Hank Steinbrenner's words of future past
"We've got to forget about all the injuries and start playing our butts off. The bottom line is that the team is not playing the way it is capable of playing. These players are being paid a lot of money and they had better decide for themselves to earn that money."
With age, injuries, not-ready-for-prime-time starting pitchers, and perhaps more than a dash of complacency, the cellar-dwelling Yankees and their $209 million payroll have summoned the booming echoes of George M. Steinbrenner III in his prime:
"I won't accept excuses. I won't use injuries as an excuse, and if we get off to a bad start, [manager] Yogi [Berra] won't be able to use the injuries as an excuse." (April 1985)
The bluster and threats are being channeled, of course, by The Boss's son Hank, who is otherwise known in New York as Baby Boss.
This isn't the first time this space has noted that Hank sounds like his old man in his fiery heyday, and that "earn their paychecks" edict was classic Boss Boilerplate:
"I'm not getting my money's worth. We'll practice and practice until we get it right." (Aug. 1981)
So was Hank's recent:
"We have good professional hitters and I have a lot of faith in them. I'm not saying they are not giving the effort, but they need to be playing harder."
"This is going to get turned around. If it's not turned around this year, then it will be turned around next year, by force if we have to."
Chew on these two classics from George:
"Some players haven't come through for us and they know who they are." (Sept. 1983)
"I've tried to trade Griffey, and no one wants him. We'll see who wants Mr. Baylor." (Sept. 1985)
It's also worth noting that George tried to goose his troops to glory by issuing a "Plan A or Plan B" pronouncement during a 1981 slide that basically stated if the team reached the postseason and made some noise, the players would stay. If not, they were gone.
In 1978, George infamously called rookie pitcher Jim Beattie "gutless" and declared that fellow rookie hurler Ken Clay "spit the bit." In 1981, he had the following to say about another young arm who was bombed by the Mets in a spring training game: "We found out about Mike Griffin today. You say you can't tell from one outing. The hell you can't. Mike Griffin has fooled us long enough."
Anyone for the over/under on when Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy find themselves on the business end of a similar blast from Hank?
Clearly, Baby Boss learned well at Papa's knee and is becoming an almost daily presence and colorful commentator on his team's fortunes, or lack thereof. Now, I'm not much of a betting man, but I am willing to wager my prized Porky Reniff lobster bib that it's only a matter of time until we hear Baby Boss utter these corkers from his old man's playbook as the season unfolds. This weekend's installment of the annual Subway Series with the cross-town rival Mets should provide ample opportunity:
"I'm not worried, but if they lose, that will be another story." (March 1985)
"The screws are coming down tomorrow." (March 1981, after a loss to the Mets)
"If we look this bad next week, the players and coaches will hear about it." (March 1979)
"I'm not going to let this continue much longer. I can't afford to be patient. I'll get involved, and you know what happens when I get involved." (April 1985)
"If I don't get involved, we're not going to get better." (July 1978)
"As a fan, I have a right to question [the manager's] strategy." (Aug. 1980)
"I wish sometimes we could let go of some of the players instead of the manager, but that's not how the game is structured. We have some players who aren't as good as they think they are." (Aug. 1982)
"You guys don't want it bad enough. You're not giving 100 percent. You guys are Yankees and you have to play like Yankees." (Aug. 1976)
"I have to assume they are as embarrassed as I am. If they don't feel that way, they should take the uniform off and walk away from the pay window." (Sept. 1985)
"It's okay for me to criticize my players because I sign the paychecks." (Oct. 1981)
"When you start talking about the best team money can buy, the Red Sox have as many free agents as we do. They just didn't pay as much." (Oct. 1979)
And one for the offseason:
"I won't interfere as much as I did last year." (March 1978)