TAMPA, Fla. -- Hank Steinbrenner can roar about Derek Jeter's mansion. He can complain about revenue sharing. But the biggest problem, the largest albatross the Yankees have, came from Steinbrenner's 15 minutes of power.
The Alex Rodriguez contract that Steinbrenner championed in 2007, the one that will expire in 2017, is the time Steinbrenner didn't "concentrate" enough. It put the Yankees in an 0-2 hole when Jeter's contract came due this offseason. It, in part, forced them to feel compelled to give Jeter more years than many in the front office wanted to.
So Steinbrenner can talk and talk the way his father, George, used to -- and it is entertaining stuff, for sure -- but this action, this A-Rod contract, is what his brief reign will be remembered for. He had real power in the organization that winter of 2007, and he fumbled it.
We don't yet know how bad A-Rod's contract will turn out to be, but it is a bad deal for the team. Everyone in the organization knows it. Many will even admit it in private.
By giving A-Rod a decade, bestowing a contract that will take him until he is 42 years old, Steinbrenner made it more difficult to construct the roster. The nearly $300 million contract looks bad now, so imagine what it will look like in 2017.
Steinbrenner's comments overshadowed what seemed to be a less cluttered A-Rod at his news conference Monday. Still, A-Rod is a little confused about his longevity or knows something we don't.
Rodriguez said he believes that players can get better as they age. The only players who have really done that have names like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens -- and the government now wants a word with them.
A-Rod knows a thing or two about the magic juice, but he says he is off the performance enhancers, which begs the question: How exactly is he going to get better into his 40s? The left side of the infield, with Jeter and A-Rod aging, is a fascinating and potentially problematic situation that the Yankees will have to deal with for a long time.
The A-Rod contract problem is one Steinbrenner championed. After A-Rod's embarrassing opt-out during the World Series in 2007, GM Brian Cashman was ready to say goodbye to Rodriguez and invest the $300 million in other players. But A-Rod groveled back and, even with the loss of his leverage, got the huge contract.
It might have been smart to let him return, but the contract should have been more team-friendly.
This spring, A-Rod arrived at camp leaner, down seven or eight pounds, he said, and the Yankees hope that he can become the old A-Rod as he gets older. Since his steroid admission and hip surgery, A-Rod has not been the dominant regular-season player he used to be. He did have one of the greatest postseasons of all time in '09, which has wiped out some of the concern about his future.
Now, A-Rod says he is healthier. He sounded better, even expertly delivering a spoon-fed line about his hand-fed popcorn, inquiring about whether anyone had watched the Super Bowl.
If A-Rod becomes a legit top-five-in-the-world player again this year, how long can he last if there are no illegal substances racing through his body?
Steinbrenner is the one who signed the Yankees up for A-Rod's forever-long contract. He is the one who drove the ship on giving A-Rod the huge deal. He is a minor player, really, but he's got the name. When he sounds like his father, it is quite a listen. Too bad his actions put the Yankees in their A-Rod predicament.