Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Boss Jr. Lays the Plan Out to Francesa

Hal Steinbrenner, the Yankees managing general partner and youngest son of the late George Steinbrenner, was on WFAN Tuesday afternoon with Mike Francesa.

Among the topics covered were the luxury tax/payroll cut, the sale of YES shares to Fox, Alex Rodriguez and his assorted issues, Robinson Cano's possible contract extension, and the ticket/Stub Hub controversy.

Here's the transcript, with some of my editorial comments in bold italics along side:

MF: "Do you have any plans to sell the Yankees?"

Hal: "No thoughts at all of selling the Yankees. There have been no discussions with anybody about selling the Yankees. (I still find it hard to believe that the Steinbrenners may not be open to the idea even if they have had no negotiations with anyone to this point.)

MF:  "How would you describe your participation in the YES deal?"

Hal: "I think it's great. Fox is going to be a great partner. They obviously know what they're doing and they've been doing it a long time."

"I think it's going to bring great things to the YES Network and take us to places that, quite honestly, we might not have been able to get to on our own..."

MF: "Why is that a good deal for the Yankees compared to where your ownership structure was?"

Hal: "...we've had some partners that wanted to get out, number one, so we've been looking here and there for a while. But we had some partners that wanted to get out and Goldman gets into these things for a certain number of years and then they want to get out and go on to the next big deal for them.

"So, this made sense and the key was to get a good partner, and we know the Murdochs and my Dad is close to Rupert...."

"And they know what they're doing. So I think it's going to be good, and the bottom line is that some of the partner that wanted to get out are now going to be getting out, and we're going to have a really good, big company that I look at, quite frankly, as a family company."

MF: "So you are commited as a family to be in this long term?"

Hal: "We are commited as a family to be in this long term. We enjoy this; this is why we are all involved, all of my siblings. And we are going to continue, every year, to field a championship caliber team. I want the fans to know that that commitment will always be in place, because we know they expect it."

MF: "What is your thought, if any on A-Rod and the investigation going on?"

Hal: Well I don't know any more than you do Mike, I really don't. It's not our investigation obviously and anybody is innocent until proven guilty. So we'll just have to see where the investigation leads.

MF: "Have you had any discussions with A-Rod?"

Hal: "I have not."

MF: "Okay. Any plans to?"

Hal:  "I have not seen him around here and I haven't had any plans to have any discussions, no. Doesn't mean we won't at some point." (Hal may not have, but you can be sure a number of different people - Cashman, Girardi, etc. have spoken with him.)

MF: "How would you categorize the Cano negotiations to this point?

Hal: "Well this is going to be a work in progress for weeks and weeks and weeks, and the one thing I'm not going to do Mike is read about it in the papers every day. So, any significant developments we're going to let everyone know, but  things have been quiet the last couple of weeks. He's been off with the Dominican team, we've got Spring Training going on, so we'll see what the weeks ahead lead to."

MF: "Is it fair to say it's going to be shelved from now on from your standpoint to the end of the season or would you guys be open to discussions during the season?"

Hal: "No, look, every rule has exceptions, right? And obviously we've talked to Scott (Boras) about Robbie and I can see that happening on more than one occasion as the season progresses, but we'll just have to see. We have to get through opening day first and get the ball rolling here."

MF: "There's a very large incentive to be under the luxury tax sometime in the near future. I know that 2014 has been a point, a target point, let's say. Is it something that is a very important part of your strategy to be under it, for the obvious reasons, to be under it in 2014?"

Hal: "There's many reasons to be under and they've been well documented, but what hasn't been documented is I don't believe you have to have the $200MM payroll to be world champions. So it is something important to us, but only if we're sure we're fielding a championship caliber team.  I just can't say that enough.

We are going to field a championship caliber team every single year." (Somehow I think he's forgotten what team he's put together this year.)

MF: "Did the idea of being under the 189 next year impact any of your negotiations that want on this past winter?"

