Looking for a laugh, one reporter quickly asked [manager, Joe] Torre, “Who’s the best owner in the major leagues?” [owner, George] Steinbrenner interjected: “Who’s the best manager in the major leagues?” Then he pointed vigorously at Torre, who returned the gesture, and sat on the couch next to reporters.
Steinbrenner was oddly playful. At one point, he grabbed a notebook from a veteran reporter and scrawled, “For my buddy, George Steinbrenner.” And before he entered the room, Steinbrenner had already told a small pack of reporters that the Yankees would win the World Series for the first time since 2000.
“In a while, we haven’t won it,” he said. “We’re going to win it this year. We’re going after it.”
Joe Torre addressed the team for the first time and his words evidentally had more urgency than usual. According to Bob Klapisch:
This is our world, Torre said. This is what it means to be a Yankee. You’ll be loved [and hated], respected [and despised]. Everyone will be watching from this moment on.
Torre insisted the message was meant for the full roster, including the minor-leaguers with no chance of making the team. But for [Johnny] Damon, the address was especially poignant: In Boston and everywhere else in the American League, he’d officially morphed into the enemy.
“I thought Joe’s introductory speech really hit home,” Damon said. “He talked about enjoying the game, not letting it pass you by, knowing we do have a good team. That’s why the goal here is getting to the World Series.”
Talk is cheap, of course, but in light of the debacle on 33rd street, it’s comforting to know that George’s collection of high-priced stars can actually deliver–if not a championship, then at least probably something close to it. As my friend Matt B said to me last week, the Bombers were awful for much of 2005 and they still won over 90 games and made the playoffs. Unless they are side-swiped by injuries–a very real possibility–we should be in for another entertaining season, don’t you think?