From the moment it started, this whole Hank vs. Derek controversy had a shelf life of 48 hours at most.
This afternoon, Hank Steinbrenner said his “mansions” comment was never directed at Derek Jeter, and maybe that’s true. Steinbrenner might have used the word “mansions” same way the political strategist in the West Wing intended to use the phrase “bigger swimming pools and faster private jets,” as a catchall image of luxury and satisfaction. Whatever the intention, calling out Jeter’s competitiveness was always going to be dismissed in an instant.
It was a joke before it was a story.
The bigger issue is the one that stretched beyond Jeter to the other players and coaches in the Yankees clubhouse. It’s the issue Steinbrenner didn’t take back when he once again addressed the media this afternoon, saying the Yankees inability to win last season was at least partially the result of some players being “a little complacent.”
This was Joe Girardi’s response:
I think Hank is expressing his frustration. The same frustration we all had last year, that we didn’t accomplish what we wanted to. He’s the owner of the club. You may have seen a lot of us right after the (final) game or the day after, cleaning out our lockers. Maybe some of you didn’t see Hank. We were frustrated. I was not happy about the way we played, the players were not happy with the way we played.
We won 95 games last year and swept though that first round, won the first game (of the ALCS) and then didn’t play well against Texas. What you want to attribute that to? There are a lot of reasons: We didn’t necessarily hit, and we didn’t necessarily pitch. That’s a bad combination when you get into a series. Our guys are working hard, and we know what our goal is.
When Mr. Steinbrenner passed away, we knew the expectations weren’t going to change.
By the way, if you couldn’t tell, this was the first really absurd day we had out here. It was a day that started with Jeter actively discussing whether or not a word was or was not plural — mansion or mansions? — and whether that meant he was or was not being called out by one of the Yankees owners. It was a day that ended with Girardi basically being asked whether it was true that his team simply didn’t try hard enough to win those last two games that would have gotten them to the World Series last season. Just a weird, goofy day.
Associated Press photos