Just arrived here a few minutes ago, and we're going to hear very shortly from Joe Girardi, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Alex Rodriguez.
At our annual BBWAA meeting, Bud Selig met with us, as he always does, and opened with some thoughts on George Steinbrenner. Even though the two men were more often than not at odds with each other - Selig forever wanted the Yankees to be more responsible with their expenditures, and not keep raising the bar everyone - it was clear how fond they were of each other.
"George and I always seemed on opposite sides of the fence," Selig said, "but we managed to get along."
Selig told how, one Tuesday morning, he was on the phone with Steinbrenner when Selig's wife, Sue, told him to dump the garbage. Tuesday was garbage day in Milwaukee, apparently. Steinbrenner, listening on the phone loved it. For every Tuesday for months after, Selig said, Steinbrenner would be sure to call Selig at home - to remind him to dump the garbage.
That was classic Steinbrenner. He loved bringing up old jokes, again and again. He used to always remind Joel Sherman of how he beat up a photographer when George returned to spring training in 1993 after his suspension of two-plus years.
Selig spoke very highly of Hal Steinbrenner, and it's my understanding that the Steinbrenners do plan to hold onto the Yankees, for now. While the future is always murky, Hal Steinbrenner seems to have grown into the role, and a Steinbrenner grandson, Robert Molloy, is very interested in taking on a significant role down the line.
--Selig addressed some non-Steinbrenner topics, none of them too pressing: 1) The schedule could be moved up a few days next year, in order to keep the World Series out of November; 2) It sounds like the momentum for expanded instant replay has slowed down; and 3) while he wouldn't flat-out say it, the 2011 All-Star Game will absolutely be played in Phoenix.
I'm just going to keep posting updates here for the rest of the day.
UPDATE, 3:42 p.m. PST: Girardi, Pettitte and A-Rod had one news conference, and then Jeter, and it was interesting to hear how all four men came from such different places and ultimately shared such similar sentiments about Steinbrenner
Jeter, the highly-touted, high draft pick, recalled when he first met Steinbrenner in 1992; as a note of interest, both Jeter and Pettitte said they met The Boss during a time in which he was suspended from baseball.
"He came up to me and knew me by name," Jeter said. "I was more shocked that he knew who I was, but I guess because he gave me some of his money, he had to know who I was."
Jeter had just one skirmish with Steinbrenner throughout the years, in 2003, after Steinbrenner questioned whether Jeter was focused enough on baseball. Jeter was absolutely livid. He hated being embarrassed in any form, and now his employer was doing this. He fully took the bait - Steinbrenner just wanted to challenge him, after the Yankees' 2002 playoff loss -and played his usual stellar baseball. The two wound up filming a Visa commerical together.
He spoke of the honor it was to be named the Yankees' captain, but the reality was, Jeter's captaincy (when it first occurred, at least) served as a pawn in the tension between Steinbrenner and Joe Torre and Don Zimmer. Steinbrenner dispatched Hal Steinbrenner and his then son-in-law Steve Swindal to Cincinnati, of all places, to make the announcement. Why didn't they just wait until the Yankees returned home? Because Steinbrenner wanted to point out that, at that particular moment, that the Yankees needed more leadership than they were getting from Torre and his coaches. Too funny.
Jeter added: "I think he's a father figure to everyone that was in our organization in the past or present, because he really took care of his players."
--Which brings us to Pettitte - homegrown, like Jeter, but not with the same pedigree. What I remember most about Pettitte is how much Steinbrenner wanted to get rid of him in the 1998 and 1999 seasons. It was only through the lobbying of Joe Torre and Mel Stottlemyre that Pettitte stayed, and then The Boss didn't fight when his baseball people recommended they let Pettitte go after the 2003 season.
If Pettitte still holds any sore feelings from those episodes, however, he hides them extremely well.
"He always was great to me my whole career during the good times, the bad times," Pettitte said. "His family has been great to me. ...He was always good to be around. He was tough, but he was always fair, and he was great to be around."
Pettitte mentioned that Steinbrenner used to give him Bible verses before some of his playoff starts, which I found interesting. I think that Steinbrenner generally had no use for religion, and was predisposed to view devout players as "soft." I think that factored into why he liked a David Wells more than a Pettitte, or...a Joe Girardi.
I can still picture myself in Comiskey Park (when it was still known as that) in 1999, talking to George on the phone during a Yankees-White Sox game. He was tearing into Pettitte, who was immersed in a slump, and out of nowhere, he added something like, "And that Girardi isn't helping much, either." Girardi served as a pawn, too, in the battles between Torre and the coaches (pro-Girardi) and the Tampa development people (anti-Girardi, pro-Jorge Posada).
Girardi told a funny story about the first time he met Steinbrenner. It was spring training in 1996, and Girardi and his wife Kim were walking their dog, a Bichon, on the grass at Legends Field (now George M. Steinbrenner Field).
"I thought, 'Oh, boy, he's going to let my wife and I have it,'" Girardi said. "He sat and talked to us and asked about the dog, and it was a totally different expectation than what I had."
--A-Rod, in this story, is but a bit player. He knew The Boss only a little compared to the others. He stands out as Steinbrenner's final big score, before he really started to fade. Steinbrenner was so giddy over stealing A-Rod away from the Red Sox that he authorized a three-year, $20-million extension for Torre.
Rodriguez said that he still has a handwritten note from Steinbrenner that he received shortly after becoming a Yankee - delivered by a clubhouse attendant. "In the end, he basically said, 'I'M COUNTING ON YOU!' with capital letters and an exclamation point," A-Rod said. "So I think, to this day, we are still playing for him, to not let him down."
--Dave Winfield is here for ESPN, and he spoke honestly about the clashes he had with The Boss back during his playing days. “I poured my heart into the ballclub," Winfield said, "and at the time, I didn’t the things he did and said were appropriate. But I endured it, and I came out stronger. And we made up later and had a good relationship."
Winfield expressed confidence that Steinbrenner would someday join the Hall of Fame. Thinking about Steinbrenner's Hall of Fame worthiness, and the fact that he was suspended twice, is making me think about players like Rafael Palmeiro and Manny Ramirez who put up impressive resumes but were suspended. Just sayin'.
OK, time to get to writing. I'll check on comments here, and look for me on Twitter, but that might be all on the blogging front for a while.