Tuesday, February 28, 2006


He's Back

George Steinbrenner, on the Yankees (predicts a championship) and the World "Baseball Classic" a good read. April can't get here fast enough:

More visible Steinbrenner going strong at 75
By Hal Bodley, USA TODAY

TAMPA — New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, a recluse of sorts last year, is much more visible this spring, motoring around the team's training complex at Legends Field in a golf cart, occasionally stopping to chat with members of the media.

New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner: "I've said we're going to win it this year. We're going after it."
By Tony Gutierrez, AP

But in a one-on-one interview Monday with USA TODAY, the 75-year-old Steinbrenner blasted the World Baseball Classic, complained about the $110 million his team had to pay in luxury taxes and revenue sharing for 2005 and, yes, said he has mellowed. (Steinbrenner Q&A : One-on-one with George)

"Not mellow-mellow," he said. "I'm still The Boss."

Steinbrenner, who begins his 33rd season as principal owner, confirmed it took a meeting in Tampa after last season to ensure the return of manager Joe Torre, who has two seasons remaining on his three-year, $19.2 million contract extension.

Steinbrenner said Torre might have felt he wasn't appreciated, "But I appreciate him very much. The relationship is as good as it's ever been."

The Boss admitted he is out of character to predict the Yankees will win the World Series but said he feels that good about this team.

As for the inaugural 16-country World Baseball Classic that opens this week in Tokyo, Steinbrenner became angry when it was discussed. He praised outfielder Hideki Matsui for not playing for the Japanese team.

"I'll go on the record and predict somebody's going to get hurt badly in this damn thing," he said.

"I'm worried sick for (Commissioner) Bud Selig. I'm worried for baseball and worried for the whole thing. Somebody's going to get hurt and hurt some team. Baseball didn't need this. It's disrupting spring training.

"Some young people in baseball have sold Selig on it."

In summary, he said, "I'm very happy."

More from George Steinbrenner, who spoke as the Yankees prepare for the season at Legends Field in TampA:

USA TODAY: How's your spring going?

Steinbrenner: We're having a good spring. I think we're going to have a good team. We have good pitching, good depth in pitching. I think (general manager) Brian Cashman and (manager) Joe Torre are doing a good job. We've got a great staff.

Q: What does the addition of center fielder Johnny Damon mean to the team?

A: He's a very good player and is going to help us a lot. I've gotten to know him fairly well and like him. I'm extremely happy, though, with (Hideki) Matsui. I think he's going to have a very big year because he's concentrating here where he should be and not on that World Classic. It's crazy.

Q: So, what do you really think of the World Baseball Classic?

A: I think it's bull——. Some good player is going to get hurt and they don't have insurance on him. It's a bad situation. A lot of the players, the smart ones, are dropping out. I give Matsui a lot of credit (for not playing with the Japanese team).

Q: How's your health? Are you still working out?

A: Every morning. I get up about 7:30 and work out at home — I've got a setup there — for an hour or more. I lift weights and do a lot of exercises. I don't do any running because of my knees. I feel as good as I have in years. If you can't sit in the saddle, you can't lead the charge.

Q: How far can this team go? You haven't been to the World Series since 2003.

A: I've said we're going to win it this year. We're going after it. Yes, it's unusual for me to predict that. I see where some guys are picking Boston to win the American League East. They're a good team, but I don't believe it. We have to win the American League East and keep going right through the playoffs.

Q: Do you enjoy owning the Yankees and baseball as much as you used to?

A: I do when we come to a year like this. Yeah. I like being involved; I sometimes get too involved so I lay back and let (son-in-law Steve Swindal) do more of the stuff he should be doing. I'm laying back a little bit more, but I'm still in there. I know what's going on.

Q: When you announced plans for the new Yankee Stadium last summer, you said Swindal will eventually take over for you. Do you have a time frame for that?

A: I think he's coming along very nicely and is doing a fine job. My son Hank is going through a tough divorce situation, and when he gets that ironed out, he'll be in there as well as doing the horse stuff (Kinsman Stable). My daughter Jessica is getting into the horses big-time now. She has training aspirations.

Q: Speaking of horses, what's the latest on Bellamy Road (last year's Kentucky Derby favorite who finished seventh after being injured in the race)?

