Who says Hank was muted? Great stuff from Kevin Kernan today -
For Hank’s Yanks, with spring training just around the corner, this is the bottom line: Whatever it takes to win championship No. 28.
Hank Steinbrenner, the Yankees co-chairman, is fired up for the 2011 season — even without Cliff Lee in pinstripes.
“We will do what we have to do to win,” Steinbrenner told The Post recently in a wide-ranging interview at Steinbrenner Field. “We have the highest payroll and the reason is we are committed to our fans to win.
“We just have to (bleeping) win,” Hank added emphatically, looking out onto the field and sounding much like his father.
“The AL East can toughen you up,” Steinbrenner said. “Hopefully it will work to our benefit. We will do what it takes to win. Look at the money we are paying out in revenue sharing. We are baseball’s stimulus package. The fans of other teams have no reason to complain about us or the Red Sox or the teams that support the rest of baseball.”
“I’m really happy with our bullpen,” Hank said. “You got both Rivera and Soriano, then you got Chamberlain and [David] Robertson and so forth. I think Chamberlain is going to come back and have a big year.”
The Steinbrenners do put the money where their mouth is.
“The fans pay the bills, we owe it to ourselves and to them to put the best product out there,” Hank said. “If we couldn’t get Cliff Lee, I’m really happy about getting Soriano. I just wish Lee would have given Brian the chance to meet with him, but [Lee] was on a hunting trip. He’s got his own reasons.”
Hank knows it all starts with the rotation.
“Hopefully our starters will get the job done,” he said. “Hopefully Andy [Pettitte] will come back. He knows we want him back. It’s strictly up to him now. Even though he’s already got five rings, he’s the type, like Mo, like [Derek] Jeter, like [Jorge] Posada, he wants another one.
Steinbrenner believes the Yankees’ young pitchers will make a major contribution as well.
“We got those kids coming too, [Ivan] Nova more as a starter, and the others [including big right-hander Dellin Betances and lefty Manny Banuelos]. You never know, one or two of them may join the team,” Steinbrenner said. “I know some of our baseball people don’t agree with our other baseball people a lot of the time, but they all like Nova.”
“I think A.J. [Burnett] is going to come back and have at least the kind of year like he had two years ago. CC Sabathia is going to be great as usual. Phil Hughes, we’re expecting more big things.
“I say we have one of the top four teams in baseball, whether we end up being the best or not, we’ll see.”
Hank wasn’t done there…here’s some more of what he had to say…
“It really comes to avoiding injuries,” he said. “It’s like what happened to Boston last year. We had the injuries three years ago and, of course, nobody ever makes excuses for us. If the Red Sox have injuries it’s ‘Oh, the injuries.’ If the Rays have injuries, if the Phillies have injuries, it’s ‘the injuries.’
“If the Yankees have injuries, nobody in the media acknowledges that.
“It’s going to be typical American League East,” he said. “The Red Sox are going to be tough. We’re going to be tough. I still think the Rays will be tough. The Orioles and Blue Jays have improved.
“It’s the best division in baseball. With division play certain things are fair, some things are unfair. You wear each other out. The argument I made three years ago that I got attacked for — the absurdity of divisional play in any sport — was proven this year with the Seahawks. I don’t care that they won their first playoff game. They were 7-9 in a bad division. What are they doing in the playoffs?”
In the playoffs, the Yankees were shut down by the Rangers, but he is confident the offense will rebound.
“Our lineup is going to have its usual success,” Hank said.
And he knows that means Rodriguez carrying his weight.
“Alex will have a better year than last year, I’m sure of that,” Steinbrenner said of Rodriguez, who batted .190 against the Rangers in the ALCS. “He liked the feeling of what happened two years ago. He stayed because he wanted to win a championship as a Yankee. He ended up going from supposedly not being good in the post-season to becoming the new Mr. October. I think he wants to do that again. He’s very hungry.
“Of course it’s great having Derek back,” added Steinbrenner, who made no mention of the shortstop eventually moving to the outfield. “I had no doubts that we were going to be fair to him and offer him more than anybody else, which we should and we did. There’s no question he’s happy. He doesn’t want to go anywhere else. We weren’t trying to take advantage of that. We do have a budget and we’ve got to be somewhat careful.
“We’ve made all our players rich. Our guys do deserve it.”
In typical blunt Hank fashion, he added, “Some of them do and some of them don’t. Certainly Derek does. Certainly Mo does and I think Jorge will benefit by DH-ing. I’m looking forward to him having a good year and [Mark] Teixeira is still at his peak.”
Asked if he has any regrets about re-signing A-Rod to that 10-year, $275 million contract after the 2007 season, Steinbrenner said, “I’m still happy about it. We absolutely need his bat. Last year it became apparent, especially after the postseason performance when we won, that the pitchers just don’t want to pitch to him. So we must have done something right if this is the guy everybody wants to pitch around. They don’t want to give him anything to hit, despite our lineup. They still fear him. Obviously we picked the right guy.”
Now, let’s just see if Hank is around, and has something to say, come July of this year…