Hal pleased with state of the Yankees
Managing general partner discusses leadership transition
NEW YORK -- The defending World Series champion Yankees are off to another great start, and their managing general partner, Hal Steinbrenner, couldn't be any happier. He succeeded his father, George, just after the 2008 season, and under Hal's guidance, and that of the immediate family, the franchise has continued to thrive."We have players who care about the team," Hal Steinbrenner said, "players who are going to be there for each other and are going to pick each other up." Two of those players and the manager -- Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, the longest tenured players on the team, and Joe Girardi -- have contracts due to expire at season's end. While saying that he wants Girardi to stay and for both future Hall of Famers to finish their playing careers with the Yankees, Hal Steinbrenner has reiterated his company policy that all three will have to wait until after the season to negotiate new deals. And, apparently, there will be no negotiating through the media.
"This is just a general policy of mine," Steinbrenner said. "I've seen too many things about contract extensions in the past that I didn't like. It's not just a policy for players and managers. It's a policy for everybody. I'm not worried about 2011 contracts right now. I've got enough to worry about. Hopefully people understand that this is just a business policy of mine and don't take it personally."
Since "The Boss" bought the franchise from CBS in 1973, the Yankees have won seven of their 27 World Series titles and 11 of their 40 American League pennants. Beginning his 20th season with the organization, the younger of the two Steinbrenner sons recently sat down for an interview with MLB.com.MLB.com: As a child, young adult and as head of the organization, you've been through more than your share of Yankees championships. How rewarding was the latest one? Steinbrenner: I think it was more rewarding because the kids were all very involved. We all put a lot of work into the last couple of years, particularly last year. It didn't start off great. We had the new stadium and all the logistical changes that went into that. We hadn't made the playoffs in 2008. It was a bad economy, bad weather and the team started off not playing well. A lot of questions had to be answered with the new free agents -- CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira. Was Joe Girardi the right guy to manage the club? So I'll tell you, April, May and June were difficult. But the team got through it and started playing great. What we went through the first months of the season made the outcome more rewarding in the end. MLB.com: How much is your dad still involved now in the day-to-day operations? Steinbrenner: He still comes into the (Tampa) office at least once a week for a half a day or more, sometimes twice in a week. So he's very involved. We all talk to him a lot about what's going on and run things by him, but he certainly expects us now to make the decisions. We have and do. He's been very supportive. MLB.com: So it's not like the old days when he might override everybody and make the decisions himself? Steinbrenner: No, he's finally let the young elephants in the tent -- his famous quote of many years past. It's worked out well. MLB.com: What's the difference in your dad now from the way he was in the past? Steinbrenner: He's gotten more emotional. He's definitely calmed down. He's certainly different than he was 15 years ago when Derek Jeter and Girardi and I worked for him. MLB.com: The outside perception is that the organization is calmer than when George was at the zenith of his power. Steinbrenner: I think that's true. The transition was a big one. We're just trying to stay on course and make decisions. We knew that time would help with that transition. It wasn't something we could make happen overnight. He's a legacy, and he always will be. I don't try to fill his shoes. Neither does my brother, Hank. Neither do any of us. We try to work together to do the best we can to fill his two shoes. We all know what we want to accomplish every year, and that's to win. But in saying that, people's traits and personalities are very different. MLB.com: Placing you as managing general partner and as the public face of the franchise seems to have had a stabilizing effect. Steinbrenner: Certain things had to happen in the transition. Hank loves baseball. Hank is great at baseball and picking players. But I don't know that Hank wants to get on a plane to Arizona and go to owners' meetings. I don't know that Hank wants to talk at press conferences. This is nothing I would have ever done without the blessings of the family, but the family decided this was the way to go. I'm glad because we all wanted stability for the sake of George, for the sake of the family and the sake of the Yankees. Frankly, if everybody hadn't been on board I wouldn't have done it. MLB.com: How is your dad's energy level? It was obviously good enough that he was able to make it to New York for Opening Day. Steinbrenner: It's remained the same. It's no different than it was in October when he attended the first two games of the World Series. My mom looks after him very closely. She's the one who has to give her blessing on whether she wants him to come up or not. But (Opening Day) was an easy decision because he's just going along very steady. MLB.com: You were also intimately involved along with Lonn Trost, your chief operating officer, in the construction and opening of the new Yankee Stadium. How rewarding was that? Steinbrenner: It was a massive project. Lonn was on it every day, and I don't know how he did it. I felt from day one that the media never gave it a fair shake. There always seemed like there were problems arising: the views from the bleacher seats, too many home runs, too grandiose in the middle of a recession, too many empty seats on TV. The negativity wasn't justified because the fans like it, at least the ones I've talked to. They thought we did a pretty good job moving the tradition across the street while providing a beautiful, brand-new facility that fixed some of the problems of the old stadium -- wider concourses, sight lines. So in that way, it has been very rewarding to be so closely involved. MLB.com: What's the legacy the Steinbrenner family wants to leave for the Yankees and Major League Baseball? Steinbrenner: That we always did our best to field a championship-quality team for the fans. It's about taking the revenues that we're able to spend and actually spending it, not doing something else with it. We've done that all along and we will continue to do that. Keeping our fans foremost in mind is something I certainly want to be remembered for. George certainly proved through the years that he did. MLB.com: Is what you're doing now a lifelong pursuit? Steinbrenner: I don't think about the future much, but I don't plan on going anywhere, no. And we're not planning on going anywhere. Right now, this is it. Where I find myself 20 years from now, who knows? Hopefully I'll still be breathing and kicking and all that. But we're here. MLB.com: Who were your favorite Yankees as a kid on those 1977-78 championship teams? Steinbrenner: I always liked Roy White, Willie Randolph and Thurman (Munson). Those were my three favorites. One thing they had in common was that they were all very professional. Roy and Willie seemed to like to climb under the radar and do their jobs. Thurman was pretty much the same way. MLB.com: Of the current Yankees, who do you admire most? Steinbrenner: They're all great guys. We have a bunch of guys who work together. That's what we had in the late 1990s. And although I wasn't around that much in the late '70s, I'm sure it was the same thing. Some of those teams had their controversies. These guys are much different. It's about the team, which is good. MLB.com: There's a perception that the Yankees spend what they want to on players. That's not necessarily true, is it? Steinbrenner: No. We have a set amount of money to spend like every team does. We're very good at putting money back into the team for the sake of the fans. Decisions have to be made on trying to improve the team as best as we can on what we have to spend. More often than not, you wind up with a slightly different team than you had the year before. MLB.com: And the fact is, no matter how much money the Yankees spent, they didn't win the World Series from 2001 to 2008. Steinbrenner: You can't buy a championship. I don't care what anybody says. You have to have a good balance of young players and veterans. You have to have both. We had all that in the late '90s and we have all that right now.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.