Yankees Owner Hal Steinbrenner addressed the media at the Major League Baseball Owners’ Meetings on Wednesday afternoon.
Steinbrenner is disappointed by the Yankees’ start, but he is encouraged by the performance on their most recent homestand, in which they went 7-3 against the Boston Red Sox, Kansas City Royals, and Chicago White Sox.
Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman and Manager Joe Giardi got a vote of confidence from Steinbrenner, who is happy with the job they’ve done. He also spoke about the importance of their bullpen, including Aroldis Chapman, and their acquisitions this past offseason, Starlin Castro and Aaron Hicks.
Steinbrenner said of the state of the Yankees six weeks into the season, “Needless to say, first five weeks were disappointing, frustrating, particularly looking at the offense, clearly not living up to their potential.
“The last homestand was promising, I thought, hitting up and down the lineup, scoring runs, but what we can’t have happen now is for our starting pitchers to give up five, six, seven runs a game. We’ve got to start firing on all cylinders, or we’re never going to get out of this hole because we’re in a hole right now. We’ll see, as always, it’s up to them, but I am pleased to see the hitting is coming around. Now, we’ve got to get the starters going.”
On the tough start being due to whether it’s the way the team is designed or players not playing to their abilities, Steinbrenner said, “I don’t think it’s a flaw in the way the team is put together. I think the team we have this year is better than the team we had last year, and the team we had last year was second in runs in the major leagues. You know, we added (Starlin) Castro, we added (Aaron) Hicks. I think when you look at a guy like Mark Teixeira, I mean, clearly he’s not performing to his potential with the bat, in my opinion. I’m sure there’s some that would disagree, but there’s also a lot that would agree with me on that. I think we saw Chase Headley, same thing, now you’re starting to see him hit, you see him more relaxed, making harder contact. That has to continue.
“You guys have been around longer than I have, you know that when even good players get in these kinds of situations and these kinds of slumps, they press. They start swinging at pitches they shouldn’t be swinging at, it’s a perfectly natural thing. You can only coach them so much, work on technique so much,the rest of it’s up to them, they’re professionals. I’m hoping that Monday aside (12-2 loss in Arizona), yesterday we had a good pitcher obviously we were facing, Monday aside, the homestand was promising, and I’m hoping we’ve turned the corner with the bats. Now, we’ve got to get it done with the pitching.”
On whether pitchers like Michael Pineda and Luis Severino are pressing, he said, “We all know Severino has good stuff. I’m not worried about his stuff, we saw that the last two months of last year. We’ll see about the injury and how much that played into his performance the last few outings. I also think there was a confidence issue at some point. He is a rookie, this is his first downturn, if you will. Again, Larry Rothschild can only do so much with that, right. I mean, the rest is up to Severino, and every player is going to have to learn how to push through that downturn the first time, and get through it, and he will.
“Pineda’s concerning, I mean, all these strikeouts, and yet he gives up these runs. Clearly, he’s giving up runs early. Clearly, there’s been issues with his slider. Again, Larry can only do so much. Whatever technically is wrong with the delivery, Larry is going to work on, but the rest is up to Pineda to figure out. He’s a professional, and that’s what we expect from him, and that’s what his teammates expect of him.”
On the performance of the coaching staff: “I think the coaches are doing a good job. Again, these are professional athletes. They’re the best baseball players in the world, and sooner or later, it comes down to them on the inside to push through whatever it is they’re going through and to persevere.”
On the job General Manager Brian Cashman did before the season: “I think Cash made some good trades. I think Castro’s worked out great. I think Hicks has worked out great; now that he’s playing every day, he’s starting to hit. You go through these periods every year, every team does, but for us, unfortunately, it happened at the very beginning. It may be longer than it normally does as well, but when it happens at the very beginning, you start going below .500 right out of the gate, you’re in a hole. If you’re up by eight games and you’re 10 games over .500, and you go through something like this, and we certainly went through a couple rough times last year, even before August, it just feels different.
