"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Be Like Mike

I knew Santino was going to have to go through all this . . . but I never wanted this for you. I work my whole life, I don’t apologize, to take care of my family, and I refused to be a fool dancing on the strings held by all of those big shots. That’s my life, I don’t apologize for that, but I always thought that, when it was your time, that you would be the one to hold the strings.

In his introduction to the first major interview conducted with Hal Steinbrenner in roughly 20 years, GQ staff writer Nate Penn positions the younger Hal as the Michael Corleone to older brother Hank’s Sonny:

During their first, busy off-season, Hank, 50, emerged as a sort of Sonny Corleone figure, impetuous and impudent, throwing down gauntlets left and right. . . . His outspokenness—on subjects ranging from A-Rod to Joe Torre to a possible trade for ace Johan Santana—led many to assume he was running the team, but behind the scenes the chain of command was a work in progress. “They indicated that now Hank is the baseball person,” a baffled Scott Boras tells me during the first, ill-fated round of A-Rod negotiations, “yet they had me talk with Hal.” . . . Throughout, Hal, 38, remained, like Michael Corleone, in the shadows—subtle, wary of media, a private family man.

The interview is a must-read throughout. In the key sections, Hal explains his vision for how decisions will be made by the team moving forward:

I’m going to sound like a military-school guy, but I’m a big believer in chain of command. Under George, I think a lot of people felt like George was going to make the decision, no matter what, and they just didn’t make many decisions. The direction that we’re moving toward is more along the lines of how I think an efficient corporation should run. It doesn’t mean I’m right, but that’s my take. I don’t want to have to be here twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, analyzing every single piece of information that comes across the desk and feeling like I need to make decisions that other people are perfectly capable of making.

We understand this is New York. We understand winning is expected. We want to win. Even if that wasn’t the case, we would want to win; that’s just the way we are. But I think we’re both more introverted and more analytical. We tend to want to take time to come up with a solution to a problem, as opposed to making a seat-of-the-pants–type decision. And I think that showed in some of these off-season signings. Some people didn’t understand why we took so long to decide this or to decide that, but we want to get it right. . . . What’s been determined is that this is a family business, and if we’re both gonna be involved, it has to be an equal thing, and we both need to be involved with all major decisions, whether it’s the stadium, big expenditures, or [the unconsummated trade for Johan] Santana, for instance.

That sort of measured, analytical approach which trusts the expertise of the people hired to make decisions rather than second-guesses or haphazardly overrides them is good news for Yankee fans, as is Hal’s attitude toward the team’s home grown pitchers. Continuing from above:

It’s well publicized in New York that [Hanks and I] didn’t agree on that deal. My concerns were economical and financial, and I’m not gonna get into those, but I also had baseball concerns. I didn’t want to get rid of these kids! Boy, the last time we had three young pitchers like Philip Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and Ian Kennedy, I couldn’t even tell you. [Never -CJC]

The Super Bowl this year was unbelievable, and the one thought I took away really has a lot to do with us this year, with these three young pitchers. Eli struggled a bit his first couple years. I think New York fans might realize now that if you give a young kid time, great things can happen.

Sounds familiar. Elsewhere, Hal confirms the perceived split between his strengths and those of his brother: “My background in grad school [Hal earned an MBA in 1994] led me to do certain things, like finance, that weren’t his strong points. Hank always loved the baseball operations and knew the statistics for every player. We each had our strengths.”

He also confirmed that his close involvement in the team really only dates back about 12 months, and Hank’s even less: “I obviously became considerably more involved at a somewhat dramatic pace when Steve [Swindal], my sister’s ex-husband, left [in February of 2007]. A couple months after that, I think Hank realized I could use some help.”

As for his father’s health, Hal issued a rather defiant “no comment”:

GQ: Why is it that the family has chosen not to make a definitive statement on your dad’s health?

HS: Because it’s a private matter. This is a private corporation. I’m not going to comment about my health, ever. It’s the concern of my family and close friends, and as far as I’m concerned, it ends there.

Wouldn’t it put an end to the media’s intrusions into your family’s affairs if you just said, “Look, this is what’s going on, now leave us alone?”

I could probably flip a coin on that one. No, I’m not convinced. Family matters are family matters. That’s the way I view it, and you bet I’m gonna stick to it. There is no doubt our fans have a right to know what’s going on with our baseball operations’ decision-making, because without them we would not be in business. Do people have a right to know about anything having to do with family, my personal family, my extended family? No. No. And if that creates controversy, well, so be it. You cannot beat me into submission on that. Nobody can.

. . . He’s here every day, and we run things by him all the time. And there’s no doubt in the organization of who still is in charge. . . . I think he’s listening to our wisdom, our intuition, and going with recommendations we have, but it’s not like we’re going to make those decisions without him. It’s not like we feel we could. He is the general managing partner.

So he’s still calling the shots.

Of course he’s calling the shots. You don’t think I’m crazy enough to make a decision without him, do you?

Finally, and perhaps most importantly: “We’re absolutely not planning on selling the team.”

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver