Archive for Hal Steinbrenner
It has been four pretty chaotic days since Alex Rodriguez‘s record 162-game suspension was announced. Alex is suing pretty much everyone and doing his best to burn every last bridge. It’s exhausting to follow, really.
Aside from a generic statement issued following the announcement of the suspension, the Yankees have not publicly discussed the matter. At least not until Wednesday. At the quarterly owners’ meetings in Arizona, Hal Steinbrenner commented on A-Rod and his status with the team following the suspension. As you might expect, he didn’t say anything too juicy. From Ken Davidoff:
“He’s a great player,” Steinbrenner said in the Yankees’ managing general partner’s first public comments since independent arbitrator Fredric Horowitz reduced Rodriguez’s suspension from 211 games to 162 games. “I have not thought about 2015, nor am I going to right now. My focus has to be right now. But when he’s on and when he’s healthy, he’s obviously an asset. We’ll see what happens.”
“Those of you that know me, I’m pretty objective in my thinking. This is business. I’m just focusing on the team, a player. Is the player an asset to the club or not? That’s about as far as I look. I don’t get personal … When Alex Rodriguez is healthy and himself, I think most objective baseball people would say he could be an asset to a club.”
Hal didn’t exactly say they would welcome A-Rod back following the suspension but he didn’t completely take it off the table either. I don’t expect them to bring Rodriguez back in 2015 — I do think they’ll release him at some point, but what do I know — but there’s no reason for Steinbrenner to come out and announce their plans now. Especially not with lawsuits pending and all that. There’s nothing to gain.
One thing Hal did acknowledge was talking to MLB about a way to keep A-Rod away from the team during the Spring Training, or at least the intent to the talk to MLB. “We haven’t even talked about it,” he said. “Cross that bridge when we come to it kind of thing. We’re going to reach out to [Major League Baseball], get their advice obviously, but haven’t even addressed it.”
The whole Spring Training thing is fascinating to me. I want to see how they’ll keep him away or how the team will treat him during camp if there’s no way to stop him from showing up in Tampa. Either way, I don’t think it’ll be easy or pretty. None of this has been.
Despite a spending spree to open the off-season, the Yankees’ roster still has plenty of needs. We can expect that they’ll reach out to GMs and agents this week in an attempt to fulfill those needs and make the 2014 roster situation clearer. Nothing is guaranteed, as Brian Cashman will tell you until you’re sick of hearing it. But the Yankees clearly have motivation to make their moves and get a better grasp of where they stand.
A few of the remaining free agents make sense. Omar Infante fits as a second baseman who plays acceptable defense and can hit for about league-average numbers. Masahiro Tanaka could get posted. Even if he doesn’t the Yankees have needs in the rotation and could seek one of the free agent pitchers (about whom it appears teams are less than enthralled). However they choose to pursue additional players, it remains certain that they’re needed for a robust 2014 roster.
They might not fill out the roster with any of the remaining free agents, or at least the household names. Joel Sherman quotes a “key-decision-maker” for the Yanks: “we are certainly done with the big free agents this off-season.” So does that mean the Yankees will prioritize the trade route rather than the remaining free agents?
In a way it makes sense. Even if A-Rod‘s suspension stands, the Yankees are butting up against their $189 million payroll goal.* Letting off the gas at this point might make sense, especially considering that they’ve spent $299 million already this off-season. But on the other hand, why go gung-ho and then not finish the job? The Yankees have helped improve the club this off-season. There seems little sense in beefing up the roster, only to skimp when it comes to the complementary pieces.
*So it appears that they did spend money without regard to A-Rod. Neat.
This could be a bluff, of course. Then again, I’m not sure any team would buy a Yankees bluff at this point. Teams know that they’re going to do what’s necessary, and that could very well mean picking up another free agent. Sherman’s source did say “big free agents,” a term open to wide interpretation. Is Infante a big free agent? Is Grant Balfour? Raul Ibanez? Or are big free agents limited to guys like Shin-Soo Choo, Matt Garza, Ervin Santana, and Unbaldo Jimenez? If the latter is the case, sure, the Yanks appear out on those guys.
