Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner speaks softly and never carries a big stick. Yesterday, though, he lamely whispered when reflecting on 2020.
Yankees principal owner Hal Steinbrenner gave his version of the Yankees State Of The Union during a visit yesterday to ESPN Radio’s The Michael Kay Show. As reported on by the New York Daily News, the session was mainly devoted to his reflections on the prematurely completed 2020 season.
If you expected or hoped there would be some sword rattling to indicate that no one in the Yankees organization should consider their job safe, you will be mightily disappointed.
Yankees Top Tier Receives A Blessing
Not only did he place his blessings on his GM Brian Cashman and manager Aaron Boone, but Steinbrenner also took care to mention Gary Sanchez, of whom Steinbrenner said, “we’ll get him back.”
Terse in his assessment of Cashman and to leave no doubt, Steinbrenner reinforced his relationship with Cashman, who will become the Yankees longest-tenured GM ever after the 2021 season. “It’s been good. We’re just going to have to keep plugging away”.
When prompted by Kay to comment on other potential changes, Steinbrenner picked right up on the opening to coyly say, “Well if you’re talking about Aaron Boone, I mean Aaron Boone is a good baseball man he’s a good leader, “He has the respect of the players. Aaron Boone will be back next year. That’s just a fact.”
As for Steinbrenner’s volunteering that “we’ll get him (Sanchez) back,” – it beats the hell out of me, but I’m not aware that he went anywhere. More bizarrely, where does this leave Cashman now with regards to Sanchez?
Surely, Cashman planned to make the rounds to find a team willing to trade for Sanchez.
Yankees Are Bleeding Money
Hal Steinbrenner also strolled into territory that is bound to waken Yankees core fans, as well as the Class of 2021 Free Agents who take the field five days after the World Series is concluded.
According to Steinbrenner, the COVID impacted season caused the franchise to sustain huge financial losses this year. So large were these losses; in fact, Steinbrenner claims they were greater than any other team. In his words:
“Look, there’s no doubt we sustained significant losses this year, more so than any other team in baseball. It’s just been a crazy year, but we’re just going to have to see what we really feel we need. And what that’s going to cost, and we’ll go from there. The way we do every year.”Kristie Ackert, New York Daily News
Okay, let’s take him at his word – the Yankees lost a bunch of money this year.
But what does it mean concerning the big picture?
No company, unless its name starts with an A or a G, makes a profit every year. There are always downturns in the economy to contend with and ever-rising competition to fend off.
Does Steinbrenner mean, for instance, that the Yankees franchise valued as recently as April 2020 by Forbes, as the highest in MLB at $5.0 billion slipped to $4.85 billion? To the point where he’s getting calls from shareholders, saying they’re going to need to sell the Mercedes they just bought their son or daughter as a graduation present?
Sorry, Hal, I’m not buying what you are selling.
Yankees Studder When Using The Word Failure
In another area, Steinbrenner refused to engage in blasphemy by equating the Yankees 2020 season with failure.
Employing the standard Yankees mantra, Steinbrenner pointed to a team that did, after all, qualify for the playoffs, a distinction in and of itself suggests his inability or an unwillingness to recall that only two more teams than not made the postseason this year.
Then, it was onto a reminder about how unusual and difficult it was for the Yankees to play through another rash of injuries, as well as the discombobulated COVID impacted schedule.
Funny though, none of it seemed to bother the Astros, who lost Justin Verlander, or those pesky “we can do it” Tampa Bay Rays, who are within a whisper of playing in the World Series next week.
But Wait, Nothing Is Settled Yet
Hal Steinbrenner, the politician, was on full display in his exchange with Kay. Always leave an opening that negates everything you said beforehand, just in case.
And so it was that Steinbrenner took great pains to point out the Yankees have yet to hold their annual upper echelon meetings with their scouts to evaluate player personnel.
Like what – maybe Yankees scouts will unanimously suggest what everyone already knows – that Gary Sanchez doesn’t need to be put out to pasture?
Or, that the Yankees need to turn their starting pitching staff over to their young studs including (photo) Deivi Garcia, Clarke Schmidt, at least) while refusing to bite at Masahiro Tanaka (if he is even interested), J.A. Happ, James Paxton, and even Aroldis Chapman (if they can trade him), who has failed mightily in two consecutive postseasons?
A long-range commitment to Aaron Judge (or not) looms, and the Yankees need to find a shortstop not named Gleyber Torres. Is Clint Frazier their starting left fielder until he proves otherwise – or not?
Steinbrenner was right about one thing, though, the Yankees have a lot of homework to do this winter.
On Setting The Bar
Did the Tampa Bay Rays report to Spring Training this year pre-ordained by the pundits or announcing their intention to not only win the AL East from the Yankees but to march over them in a playoff series?
How about the Miami Marlins, a team devastated and then rebuilt overnight following positive COVID tests to half their team? Was Derek Jeter as surprised as anyone the Marlins made the playoffs? You bet he was because it all comes back to where you set the bar.
The Yankees are still living as though it was 1995, and the Core Five was just getting assembled to take off on a flight that would earn the team five World Championships in what seemed like a New York minute.
It was a different feel in those days when Jeter would sit at his locker telling reporters (paraphrasing) – “If we don’t win a World Series, we’ve failed as a team.”
You knew it; you believed it because the man who never said anything revealing was telling the truth. We all did.
But it’s been more than a decade since the Yankees last raised the trophy in 2009, and no matter what we choose to believe, or what manner of rationalization we wish to employ, the Yankees are what Joe Maddon so aptly said years ago – what their record says they are.
As Yankees fans, we buy into the hype set by others. But unlike the Los Angeles Dodgers, our co-recipients this year of the Midas Touch, the Yankees do not play in laid-back LA where another day at the beach sets aside any troubles from the previous day, or in the case today, a team suffering another humiliating rejection in the NLCS.
The Yankees can’t have it both ways, which is to say they can’t set the bar at its highest level and then claim victory when the height isn’t reached.
With or without Luis Severino, Domingo German, Tommy Kahnle, or Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees had a good team only on paper.
Otherwise, the Yankees were just another run-of-the-mill team struggling to make it through a COVID inspired “weird” set of events that led, let’s not forget, to a Yankees team that stood at .500 in early September and losers of fifteen of twenty games they played at one point in the season.
Hal, You Owe Us One
I love the Yankees, and I can count a half-century as a fan of the team.
But I’ll be damned if I’m going to settle for the “forgiveness” or complacency exhibited by Hal Steinbrenner yesterday, who you’ll recall by the way is the son of George Steinbrenner, the man who built the empire forwarded to his son as an heir.
Look, I, like most Yankees fans, will never leave the reservation. But there comes the point where truth matters.
This, however you define it, ain’t working. Upon reflection, I feel like I’m talking about the Met’s need for a cultural revolution that escapes them from the past, vaulting the organization into a new and unexplored future.
Ironically, the Mets have that opportunity now with the ousting of the Wilpons and the influx of new leadership in Steve Cohen. We’ll see how it turns out, but the cultural change, and the opportunity to look forward, is what counts.
Regarding the Yankees, though, let’s be hopefully kind to say that Hal Steinbrenner’s interview with Michael Kay yesterday was only a warm-up for the “real” Yankees State Of The Union address, yet to be scheduled and delivered sometime during the offseason.