TAMPA, Fla. - Derek Jeter insisted he wasn't upset about Hank Steinbrenner's out-of-the-blue comments, the most headline-grabbing of which the Yankees' co-chairman explained Tuesday as him using a "euphemism" to make a point.
Smiling and laughing throughout a 12-minute interview session with reporters Tuesday morning, Jeter all but dismissed the blustery observations - some of which he said he found "funny" - from Steinbrenner, comments made Monday that painted the 2010 Yankees as not hungry enough to repeat as world champions and ostensibly tabbing the shortstop as a big reason why.
As he was peppered with questions, Jeter seemed more amused than anything at the comments of Steinbrenner, who is mostly irrelevant in the day-to-day operations of the team.
"I have no problems, don't make it like I have a problem with Hank," Jeter said. "I just don't know what to say."
In discussing why the 2010 Yankees failed to repeat, Steinbrenner said resting on their laurels from winning in 2009 played a significant role.
"I think, maybe, they celebrated too much last year,'' Steinbrenner said. "Some of the players [were] too busy building mansions and doing other things and not concentrating on winning.''
Tuesday Steinbrenner said he was utilizing a literary device.
"It [mansions] was a euphemism," Steinbrenner said. "It was a poor choice of a euphemism, but it was a euphemism. That's all it was.''
Steinbrenner said he contacted Jeter through an "intermediary" to clarify things, which the shortstop confirmed later.
"I told you all earlier, I have no problems [with this]," Jeter said. "It's really a non-story."
Steinbrenner said Tuesday "sometimes teams get a little complacent" after winning, but that wasn't a reference to Jeter.
"Derek has five rings," he said. "You don't win five rings by being complacent. So it was definitely not Derek I was talking about."
He declined to cite any specifics exemplifying the lack of hunger. "No, I'm not going to get into that," he said.
Speaking earlier Tuesday, before Steinbrenner talked, Jeter found particular humor in the mention of his house.
"I've been here a long time and there's been some interesting stories that have gone on that I've had to address, that we've had to address," Jeter said. "But this is a first."
Jeter laughed as he said it, the case with most of his responses.
He said later: "I understand contract stuff's going to be news, I understand that. I understand that if he didn't feel as if we were hungry, I understand that's a story. The house [part] I don't understand. That's funny."
Jeter said he didn't detect a letdown from last year's team.
"It seems like when you don't win, people always say that a team wasn't hungry. We got beat by a team that was better than us in that series, that's the bottom line,'' he said, referring to Texas. "So I wouldn't say there was a lack of hunger."
He defended Steinbrenner's right to speak out, as he did when George Steinbrenner occasionally popped off.
"Owners can say whatever they want to say, they can have their opinion," Jeter said. "That's one of the things you respected about The Boss when he was around. He had his opinion. Everyone didn't always agree with his opinion but you respected his opinion because he's the boss. Same thing with Hank and Hal. They're entitled to say what they want to say, they're the owners."
Joe Girardi said he didn't take Steinbrenner's words personally. "I think Hank is expressing his frustration, the same frustration that all of us had last year that we didn't accomplish what we wanted," Girardi said.
"When you don't play well, usually you don't look good as a team," Girardi said. "Hank wants what all of us wants, to win another championship. A lot of times I hear encouraging words out of Hank and that he really believes in us. He talks about we're going to win the division. He was frustrated with the results last year. I haven't forgotten the results."