For two years we’ve heard about Plan 189, and for at least a year we’ve bemoaned moves, or lack of moves, that push the Yankees in that direction at expense of the on-field team. The Yankees restored some faith this off-season by spending some dough to beef up the roster and create a contender for 2014. But they’re not done yet. They’ve pulled no punches to this point. Why not finish the job the way they started it?
For nearly two years now we’ve heard about the Yankees’ plans keep payroll below the luxury tax threshold in 2014. The story first cropped up in December, 2011, and a little over a year later Hal Steinbrenner acknowledged it as the organizational goal. Yet he always notes that getting under the threshold is a goal, one he believes is attainable, rather than a mandate. Fielding a championship-caliber team, he reminds us, remains the top priority.
Until the chips start to fall, fans can believe what they want. Some believe that the Steinbrenners are more concerned with lining their own pockets than winning, and won’t be convinced otherwise until the Yankees start doling out contracts. This is not an outrageous stance; given how much money the Yankees stand not only gain, but to take out of other teams’ pockets, getting under $189 million makes sense. At the same time, we saw the crowds at Yankee Stadium last year when the Yankees fielded a mediocre product. Surely the Steinbrenners understand that they could stand to lose plenty if the 2014 Yankees resemble the 1991 Yankees.
For those worried about how the payroll breaks down, we’ve seen some positive stories in the past few days about the Yankees showing interest in a number of quality free agents. On Friday Jon Heyman published one containing an encouraging quote from one of his sources: “Hal is very involved, and he wants to win.” Another interesting tidbit comes a few paragraphs later (emphasis mine).
Word is the Yankees still believe they can keep get their payroll below the luxury-tax threshold of $189 million, thanks to $100 million or so in contracts coming off the books, depending to a fair degree on the status of Alex Rodriguez‘s PED arbitration case vs. MLB.
If A-Rod somehow walks away without any suspension, he will count $33.5 million against the luxury tax next season ($27.5 million AAV, plus $6 million after he hits six more homers). If suspended for 50 games that number comes down to around $25 million, and if he gets suspended for 100 games it’s around $16.5 million ($10.5 million if he can’t hit six homers in 62 games, but he did hit seven in 44 games last year). And, of course, if he gets 162 or more games, the Yankees will have a nice heap of cash at their disposal.
The pace of the proceedings between MLB and Rodriguez throw a wrench into the Yankees’ off-season plans. Free agency is already in full swing with the GM meetings this week followed by the Winter Meetings in about a month. A good number of players will sign between now and when the Winter Meetings end on December 12. How can the Yankees make a move if they don’t know exactly what their 2014 books will look like?
The answer is that it shouldn’t matter. If Steinbrenner is truly serious about prioritizing a winning team over the luxury tax savings, he should forget that Alex Rodriguez exists. When arbitrator Fredric Horowitz renders his decision, it should have no effect on the Yankees’ plans. They should work with the assumption that Rodriguez will be suspended for all of 2014.
If the bet works out, the Yankees are in superb position. They can, with relative ease, field a competitive team and stay under the luxury tax threshold with another $33.5 million, in addition to the $40 million or so they have currently (as Mike calculated). That $70-plus million can pay for Robinson Cano, Masahiro Tanaka, plus two or three other starting-caliber players, depending on whether they’re acquired via free agency or the trade market. Chances are Rodriguez will push them over the threshold again in 2015, but at least they’ll have gotten below for one season, resetting the tax and keeping some of their revenue sharing monies.
If Rodriguez does play in 2014, Plan 189 does go out the window, though the luxury tax bill won’t be close last year’s record $29.1 million luxury tax bill. If Rodriguez avoids suspension and the Yankees are butting up against the tax threshold, they will pay $16.75 million in tax. At 50 games the bill would be $12.5 million, and at 100 games it would be $8.25 million.
Therein lies the entire bet. If the Yankees win, they get a championship team and pay zero dollars in luxury tax while keeping money previously sent to other teams. If they lose they still have to pay out those revenue sharing monies, plus luxury tax — though even in the worst case scenario the tax itself will amount to less than they’ve paid in the past four seasons.