Hal: "I think the one year deals were partly that Mike, but they're partly because of the age of some of the players. I think if you can do a one year deal on a guy that's in his upper 30's it's probably a wise thing to do, as long he's okay with it, you're okay with it.

So I think it was partly due to that. We certainly think ahead, but it's more we're thinking 65, 70% of this  year, because that's what's in front of us."

MF: (preceded by talk about the rewards for being under the cap) "Will this be a one year thing or is it something the Yankees want to do in the future; try to be stay under that tax?"

Hal: "Again Mike, I think you can be a world champion and have a payroll under 189. Are we there yet? I don't know. We have to see how these young players do this year. And it's going to have to be a good blend, as I have been saying, of the young players and the veterans. And that's the way that every other team, every other world champion's been the last 10 years."

MF: "It will be a year to year situation, it won't be that the Yankees must stay under that for you in the future, or is that going to be kind of an edict for you?"

Hal: "Again, it's an absolute goal for me to be under 189. It makes sense for all of the reasons we've been talking about, BUT, the priority is always going to be fielding a championship caliber team."

MF: "And you believe you can do that without over...even though the Yankees have spent their life over the tax, you still feel you can put together a plan and be as competitive as you can be on the field, and keep the money under control?"  (How many times is he going to keep asking him?)

Hal: "Yes, every other team seems to."

MF: "But you guys have been in the playoffs more than a lot of the other teams. I mean you really have. You've been there, you have won't a lot of championships since 2000, but you've been in the playoffs every year which you can't say about everybody else."

Hal: "Well, time will tell Mike. As I said, the young players have to continue to develop in the minor leagues, number one, and the players already up at the Major Leagues, the young ones, have to continue - the Novas and the Phelps - to contribute, and the Pinedas. So, you know it remains to be seen. (Keep in mind Pineda may have no impact at all this year.)

MF: "With the injuries this  year, especially to your core group...there is a feeling that the Yankees are going about this in a very different way than in the past. Would you agree with that or you don't agree with that?"

Hal: "Well the way is to always field a great team and that's what we're trying to do. The free agent market, as you know, wasn't that great last year. We felt we wanted to concentrate on pitching, so we worked hard to get Andy (Pettitte) back, to get Kuroda back, Mo (Rivera), and we did the best we could.

I don't know what to tell you, but, um, so...." (Hal not too happy with the structure of the roster now either, hmm?)

MF:  "I mean right now does Brian (Cashman) have the ability to go out and bring in some players who might be costly even on a one year basis. Is that something, we see Wells, could there be more of that or is there a limit to it?"

Hal: "Well, look there a limit to anything Mike, but my door's always open to Brian and he knows that and we talk every day multiple times. And you know this Wells thing I think is going to be good for us. I think he's going to have a rebound year and he's going to contribute in a big way.

And hopefully we get Tex back, and get Granderson back, but know, no stone is left unturned. So whatever..if he (Cashman) comes into my office, we're going to sit and talk about it, and consider it."

MF: "Do you think Hal, there's been a lot of talk about tickets this year. There's been a lot of talk this year about, maybe some economic pressure. Is it cyclical? just seems to be there's a tougher time selling for everybody this year than the last couple of years.

We're learning about all this secondary market stuff and that's impact and everything else. Do you see business as being a little more challenging in 2013 for the Yankees than it has been, say in the last five or six years or is that not an accurate picture?"

Hal: "I think there are numerous teams that are down. I think we'll have to see where the numbers come in. But our ticket sales are coming around. Obviously Spring Training...beginning that whole process helps. We could use some warm weather up there Mike, that would be good to get people in the frame of mind.

But look, the secondary market is what it is. It's not going anywhere and we're trying to keep our season ticket holders happy and all of our fans happy, and give them a great experience and a great team to watch."

MF: "Hal, you're a good business man, this is an interesting question right now and maybe a dilemma for teams. The idea of what fans do with their tickets as season ticket holders. How the secondary market, how teams play this. Have you given that a lot of thought or is it still kind of evolving?"

