If Houston had not been using a video camera to steal opposing catcher's signs in 2017, maybe the Yankees would have won the American League Championship Series instead of losing to the Astros in seven games.
"When the report came out, I was as upset as anyone," Steinbrenner said Wednesday at the baseball owners meetings. "Clearly, there were direct implications to my organization, our team, our 2017 team. But at some point I think we all, for the sake of the game and the good of the game, need to move on."
Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred issued a report on Jan. 13 that concluded the Astros broke rules against electronic sign stealing in 2017, including during the postseason. Houston won all four home games against the Yankees in the playoffs, when Astros players had the advantage of the sign-stealing system, and lost all three in the Bronx.
Steinbrenner is among the Yankees who have wondered: What if?
"I think enough people have brought that to my attention, and I'm a reasonably smart guy. I've certainly thought that," Steinbrenner said.
"There's no way that you can tell me that we weren't better than them," Sabathia said, mixing in profanities. "I cried like a baby. ... Forever in my mind now, in '17, we won the World Series."
Houston went on to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers to win the World Series in seven games.
"We would have whupped the Dodgers' [behind]," Sabathia said.
After the report in The Athletic this past November in which former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers revealed the sign-stealing system, Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge tweeted: "Wait... what....?" Judge later deleted his November 2017 Instagram post after Houston's Jose Altuve won the AL MVP award, a message that read: "Nobody more deserving than you!! Congrats on an unforgettable 2017!!"
New York has not won the World Series since 2009.
"I think we've got a very, very good group of young players, and it's going to be that way for the next two or three years," Steinbrenner said. "We'll see what happens when some of these guys hit free agency. But we've got a good solid base here for a good three years."
Because the Yankees will be paying luxury tax for the second straight season, New York may wait until after opening day to reach long-term contracts with some of those players. Last year, Luis Severino agreed to a $40 million, four-year contract and Aaron Hicks to a $70 million, seven-year deal.
"It's important to show the other players and our fans what we believe, and our belief is especially the kids that come up through our system or that we get at a young age ... wanting them to be in the pinstripes for a very long time."