NEW YORK — New York Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner apologized to the team’s fans for its postseason failure, much like his father did 39 years earlier.
The Yankees were eliminated with a 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday, losing 3-2 in the American League Division Series. They have won the World Series once since 2000, in 2009.
“I’m very disappointed, obviously,” Steinbrenner said Tuesday on ESPN New York radio. “We invested a lot of time, energy, money into the team last offseason, and we all felt that we had a team that could win a championship, and we failed to do that. We didn’t even come close. So right now, at this point in time, all I can do is apologize to our fans. They deserved a better outcome than they got. Period. I mean, they just did.”
George Steinbrenner issued a similar statement following the team’s loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a six-game World Series in 1981. “I want to sincerely apologize to the people of New York and to the fans of the New York Yankees everywhere for the performance of the Yankee team in the World Series,” he wrote then. “I also want to assure you that we will be at work immediately to prepare for 1982.”
Favored to win the AL East this year, the Yankees alternated hot and cold spurts: a 16-6 start followed by a 5-15 slide, a 10-game winning streak and six losses in their last eight games.
“I guess I should be most disappointed with me. I’m responsible for all this in the end,” Hal Steinbrenner said. “It’s disappointing because the expectations, of course, were so high.”
New York went 22-9 at home and 11-18 on the road, and the Yankees were dependent on home runs. New York scored 156 of 315 runs during the season on long balls, according to Elias Sports Bureau, then 13 of 22 runs on seven homers in the two-game sweep at Cleveland and 17 of 24 runs on 10 homers in the loss to the Rays.
“Our offense was just inconsistent at playing up to their potential to me,” Steinbrenner said. “So many downs with the ups and highs with the lows, and the lows were every bit as extreme as the highs. And the highs were pretty good. When they were on, they were on. But it just seems like every game, including some of the postseason games, you just couldn’t tell which offense was going to show up.”
He did not fault the strategy of using rookie Deivi Garcia as an opener in Game 2 and then bringing in veteran left-hander J.A. Happ. Garcia allowed Randy Arozarena’s solo homer in the first, and Happ gave up two-run homers to Mike Zunino in the second and Manuel Margot in the third. After the 7-5 loss, Happ said he would have been more comfortable starting.
“I thought the logic was sound,” Steinbrenner said. “We’re not the only team that employed that plan in this postseason. But the bottom line is in order for a plan to be successful, the different components of the plan have to be well executed, and that didn’t happen here. Happ struggled and he struggled significantly and eventually the plan failed.”
He said questions over Happ’s buy-in were for general manager Brian Cashman to answer. Steinbrenner defended Aaron Boone, who finished his third season as manager. Boone’s contract includes a 2021 team option.
“Aaron Boone is a good baseball man. He’s a good leader,” Steinbrenner said. “He has the respect of the players. Aaron Boone will be back next year. That’s just a fact.”
He also defended Cashman.
“Obviously, I’ve known Brian forever, and the way he goes about doing things is in a very objective way,” Steinbrenner said. “He listens to everybody — pro scouting and analytics and anybody else that wants to get into his ear. I know the people that work under him respect him, and Boone respects him, and it’s been good. We’re just going to have to keep plugging away.”
Asked whether it was a priority to re-sign major league batting champion DJ LeMahieu, who is eligible for free agency, Steinbrenner said: “I think I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t recognize what a contribution he made to the club and how good of a player he is. So I recognize both those things. I’ll leave it at that.”
On slumping catcher Gary Sanchez’s slide this year: “It is surprising. I guess we’ll just have to see about that next year, obviously, going forward. But it’s an incredible amount of talent. And he’s going to keep working his backside off, and we’re going to keep helping him in every way we can. And if all goes well, I believe we’ll get him back.”
Steinbrenner praised pitcher Gerrit Cole, who was signed to a $324 million, nine-year contract last offseason. “As advertised,” he said. “Highly intelligent, which we knew going in, and an incredibly hard worker, and he instills other people to work harder than they might even otherwise do. He’s hardcore. We got exactly what we wanted in Gerrit.”
He was noncommittal over pitcher Domingo German, who completed an 81-game suspension under Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy. German was investigated for an alleged domestic violence incident involving his girlfriend, with whom he has at least one child.
“I have to absolutely feel comfortable that he deeply, deeply regrets and is sorry for what he did,” Steinbrenner said. “And I absolutely have to be comfortable with the fact that he’s turned his life around. Those two things are for sure. As far as where we go with him, I don’t know. Again, that’s another discussion that I have to have with not just Brian Cashman but my family, and we will see. But there’s no doubt he needs to prove that he’s turned his life around and that he absolutely realizes how horrific that was.”