Hal: "Well we've given it a lot of thought, which is why we have set up Yankees ticket exchange. Our own program so our season ticket holders can got on there, sell the tickets they don't need or don't want for cheaper. And in a way more convenient and safe environment. That's why we've undertaken this, so obviously we've put a lot of thought into it." (It's disgraceful for Hal to infer that Stub Hub isn't a safe place to buy and sell tickets. It's been done many times.  The Yankees do not want tickets sold on Stub Hub at a much lower price than the minimum the Yankees have set with Ticketmaster aka the devil of ticket sellers. The Yankees will also not be accepting e-tickets this season, which is the normal ticket type on Stub Hub. Instead you will need to get the actual tickets from anyone selling tickets on Stub Hub. And you know the majority of the fans hate this new procedure. It's not the fans fault that the Yankees were greedy and priced out so many fans in the new Stadium.)

MF: "But you made the move away from Stub Hub too, so you must have thought there must have thought there needed to be a change too, right?

Hal: "Well, I'm not going to get to much into Stub Hub, but I will say Mike that that partnership was not good for the New York Yankees, but every team's different and every sport's different".

MF: "Do you think it's a changing business though? That's really my point. Do you see now, 'cause I think it might be. I can't really tell, do you think the ticket business is becoming a changing business for teams right now?"

Hal: "Well I think one thing to consider is are season tickets becoming less and less because of other ways to purchase tickets? I don't know any more than you do, but I can tell you we still have a very strong season ticket base and we're very proud of that. So time will tell, but we just want to be sure that our season ticket holders have a place to resell their tickets that's a safe place." (Perhaps consider the ridiculously high price of tickets and a rough economy and high unemployment.)

MF: "Does the YES deal change the Yankees relationship TV-wise at all Hal, or does it change your business plan at all or is it business as usual even though you are going to have a different relationship with YES than you've had in the past?"

Hal: "It's absolutely business as usual. We made it absolutely clear to Fox and they were absolutely great about this- that no deal is worth doing if we lost the control we needed as to how the broadcasts were run and basically anything having to do with the franchise and the organization itself, and they were great about that and they understand. So really we still control things that are important to us."

MF: "How do you feel about this new model that baseball is going to? Do you like the model they are putting in now, that they are.installing? Do you like what they've done with the luxury tax? There's clearly incentive and a lot of people feel it was built and designed to give the Yankees some incentive. Do you like the plan that was installed? (Never though he was actually going to let Hal answer.)

Hal: "Well it was well thought out, there's no doubt about it. I haven't really philosophically thought about that Mike, to be honest with you. I'm fundamental reason, one of the reasons, for this goal is that I truly believe that 189 is a lot of money and with a good mix veterans and player development guys, you'll win championships and I firmly believe that. Time will tell if I am right or not.

MF: "Do you feel your team has made the steps in the farm system to be able to replenish, and really a key to that is coming up with power arms 'cause that's what costs so much money for the most part. With that being the case do you feel that you guys have made inroads that you need to make to replenish your system that way?"

Hal: "Well I think our pitching's been good. Phelps was a pleasant surprise last year. Nova, and uh we've got a couple of other guys. Betances, we'll see what kind of year he has. And we did trade away Austin Jackson, we traded away Jesus Montero, so a couple of good position players that aren't there for us. But I think the next couple of years for position players is going to be tricky. We're going to have to navigate through that. But, I've been pretty pleased with the young pitching.

MF: "You know this is a year for the first time Hal, in many years...maybe going back to say, might be '94. I mean maybe there was a year here and there where the Red Sox were slight favorites...this is the first time the Yankees probably haven't been favored leaving spring in a very, very long time. What is the level of your optimism with this team right now?"

Hal: "I'm always optimistic, that's just me, and you can't pay attention to rankings. You just can't do that. It's a marathon of a season, you know that better anybody, and there's injuries and six months to get through. So, I'm confident that we've got a good group of veterans that's been through the fire before, and they're going to produce."

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