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Yankees still have championship mindset

New York's managing general partner Steinbrenner has same approach to 2017

TAMPA- Hal Steinbrenner breezed into Joe Girardi's office, settled into a chair across from Girardi's desk and spoke casually with the manager of the Yankees. The door was open. Eventually, as more and more reporters lurked in the hallway outside the office, the door was closed. About 10 minutes later, Steinbrenner emerged, sounding enthused about another new season.

"Look, we come to win a championship every year," Steinbrenner said. "That hasn't changed. Whether or not people think we have a chance or don't have a chance, that's up to them. As far as these guys in there, they absolutely believe they have a chance. And they're going to come to play."

As Steinbrenner, the managing general partner of the Yankees, discussed his expectations for the team, it was impossible to not have flash backs to his father's interviews. George Steinbrenner's mantra was that the Yankees should win a championship every year and, if they didn't, the season had been unsuccessful. 

I will never forget the sight of a custodian painting over "1996 World Champions" at Yankee Stadium one day after the Yankees lost in the 1997 playoffs. All it took was one day to erase a celebratory reference to the previous season. That's how intense George Steinbrenner was about winning it all.

While Hal Steinbrenner said the Yankees are trying to win a championship every year, his comments were more measured and shouldn't be considered a mandate. He noted how the Yankees have some concern in their starting rotation because younger pitchers are expected to handle the fourth and fifth spots and he repeatedly mentioned how the young Yankees (think of Greg Bird, Aaron Judge, Luis Severino and even Gary Sanchez) must produce.

"Expectations are great, as they always are," Steinbrenner said. "This is a time of new hope- spring training - and a whole new season. This feels different. I mean we've got a great crop of good young players and a good crop of veterans as well. It's a great mix. I think the veterans are going to be great dealing with the kids, mentoring them. We've seen that in the past. Look, they've got to prove themselves, a number of these guys. This is their big chance and they're gong to get it this year."

Over and over, Steinbrenner expressed how excited he was to watch the Yankees try and succeed with a roster that includes a batch of young players. Naturally, Steinbrenner's message to fans centered around excitement.

"Be excited because I'm excited and my family is excited and i think everybody in this organization is excited," Steinbrenner said. "And I think a lot of fans are excited. Again, it's been a number of years since we've really had a good crop of young players, some of which have proven themselves to a certain degree and some of which have a lot to prove. It's neat to be in that situation."

For eight minutes, Steinbrenner leaned against a cinder block wall outside the clubhouse and fielded questions from a few dozen reporters. He addressed several other topics.

On Joe Girardi being in the final year of his contract: "We love Joe. Look, Joe is one of many people that work in this organization that have contracts. And I treat all of them the same. I don't deal with it until the contract is close to up or up. We've just got too many other things to focus on. He knows that. It was no different three or four years ago. The situation with him is not going to be any different. I'm sure we'll be talking maybe toward the end of the year, But right now there's a lot more things to be worried about than that."

On the criteria he uses in evaluating a manager: "They've got to be great at working with the young players and the veterans, which Joe is. It's certainly a cerebral job. Joe is a smart guy. There are lot of aspects to it, particularly when you're doing it in New York City. You've got to have tough skin, which he does. He's done a good job. We have to see how this year goes."

On General Manager Brian Cashman, who is also in the final year of his deal: "I think he's done great."

On Dellin Betances being absent from spring camp until his salary arbitration hearing is finished: "The process is what the process is. We love Dellin. he knows that. It's a procedural thing." Betances asked for $5 million and the Yankees offered $3 million. Steinbrenner said the gap between the two sides was too vast for them to reach an agreement.

On Jacoby Ellsbury's first three years with the Yankees: "Look, Jacoby is a great player. He comes to play every day. He's been great with the young kids. The stats are what the stats are. but we've enjoyed having him on the club."

While Steinbrenner emphasized how enthused he is about this version of the Yankees, he bypassed the chance to predict how successful they will be in 2017.

"No prediction," Steinbrenner said. "We are in a tough division. All I can fell you is the guys came to play. We've put together a team that we feel has a chance. But there are some unknowns with young players and time will tell."