As always, the it’s-not-my-money caveat applies. The Steinbrenners have the dollars, so they control who gets paid. But if they are serious about their statements, that winning takes precedence over the budget, they should spend as though Rodriguez doesn’t exist. To win that bet is a coup. To lose means writing another check, though not nearly to the level of last year and a bit below what they’ve paid in the recent past. We can only hope this makes sense to the people writing the checks.
MLB’s quarterly owners’ meetings are taking place right now, and Ken Davidoff managed to catch up with Hal Steinbrenner for a few minutes today. The team’s owner confirmed they have not had any serious talks about an extension for Robinson Cano (not new information) and acknowledged the club still needs a bat, but that’s not all. There’s more…
Steinbrenner, re: fans angry about team’s direction: “I’m surprised to hear that there’s anger, if you see what we’ve done this offseason.”
— Ken Davidoff (@KenDavidoff) January 10, 2013
Hal: “Is our goal 189 next year? Yes. But only if I’m convinced if the team I see, that we’ve put together, is a championship-caliber team.”
— Ken Davidoff (@KenDavidoff) January 10, 2013
Hal: Getting under $189 mil isn’t just a 1-year goal: “I believe that you don’t have to have a $220-million payroll to win a championship.”
— Ken Davidoff (@KenDavidoff) January 10, 2013
First thing that comes to mind: lol.
Second thing that comes to mind: The Yankees have a natural edge over the rest of the league because of their market and it’s immense money-making capabilities. Scaling back payroll even for one year is, frankly, a disservice to the fans. Doing it for multiple years is pretty close to a slap in the face. The Yankees aren’t hurting for money. They just built a new stadium and will receive hundreds of millions of dollars from their YES Network deal with News Corp., not to mention all the extra cash they’ll receive from MLB’s new national broadcast agreements. Hal’s dangerously close to saying “I know you know we make all this money, but not only are we not going to reinvest it in the team, we’re going to rub it in your face too.”
Whether they realize it or not — they don’t based on Hal’s comments — the Yankees are losing the PR war right now. The record-low ratings in our Fan Confidence Poll are not an accident. Fans are angry because they’ve done nothing to improve the team this offseason and plan to cut back on spending next winter. We’re not splitting atoms here, it’s pretty obvious why people aren’t happy with the team. If ownership and front office are truly oblivious to that, then things are going to get a lot worse before they get better.
Brian Costa has a full recap of Steinbrenner’s quotes, just in case you want to slam your head against the table a little more.
The regular season ends tomorrow, so all across the league owners are spending the final series with their teams as they look forward to the postseason, search for answers, or just want to pal around with the fellas after being off-the-radar for the last six months. Maybe it’s all three in some cases.
Hal Steinbrenner was at Yankee Stadium yesterday, and he briefly spoke to the media prior to last night’s blowout win. Hal isn’t his father, so there wasn’t anything too exciting to come out of the media session. There is still some stuff to talk about, however. The following quotes come courtesy of George King and Bryan Hoch.
On whether jobs depend on how the Yankees finish the season…
“Are jobs riding on this? Not that I know of. Jobs are not riding on this and that’s not something I am concerned about right now. We look at everything in the off-season as we always do.”
In our recent polls, the majority of RAB readers said that neither Brian Cashman nor Joe Girardi should be fired or would have been fired had the Yankees failed to qualify for the postseason. A wildcard spot is clinched, but I suspect that sentiment will not change regardless of how the Yankees finish the season.
Cashman is under contract through 2014 and I never really thought/still don’t believe his job is in any kind of jeopardy. Girardi’s contract is up after next season and I was in the “he shouldn’t be fired but will be” camp with regards to his job security had the Yankees missed the postseason. He a fine manager, not great and not terrible, but five years is a pretty long time for stick around in this business. With Terry Francona available and waiting to be hired, my gut said Joe would have been the easy scapegoat.
