significant money when needed, and with the newfound desire to incorporate youth into the roster, it is a sign that the Yankees just might understand that they cannot simply outspend the rest of the league to win.

The interview was done very well by Kay and LaGreca. They were told not to hold back and they didn’t. Steinbrenner to his credit said that he was ultimately liable for the Yankees failure to reach the postseason. Everything he said pointed to a man who had a plan and once he settles Cashman’s contract, they’ll get straight at rebuilding this team for 2015.

In the end, Steinbrenner is the type of owner fans should be pleased with in my opinion. He’s calculated and willing to spend money. His goal is to win, because he’s smart enough to know that winning determines revenue and profits in professional sports.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer and sports media strategist. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In.