Yankees managing partner Hal Steinbrenner waited until the midway point of this potentially historic season to talk publicly about his great and record-threatening team, holding a conference call via Zoom Wednesday with reporters and managing to say almost nothing we didn’t already know.
I’m pretty sure it’s by design. He may be boring, but he isn’t unintelligent.
Someone may try to make something out of such a rare Hal sighting — since the season began, he’d only been seen by a reporter at the owners meeting a few weeks back, when he said he wanted to defer speaking publicly until later. Wednesday was apparently was later!
But judge for yourself. To recap the highlights in his 20-minute question and answer session:
- Aaron Judge has been “phenomenal” and is a “great Yankee,” and they are “hopeful” to keep him in pinstripes.
- They had to improve the defense, and Isiah Kiner-Falefa has been “great.”
- Hal knows “we have a team capable of great things,” but made a point to decline to expound on that.
- He still “expects great things” from Joey Gallo.
He managed to say not one thing we didn’t know or expect. Not easy!
Except, of course, for that bit about expecting great things from Gallo, which we can assume better fits the category of a prayer than a belief.
You can tell Hal is his father’s son by his manner of speaking. He prefers the staccato style that in George’s case was almost always punctuated by a blustery boast, a pointed rip or newsworthy threat.
There was none of that here. Typical was when, regarding possible Judge talks, he proclaimed, “We’re not going to give any updates. We’re just not going to do it!”
Hal, a Williams man like his dad, is whip smart and has it in him to rise above the ordinary. But he goes to great pains not to let it out.
As many have pointed out over the years, caution is his calling card. He is the anti George.
I’m not sure I ever expected to admit this. I miss The Boss.
Certainly the circulation folks at all the tabloids must as well.
The one moment of levity in the well-named briefing came when Hal, explaining to Bob Klapisch of The Star-Ledger of Newark that he’s at “two or three games” every homestand even if he’s unseen by reporters, joked that he’s just “trying to avoid you.”
I followed up by asking whether by you he meant all the media or specifically Bob, and Hal clarified to say “you and Bob.”
(For the record, people around the team say Hal is indeed there a lot, even if he is never seen.)
Judging by results, Hal is a fine leader who employs smart people who’ve built a money-making empire (the franchise value is up many times, to $7.01 billion according to Forbes, after his father and friends bought it for exactly the $.01 billion part of that — $10 million) and an on-field juggernaut that is exactly on pace to tie the season record for wins set at 116 by the 2001 Seattle Mariners.
I am sure he is kind to employees, doubtful he throws a gasket over a piece of litter or threatens to fire folks. So there are a lot of positives, especially if you happen to work for him.
If you cover him, however, it can be a drag. Just imagine what The Boss would have said about Gallo’s steady stream of strikeouts. Now hear know that the son said.
“Look, he’s grinding it out. … He’s got the support of his teammates,” Hal said, somehow finding the bright side of .165.
While talking about Kiner-Falefa, he obliquely referenced his decision not to spend the big bucks on free agents Carlos Correa or Corey Seager.
“I didn’t spend three hundred million dollars,” Hal said, “but I think most people are pretty happy.”
Hal did say some very nice and obviously warranted things about Judge and Judge’s leadership, but he couldn’t bring himself to admit the Yankeees will be raising their offer of $30.5 million a year. And that’s when everyone already knows they want him back, and have no choice and will of course up their bid. They have no choice.
So he punts even the gimmes.
“It’s hypothetical,” Hal answered the question about raising their offer. “We’ve got three, hopefully four, months. I don’t know. It’s a possibility. Of course it’s a possibility. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”
By now, we know he delays all bridge crossing until the sharks are biting or he has completely run out of time. Which is to say we probably shouldn’t expect another press briefing until the year is over.
At which point we can expect he will tell us a few more things we already knew.