On the tight race in the final month of the season…
“I am excited, I think we all would like a bit more breathing room, we have zero breathing room. But the guys have been playing tough and we have (Mark Teixeira) back Monday night and he will give us a boost so I am excited … I was concerned (about blowing the ten-game lead), I wouldn’t say I was worried. These guys know what is expected out of them. They are professionals. I had no doubt they were going to persevere the best they could. We kept getting a big guy back and another big guy goes out and it’s frustrating after a while. But we have everybody back now and we are at full strength and we will keep pressing on.”
Nothing really to add here, I just find it a little funny that he was “concerned” and not “worried.” I know there’s a difference, but I still got a nice chuckle out of this.
On the plan to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold by 2014…
“I’ve made it clear that it’s very important to me for several reasons. Again, you’re talking about a 10 percent reduction in payroll. I don’t see that as an outrageous concept. I never have.”
The 2014 payroll plan was just a well-sourced rumor until Steinbrenner (and Cashman) confirmed it back in Spring Training. I don’t know of any fans that actually like the plan since what the hell, if you have the money spent it. That said, I think we can all understand why they’re striving to get under the luxury tax considering the potentially enormous savings. That doesn’t mean we have to like it, but part of me is hoping that it will force the team to be smarter with their spending and decision making. A $189M payroll is still nothing to sneeze at anyway, if they can’t contend with that then the problems go well beyond the money.
Via Joel Sherman and David Waldstein, Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner met in New York yesterday, though they talked mostly about baseball and the team’s baseball operations. That’s a pretty good indication that the two sides expect a new contract for the GM to be reached with ease. Cashman’s contract expires next Monday, so we should hear something very soon. I figure it’ll be another three-year deal, Cashman’s fourth in a row.
Via Joel Sherman, Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner are scheduled to meet sometime next week to hammer out the GMs new contract. Last week we heard that talks were going well, but it looks like they’re getting ready to shake hands and sign on the dotted line. The World Series will end exactly two weeks from today, assuming it goes the full seven games, and CC Sabathia will be able to opt out of his contract three days after that. That’s when the offseason really starts for Cashman and the Yanks.
Hal Steinbrenner, the Yankees’ Managing General Partner and co-chairman, took to the airwaves this afternoon and spent around 20 minutes chatting with Michael Kay and then Mike Francesa on New York’s two sports talk radio stations. While keeping the Yanks’ offseason plans close to the vest, Steinbrenner let slip a few choice words on the playoff scheduling, Chuck Greenberg’s recent comments, the clubs’ payroll and the Yanks’ willingness to dip into the free agency pool.
We’ll start with the sexy stuff. Hal opened both interviews with his assessment of the team’s performance in the playoffs. Both times, he blamed the days off in between the end of the ALDS and the start of the ALCS. “We seemed a little bit cold in that series,” Hal said of the ALCS. “I don’t know if it was the long layoff or not.” I’ll have more on the playoff format and the unnecessary days off later tonight, but the Yanks never seemed to click during the ALCS. Having to stop play for six days probably didn’t help.
As a side note, Hal also called the 2010 season “very disappointing.” I don’t find myself too disappointed by a six-game ALCS series even though the Yanks lost. Counting the playoffs, they won 101 games this year, tops among AL teams and just one fewer than the World Series champion Giants. It was disappointing to see them go down against Texas, but this was a fun season.
The Yanks’ co-owner shifted gears after that to talk about Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. “We absolutely want [Jeter] back. We absolutely want Mo back,” he said. Having said that, we’re running a business.” In fact, that’s a point Hal stressed in both radio appearances. The Yanks are a business and with Derek, the Steinbrenners want “a deal both sides are happy with.”
Hal seemed less nostalgic and sympathetic to the idea that Jeter deserves a huge contract than either Kay or Francesa wanted him to be. While noting that Derek is one of the all-time Yankee greats, he warned Kay, “There’s always the possibility that things could get messy.” To Francesa, he elaborated, “I want to get a deal done that he’s happy with but also that I’m happy with.”
