Joe didn't waste any time issuing his post-mortem on the season, holding his end-of-season press conference the day after the final game. Hal Steinbrenner followed suit yesterday, talking to Michael Kay on his radio show at length about the season that was and what things he thinks the team needs to address to prepare for next season. You can check out the entire interview here, but since Chad Jennings was nice enough to compile the money quotes, I'm going to cherry pick from those and highlight some of the more important/strange things Hal had to say.
“The hitting coach is responsible for the hitters, the pitching coach is responsible for the pitchers, and we've got an infield coach responsible for defense and fielding. That comes with any position in life. You are liable for what goes on. We have not made any decisions yet as to what we’re going to do with any of the coaches. That will be the first step to look at the manager and the coaches as we do every single year.”
Obviously he wasn't going to come out and say that certain guys did a bad job and are going to be fired, but that statement of "you are liable for what goes on" doesn't sound like it bodes well for Kevin Long and Rob Thomson. The rotation and bullpen weren't the problem. The offense was. The Yankees aren't going to be able to trade away Teix or Beltran, so it sounds like the coaching staff is going to take the heat for the poor performance.
"But, rest assured, we’re going to get to the bottom of it. And if I do deem that somebody is liable, or if I do deem that somebody is responsible, that things could have been better, I will act.”
Watch out, guys. Detective Hal is on the case! I don't really have anything to add here. I just thought that statement was funny coming from the guy in the front office who probably knows the least about baseball.
“I want to talk to all my people, including having long discussions with Cashman and his people and really get into, could anything have been different or did these guys just have a down year, these three or four guys?"
This is where things start to get scary. This idea that guys just "had a down year" and aren't in permanent decline because of age and injuries, the 2 most prevalent things on the Yankee roster. It's reflective of the flawed, outdated, "back of the baseball card" strategy the Yankees have employed in putting their team together. Guys used to be really good players, so they can still be good if they join the Yankees. If they aren't, it's because they had a down year. That's the kind of organizational attitude that needs to change. Stop looking for older, formerly good players and counting on them to either bounce back or hold their previous year's production.
“I've been a little trade averse as far as getting rid of younger kids as you saw last year, but we’re going to have to analyze."
If you're a Cash hater, this should serve as evidence that not every bad move is his call. It may serve as evidence that most moves aren't his call. Hal says he didn't want to give up prospects in trades, but the Yankees don't ever call up any young players to give them a chance to play unless they absolutely have to. How is your team ever supposed to get better if you refuse to trade prospects for good, proven players and then refuse to give those young prospects a chance to prove themselves? This is how you end up with Ichiro and Brian Roberts in your starting lineup.
“Every player is different. He obviously had a pretty major surgery. He’s going to have his feelings. We try to address a player’s feelings, but sometimes we feel like we need that player, so we’re going to be a little bit more forceful, if you will, in trying to get that player to play. But we were in a situation this year where things were tough, and we needed everybody to contribute as much as possible, but we certainly don’t want to hurt anybody either."
This remark was in reference to Mark Teixeira's injury problems this season and his admission that he wasn't going to be able to play as many game as he used to in his prime. Basically it translates to "We screwed up and didn't sign or trade for a viable backup, and because we didn't do that Joe had to keep running Teix out there until he broke down. Too bad, so sad." That's a terrible way to look at your older players, especially when you know that this particular one was coming off of major surgery.
“Robbie Cano was a great player. We made what we thought was a very legitimate, good offer. And we just weren’t even in the same ballpark. That is what it is. He’s a great player. Any team would miss him to a certain extent, without a doubt, but, again, the guys we brought in were much better than they played and that’s going to be different next year.”
Huh? What guys were better than they played? What does that even mean? And once again Hal is sticking to his belief that everybody is going to be better next year even though there's no way to accurately project or prove that belief. It's almost a refusal to see and acknowledge the truth.
“I apologize. We did not do the job this year. We know what you expect of us, and we expect the same thing of ourselves, and we certainly did what we thought we could do in the offseason to field a pretty good team come April 1, but it didn’t work out for reasons we’ve just discussed. And we’re going to get right back to work.”
I'll give Hal some credit here for apologizing to the fans and owning up to the fact that this season was a failure. Not much credit though, since he throws in the line about fielding "a pretty good team." This is the same guy who's been throwing that "championship-caliber team" line out there anytime he can. They go from being championship-caliber in December and February and March to pretty good when they don't even make the playoffs? How does that work?
In the end, I can't put too much faith in Hal's apology and promise to "get right back to work" because I know what that means in Yankee terms. It means overspending on free agents, filling out the back end of the roster with cheap, crummy players, and hoping and praying that everybody stays healthy. That strategy doesn't work. I appreciate Hal's effort here, but if he really wants to field a "pretty good team" in 2015, he and the rest of his front office cronies have to change the way they think and get in touch with today's MLB environment.