(Long Island, NY) Years ago, it was commonplace for New York Yankees’ owner George Steinbrenner to make statements to the media. But in the past few seasons as he has gained in years, the words coming directly from ‘The Boss’ and not a prepared statement have been few and far between. With the current state of his team, Steinbrenner felt compelled to speak his mind.
On Friday, Steinbrenner did a telephone interview from his office in Tampa with members of the Associated Press. While he did praise certain people, some of it was vintage Steinbrenner.
With the team 21-24 and trailing the first-place Boston Red Sox by nine and a half games, the biggest question on everyone’s mind was the job security of manager Joe Torre and GM Brian Cashman.
According to reports, Steinbrenner said that Torre’s job is safe for now and that “we are not considering a change.” As far as Cashman’s status, Steinbrenner told reporters, “He is on a big hook. He wanted sole authority. He got it. Now he’s got to deliver.”
He also had strong words for embattled slugger Jason Giambi, referring to his comments to the USA Today concerning alleged steroid use. “He should have kept his mouth shut,” Steinbrenner said to reporters about Giambi. “The matter is in the hands of the baseball commissioner.”
Some of his players did receive praise, such as Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens. Steinbrenner stated that he felt Clemens needed another start in the minor leagues before coming to the Bronx, and the organization must have heeded his words. The Rocket was scheduled to make a start on Monday in Triple-A Scranton.
The Boss may have planted the seed for Torre’s eventual replacement. “Mattingly is a good one,” said Steinbrenner in the same interview. “He is a very thorough guy. He understands what it is to be a Yankee.” Steinbrenner also said that Torre’s current bench coach “could possibly” become manager someday.
When Steinbrenner speaks, people usually listen. But since the interview took place, the Yankees were swept in a three-game weekend series at home to the Los Angeles Angels. This occurred while Boston was sweeping their series against the Texas Rangers, swelling their lead over the Yankees to 12 and a half games.
It is not a stretch to say that Boston will win the American League East. That will leave the Yankees fighting for a wild card spot in order to qualify for the post-season. No easy road there, either. Currently, there are seven teams ahead of the Yanks for that race. In the AL Central, quality teams such as Detroit, Chicago and Minnesota are all within seven games of first-place Cleveland. Out west, Seattle and Oakland are still close enough to Los Angeles to fight for the division. And in their own division, the Yankees are looking up at Baltimore and Toronto (who host the Bombers in a three-game series scheduled to start on Monday evening). Many hills to climb.
On the bright side, it is still only May and Cashman has some time left to make the necessary moves to get the team back where it expected to be. If the starting rotation is healthy, a top-four of Clemens, Pettitte, Chien-Ming Wang and Mike Mussina will be quite formidable. That may be enough to go on a good run and overtake some of the teams standing in their way for the playoffs.