Steinbrenner: Yanks a title-caliber team

NEW YORK -- Hal Steinbrenner was direct and to the point, much as his famous father always was.

"I think we've got a championship-caliber team," he said. "I absolutely believe that we have the team that can win the championship."

Making his first extensive public comments about the New York Yankees since Opening Day, the new controlling owner praised his players, manager Joe Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman. And, already, he's looking ahead to Aug. 6-9, when the Boston Red Sox come to Yankee Stadium.

"That four-game series is going to be a big one," he said. "But the guys believe they can beat anybody, and that has not changed, and that's an important thing."

Boston, tied with New York for the AL East lead, is 8-0 against the Yankees this year, the best Red Sox start to a season against their rival since winning the first 14 meetings against the Highlanders in 1912.

Steinbrenner met with Girardi before Monday night's game against Baltimore. Especially after failing to make the playoffs last year in the first season of a three-year contract, Girardi understands what is required.

"I know the expectations. I knew it when I took the job in year one," he said. "I knew it coming into this year, and, you know, for however long I manage. Expectations are going to be on the next guy too. It's never going to change."

Steinbrenner wouldn't say what would happen if the Yankees don't make it to the postseason yet again following their run of 13 consecutive playoff appearances. He also left little to the imagination.

"We expect to win every year. We've said that. We always say that," he said. "Our job is to field a championship-caliber team every year, and that's what we strive to do. So, Joe knows who he's working for."

Steinbrenner sounded pleased with his team's offseason moves, saying the newcomers were "a breath of fresh of air." The Yankees signed free-agent pitchers CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett and first baseman Mark Teixeira, and acquired right fielder Nick Swisher in a trade.

Swisher, especially, has changed the clubhouse demeanor with his propensity to play loud music.

"I'm seeing some looseness this year in the players, I'm seeing some, you know, some emotion, and that's a great thing," Steinbrenner said. "We've managed to limit the injuries -- we're doing a little bit better than last year in that area. And I just think there's a lot of motivation. I think these guys are pumped, and I think they're showing it. We're firing on all cylinders at times and struggling a little bit at other times in certain areas. But overall, pretty happy."

With the Blue Jays offering to trade Roy Halladay, the Yankees are interested. But they're skeptical that Toronto would deal the 2003 AL Cy Young Award winner to a division rival.

"If we need something, there's only certain ways sometimes you're going to be able to get it," Steinbrenner said, speaking generally. "And everybody trades away young talent at some point for a trade that they deem, you know, absolutely necessary, but I don't like doing it. But, again, we look at all possibilities and we look at all alternatives."


Steinbrenner isn't dwelling on all the home runs at new Yankee Stadium. A major league-leading 152 have been hit in 46 games, eight shy of last year's total for the full season at original Yankee Stadium. "I want a full year of data," he said. "Right now it's not a big enough sample size for me to even address that."