In addition to resigning their own players, the Yankees will be active in the free agent market. Without naming specifics, Hal committed to spending the organization’s money. “We are looking at the free agent market as we do every year,” he said. “We certainly have money to spend and we’re going to look into it.” The team’s payroll, Hal said, will likely be on par with 2010′s though. So we shouldn’t expect too many big-ticket purchases if the team adheres to that budget.
Steinbrenner also stressed the team’s strategy. The use the free agent market to complement their youth movement, but they’re always going to spend money. “The fans need to know we’re not putting money in our pockets left and right,” he said. “We put most or all of it back into” the team. He also mentioned that the Legends Suites were sold at rates above 90 percent this year and that the franchise may adjust some ticket prices for 2011.
Finally, Hal talked about Chuck Greenberg’s comments. The Rangers CEO accused Yankee fans of being both violent and apathetic, and the Bombers were prepared to retaliate. These were “inappropriate, ridiculous comments,” Hal said. While the club accepted Greenberg’s apology, Hal was fairly merciless. “Stupid comments…they were inappropriate, “he said. “You need to apologize to our fans.”
At the end of both interviews, Hal said it was there intentions to build up the 2011 Yankees a “World Series-type team.” Whether it be via trade, free agency or both, the Yanks have a busy Hot Stove League ahead of them.
Despite already having the best record in baseball and a budget (albeit flexible) at its limit, the Yankees owned the trade deadline in a way that would make George Steinbrenner proud. They got big names in Lance Berkman and Kerry Wood because they were willing to take on salary and not let money get in the way of improving the team. They also did this without sacrificing any major pieces for their future. There was no trading Jay Buhner for Ken Phelps, just signing the checks that other franchises were unwilling to write.
In fact, the Red Sox were in on Wood as well, but wouldn’t take on as much salary. The Sox wouldn’t take on the $1.5 million the Yankees were willing to pay to get Wood (Beware, that link is for John Tomase who’s not the most credible of writers). So the Red Sox, who by inquiring on Wood think they are still in the race (and they are) let a few hundred thousand dollars get in the way of obtaining him. Much like the Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira pursuits, the Red Sox had their chance and came up short when it came time to open the wallet (I guess they should have sold a few more memberships to Red Sox Nation). Can you imagine how thrilled George would be to know this?
While the Astros did pick up a significant portion of Berkman’s salary, the Yankees still needed to commit to paying Berkman, having a down year, $3.1 million for 2 months of regular season work plus hopefully the playoffs. Considering they have already committed $5.5 million to the DH position in Nick Johnson and we’re in a recession, this was not a tiny pill to swallow. While upgrading the DH position in a big way was more of a want than a need, they saw an opportunity to strike with the biggest cost being money. Again they went for it, and again, the Boss would be proud.
There were concerns after Steinbrenner’s passing that Hal would run the team more as a business and less as a fan leading the Yankees to cut back on spending going forward. So far so good however, as the decision makers decided the increased payroll was worth the increased chances of winning it all. Did the Yankees, as constructed on July 29th, have a chance to win the World Series? Of course they did. Do the Yankees, on August 1st have a better chance of winning the World Series? Of course they do. Not only did the Yankees step up to the plate and take their shot, but for the most part their main competitors didn’t as the Red Sox and Rays didn’t wow anyone with their deadline moves. Give credit to the guys signing the checks this year and know that what they pulled off the past few days would make the old man proud.
George Steinbrenner always had impeccable timing. He knew when to hire and fire managers in such a way that would generate the most publicity for the Yankees. He knew which free agents his team should have; he knew when his incendiary statements would garner the most outrageous coverage on New York’s back pages. And whether he realized it or not, he knew when to die.
As callous as that sounds, George Steinbrenner’s death could not have come during a better year for the Yankees than in 2010 for this is the year the estate tax has lapsed. Prior to 2010, those with estates of over $3.5 million were taxed at a rate of 45 percent. After 2010, those with estates over $1 million will be taxed at a rate of 55 percent. This year, though, Congress allowed the estate tax to go uncollected, and although some Senators wish to restore the tax retroactively to January 1, for now the Yankees are off the hook.
