Steinbrenner: Yanks down but not out
Co-chairman unhappy with play but optimistic for turnaround
NEW YORK -- Hank Steinbrenner said Wednesday that he is "very down" about his team's 20-25 start, but the Yankees' co-chairman remains confident that he is still presiding over a playoff-caliber club.
In a telephone interview with MLB.com, Steinbrenner agreed with manager Joe Girardi's assessment that the Yankees hit "rock bottom" following their 12-2 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday in New York, suffering their fourth consecutive defeat to fall a season-low five games below .500.
"I think that was pretty much rock bottom," Steinbrenner said. "Not to take anything away from the Orioles, but the American League East is a monster and it's only going to get better for the next few years.
"For us personally, after the Mets series and then this game [Tuesday] night, I agree with him. It's pretty much rock bottom. At some point, the starting pitchers have to start it up and be consistent. [Mike] Mussina has been overall pretty good, and [Chien-Ming] Wang has been great. The other guys have got to pick it up."
The Yankees have struggled in all facets out of the gate, and their pitching staff has not even been the most glaring problem. New York led the Major Leagues with 968 runs scored last season, but through their first 45 games of the year, the Yankees were on pace to score just 651. Their 181 runs scored rank 12th among the 14 AL teams.
"You can't go from being the most feared lineup in baseball, which we were last year, and in just five months in the offseason, everybody gets bad," Steinbrenner said. "It's an impossibility. You might have one or two that drop off, but you're not going to have a complete failure."
The Yankees had a boost to their lineup on Tuesday by regaining the services of defending AL MVP Alex Rodriguez, who clubbed a two-run homer that was obscured by the blowout defeat.
Steinbrenner lauded all three of the Yankees' veteran offseason signings -- Rodriguez, catcher Jorge Posada and closer Mariano Rivera -- and said that injuries to Rodriguez and Posada had visibly handicapped his club early. Rodriguez missed 17 games with a strained right quadriceps and Posada, guarding a weak right shoulder, is on track to begin rehab games at the end of this homestand.
"Once they get back, let's face it, they're going to do great," Steinbrenner said. "Alex already hit a home run [Tuesday] night and Rivera has been lights out. I have complete faith. I've always been a big [Johnny] Damon fan and I know he's going to come around big.
"[Bobby] Abreu and all of them, including [Robinson] Cano and [Melky] Cabrera. I know that Cano and Cabrera will start hitting again. Cano has showed flashes. Cabrera has showed flashes at times. I think they'll both start doing well. I think having Alex in the lineup is going to make a big difference for them. I think our veterans will start hitting again, too."
The Yankees entered play on Wednesday trailing the AL East-leading Red Sox by 7 1/2 games. Steinbrenner said that the deficit was not too great for the team to overcome, and he refused to focus on the Wild Card as a way to make it to the postseason.
"There's no question that we're going to get better," Steinbrenner said. "How much better, we'll have to see. Right now, the American League is very strong and there's a lot of parity as well, which is very sudden. It's almost like college football did this year, or the NFL.
"I think, considering the margin of the games that we're behind, I don't think anything's out of the question -- the division championship or the Wild Card. The biggest thing is, we've got to make the postseason, and then you never know what happens then."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.