“I can tell you the players are calm, they’re focused, the coaches are doing everything they need to do as far as any problems with the delivery of a pitcher or the swing of a hitter, but sooner or later, it comes down to the guys to pull through.”
Steinbrenner said of the three closers in the bullpen, Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, and Dellin Betances, and it being something that they will keep doing in the future when it comes to building the roster, “I don’t know if we considered that. We certainly had concerns this year over the health of our starting pitching staff based on the injuries from last year, so there was certainly a thought this year to try to bolster the bullpen as much as possible to shorten the game. Whether that’s going to be an overriding strategy of ours, I don’t know, haven’t even thought about that. Clearly, the bullpen is becoming a bigger and bigger thing, it ain’t 40 years ago, right. Shortening up games and then really getting into a bullpen is something teams focus on now more than ever before.”
Steinbrenner said of being open to the idea of being a “seller” at the trade deadline, “Every trade deadline, you know me, I do the same thing I do in the offseason. Any possibility that comes along we’re look at, but I’m not even thinking about that right now. But that’s what I do every trade deadline. We looked at a lot of possibilities last year, we just ended up not doing anything. It’s mid-May, I’m going to see you guys, you’re around, I’ll be around the Stadium, we’ll talk again in July.
“Right now, that’s the least of my concerns because I think the hitting’s turned a corner and we’ve got to just keep plugging away, that’s all. We have to do what we did last week, which is win series, two out of three, three out of four. You’re going to get out of the hole sooner or later.”
Steinbrenner said of what he enjoys about owning the Yankees in recent years, “It’s never enjoyable, it’s a struggle. It does make one stronger and wiser. You’re never going to learn all the life lessons by winning all the time, that’s for sure. I loved seeing what I saw the last homestand. I loved seeing guys start to turn it around, particularly guys like (Chase) Headley that have just really struggled. That homestand to me was very rewarding and that’ll keep me going for a while. We’re going to get through Arizona here and then we go to Oakland and then we come back home briefly.
“I love the business side of it. As I’ve always said, if my name wasn’t Steinbrenner, I wouldn’t be here. I’ve been given this as a gift. I respect it and I enjoy it.
Steinbrenner said of some partners selling they’re stakes this past year, “We’ve got a lot of partners that own one, two, three percent, they pass away, and their children want to sell, sure, for whatever the reason. This is not unusual to have at least one partner a year, probably oftentimes two, sell a percent, half a percent, not totally get out, sometimes totally get out, sometimes not totally get out, so nothing unusual.
“As far as us, we’re not going anywhere. This is a family business now. My nieces and nephews are involved now, so now you’ve got two generations, three, including my late Dad. We’re here to stay.”
The topic of the fast start of the Yankees’ main rival, the Boston Red Sox, came up, and Steinbrenner said of that, “Well, they certainly picked up a great pitcher in (David) Price. You know, we’ll see, I think they’ve had a couple of years where they thought they would be doing much better than they actually did. They’re always going to be tough against us, we know that, Baltimore’s tough. Look, every team, particularly the way we’re playing, every team in our division is tough. It’s not going to be easy, we’ve dug ourselves into a hole, but it’s mid-May, not mid-August, stranger things have happened. No one’s given up, that clubhouse has not given up, I can tell you that much.”
Steinbrenner opened his time with the media by saying to the never-ending question of how they will honor a retiring Red Sox legend, “Before we start, can I just say we are going to do something for David Ortiz. Not quite sure yet, I’ve got four months to work on it.”
One thing that will be a likely topic at the owners’ meetings is the Major League Baseball replay system and how it has evolved this season
“You can make all kinds of arguments either way with that, right,” said Steinbrenner. “I like it. I mean, obviously, it can go too far if they start really, you know, the last thing we need to do is start making these games three-and-a-half, four hours. Within reason, I think it’s a good thing. I’ve been pleased with the process, how it works. You’re going to get some against it, you’re going to get some for you. In my mind, it all evens out in the end and to make the proper call, as long as we’re obviously not doing it for balls and strikes and things like that, it’s a healthy thing.”