For the post-George Era, it’s hard to understate the impact this good luck has on the Yankees. Estimates from Forbes Magazine pegged Steinbrenner’s worth at over $1 billion, and the Yankee heirs would have had to liquidate some of his holdings to raise the money for a $450-$500 million government bill. Despite the value of the Yankees, the family apparently doesn’t have that much cash on hand, and the Steinbrenners may have had to sell a large chunk of the team to do so.
The point though is moot. As Forbes’ William Barrett wrote, the family has spent a lot of lately working to avoid that reality. The team is controlled by a variety of holding companies of which the various Steinbrenner children are the controlling shareholders. Major League Baseball officially recognized Hank and Hal Steinbrenner as the team’s day-to-day operations heads in 2008, a move made to protect the family’s control over the club. The family, says the Associated Press, wants to avoid falling into the same trap that plagued the Wrigley’s when then-Cubs owner P.K. Wrigley died in 1977.
But questions surrounding club ownership remain. Do the Steinbrenners want to cash in on their billion-dollar gem? Do the sons want to be as involved as the father was? So far, the family has given every indication that they will not be selling the Yankees, as Joel Sherman wrote on Friday. The Post scribe, well-connected in the upper echelons of the Yankee Front Office, offers up this revealing take about life after George initially stepped down:
Hank Steinbrenner — think a combination of hot-headed Sonny and underwhelming Fredo — briefly oversaw baseball operations after the 2007 season. He quickly burned out, not fully understanding the time and scrutiny that came with the job, especially if you were going to try to be Boss Jr. with loud proclamations.
Hal stepped into the breach, though it felt more out of responsibility to the family business than love for the job. So there was an assumption that whenever George died, so to would the Steinbrenner obligation to owning the franchise. It was not hard to imagine a frenzy of the super-rich bidding to buy the Yankees after George’s death.
Reserved and protective of his privacy, Hal projected the wrong fit for the job. Except Hal did a funny thing: He changed the way the Yankees Boss operates. Over the past few years, he learned he actually could run the Yankees under the radar. He has managed leadership without bluster or much inspection of his private life. He rarely speaks in public, offering almost none of the state of the Yankees messages that his father could deliver multiple times a day, especially in bad times. Does Hal burn to run the Yankees like his father? No. However, he has learned to like this job, and — as it turns out — the Yankees are in the Steinbrenner family blood now; George’s four children all having grown up in pinstripes.
Randy Levine, current team president, succinctly summed up the family’s thinking. “They have no plans to sell. There are no succession issues,” he said to Sherman.
Hal is, as Sherman puts it, the “cautious” version of George Steinbrenner. Whereas George’s brashness made baseball popular and rich off the field, Hal plans to own the game on the field. He’s a quiet and collected individual who knows when to delegate and knows when to step in. He’s willing to support a high-payroll team and understands that victories equals dollars in the world where Yankees and the YES Network dominate New York.
In one of the better business columns written about the Yankees post-George, Joe Nocera of The Times explains how George got lucky. The Yankees became so valuable because of their preeminent place in the country’s number one media market and because they started winning at the right time in the nation’s economic path. George happened to be the guy holding the reins, and although he made a lot of good decisions, he made some bad ones too. He didn’t sell when the chance arrived, and good fortune smiled down upon him. In a smaller market — had he bought the Indians as he so desired — George Steinbrenner might just be another irascible owner lost to the pages of baseball business history.
With a history of sports ownership in tow, the next generation of Steinbrenners will look to build on their wealth through wise investments. Luck always plays a part of the capitalist market, but so too does diversifying and smart management. According to one British tabloid, the family may bid £450 million on the Totteham Hotspurs with Hank taking his turn atop that Premier League team. Baseball owners have a mixed track record within the EPL, but it’s a start. The club reportedly has no interest in buying into the NFL, NBA or NHL.
For now, fans should see nothing new. The Steinbrenner family will invest and try to win those championships. The looming axe won’t be there to fall, but the pressures of a high payroll will remain. It is, after all, always beneficial to be in the business of winning. That’s what George was, and that is what his children should be.