A: Bellamy Road is doing fine. I just talked to the trainers on a conference call. He's doing very well and will come back this year in the Breeders' Cup. Having the Derby favorite and not winning was a big disappointment. We've got some good Derby hopefuls this year.

Q: At the end of last year, even though he's signed through 2007, Joe Torre wasn't sure he was coming back. He indicated he might not be wanted. How was that resolved?

A: We have a great relationship now. He wasn't sure (after the season), but we had a good meeting here in Tampa. Steve sat in on it, and I'm very happy with Joe and his family.

Q: Is the relationship as good as it's ever been since he took over in 1996?

A: Yes, it's as good as it's ever been, and Steve deserves a lot of the credit for getting this resolved.

Q: Torre gave the impression he wasn't fully appreciated. Is that true?

A: It might have been, but I appreciate him very much. He's more relaxed, and Steve has a lot to do with that. Joe's a good human being. I think we have a whole staff of good human beings who care about our kids.

Q: GM Brian Cashman's status was also uncertain after the season, but his role has been redefined. Are you pleased with the new arrangement?

A: I'm very happy with Cashman. He had a situation with the right fielder (Gary Sheffield) the other day (regarding Sheffield's 2007 contract option), but he's a good man. A lot of teams would have liked to have him. He's doing very well.

Q: Is this a more stable operation now than in recent years?

A: I believe that's true. Look at the guys over the years who've gone on and done great things at other places. Look at the managers we've got out there. They had to learn it somewhere. They learned it here because we do have a good organization. (Team president) Randy Levine and (chief operating officer) Lonn Trost are great.

By Robert F. Bukaty, AP
Steinbrenner: "I think I have mellowed. Well, I am the Boss still, but I mean I'm not mellow-mellow."

Q: What's your view on upcoming collective bargaining agreement negotiations? The contract expires Dec. 19. You paid $34 million in luxury tax and $75.9 million in revenue sharing for 2005. Are you looking for changes to the current system?

A: I see in the paper today Boston is starting to whine about it. I think (commissioner) Bud Selig has a steady course now, but they can't continue to take so much money from us. It's crazy when you can't make money when you're doing like we're doing (4 million-plus admissions in 2005). I'm very supportive of Bud Selig but just hope he tempers it and makes it more equal. I'd like to see everybody competing, but we're not a socialist state.

Q: Are you going to be more active this year than you were last year?

A: A little more active but not really active. I'll go to as many games as I can. Yes, I backed off a little last year, but I'll be there. They'll know I'm there. I'm not going to retire. Just so you have a presence and they know you're there. I have a great love for New York and New York fans.

Q: Have you mellowed? But how can you, because you're 'The Boss'?

A: I think I have mellowed. Well, I am the Boss still, but I mean I'm not mellow-mellow. When I see (scraps of) paper on the ground and stuff I don't like, I'm mad about it. When I see security not doing the job, I'm all over them — that kind of stuff. I still demand certain things from my team. We had people from Latin America in here. We're working very closely with them on merchandizing and teaching our young players how to react because it's tough in New York.

Q: As former vice president of the U.S. Olympic Committee (1989-96), were you troubled watching the poor showing by United States athletes in this year's Olympics?

A: They didn't do well at all. When I was involved, I designed the future for them. It was a disappointment to watch them. That skier (Bode Miller) was out at night, chasing all over. That was no good.

Q: You've owned the Yankees since 1973. What are your fondest memories?

A: There are a lot of them. One that stands out was being in Cincinnati (in the 1976 World Series when the Reds swept the Yankees) that year when they beat us. We were in the big show, but to me we put up a good fight and I knew right then we could make it. Another was Game 6 of the 1977 World Series when Reggie Jackson hit those three home runs.

Q: How do you spend your time away from baseball?

A: I have 13 grandchildren, and they keep me going. They're all doing very well. Following them keeps me busy. There's nothing like being a grandfather. It makes you feel good, but it's tough to keep track of all of them. I try to be good to them. My wife Joan and I will celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary on May 12. That woman is a goddess, spending all that time with me.

Q: How's your relationship with the players?

A: I think we've got a good group of players. They're working together. They took my golf cart the other day. It didn't get me upset. We found out who it was, and they were talked to. We told them please don't take it anymore because I can't walk that far to the complex because my legs bother me from football.

Q: Will you continue (to have) your publicist issue your statements?

A: I'll be using statements for the most part but will be around.

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