Hal Steinbrenner likes to say he conducts his business differently than his more bombastic father did. But on Wednesday, Hal took a page from The Boss' old playbook and expressed contrition to New York Yankees fans.
"I apologize," Steinbrenner said on ESPN New York 98.7 FM's Michael Kay Show when asked by Kay what his message was to Yankees fans. "We did not do the job this year. We know what you expect of us and we expect the same thing of ourselves."
The Yankees finished 84-78, in second place, 12 games behind the AL East champion, Baltimore Orioles. Even with the expanded playoffs, they were four games back of the second wild-card team, the Oakland Athletics. Their offense, with the winter additions of Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran, scored 633 runs, the third fewest in the American League.
Add it all up, and if George Steinbrenner were still running things, people likely would have been fired already. As it is, hitting coach Kevin Long has been the target of many fans' ire on social media, who want him held responsible for the poor offense, even as manager Joe Girardi has said Long's work was the same as in 2009 when the Yankees scored 900-plus runs.
Hal Steinbrenner said he is not opposed to firing people, but it has to be for the right reasons.
"I don't think it is a news flash that I am different than George in a lot of ways," Steinbrenner said. "He was better in many things than me, but I do tend to be a little less rash when it comes to firing people. I want to make sure that what went wrong was for a reason. It was wrong because of that one individual or two individuals or whatever, I will get through that process before anything like that as opposed to any kind of knee jerk reactions."
Steinbrenner is not around the stadium as much as his old man, something even Derek Jeter noted in a recent magazine article. For Jeter's final home game, Steinbrenner was not present, which caused some raised eyebrows.
"The 'Thank You Day' was the 7th [of September]," Steinbrenner said, alluding to the ceremony for Jeter. "That was my family, that was the organization saying thank you to Jeter, which is exactly what I told him for everything that he has done for the organization. The last day really, in my opinion, was for the players. I was in Tampa. I was not there for the last day. That is absolutely true. I'm not going to get into why I couldn't be there, but I couldn't. I watched every bit of it."
Steinbrenner added, "It is perfectly understandable for people to be upset about that."
Steinbrenner confirmed that general manager Brian Cashman, whose contract is up, will return as long as they can agree on a new deal. He said he thinks the team needs a shortstop to replace Jeter and another starter to join Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia, Shane Greene and Ivan Nova, who likely won't return until May because of Tommy John surgery.
As for the suspended Alex Rodriguez's return to the Yankees after a year layoff for performance-enhancing drug use, Steinbrenner sounded upbeat.
"He is working very hard, as we speak," Steinbrenner said. "He always comes into camp fit so we know that is going to be the case. But he is also the age that he is at. I don't have any expectations."
Steinbrenner added, "When he is healthy, he is an asset."
Steinbrenner said he plans on having a new captain to replace Jeter, but he needs to see a "true leader." Steinbrenner didn't sound like the next captain would be named soon, but he did say there were true candidates on the team, without naming any specifically.
He said the team will delve deeper to find out why the offense was such a disappointment in 2014.
"I don't make rash decisions," Steinbrenner said. "I want to talk to all my people, including having long discussions with Cashman and really get into if anything could've been different or did these guys just have a down year, these three or four guys, but rest assured we are going to get to the bottom of it. If I do deem that somebody is liable and if I do deem that someone is responsible, that things could've been better, I will act."