By Ernie Palladino
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If the old man ever heard the new-age, “I’m OK, you’re OK” stuff coming out of Hal Steinbrenner’s mouth lately, he’d blow his top.READ MORE: Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo Charged With Misdemeanor Forcible Touching
Maybe it’s lucky for the son of the late Yankees owner that his father hasn’t been around these last 4 ½ years, ever since he ran out of innings in July of 2010. George M. most certainly would not be happy with the soft, coddling phraseology emanating from his training camp complex this week.
When, for instance, was the last time a baseball commissioner’s comments toward anyone on the Yanks sounded harsher than the owners’ own views on his team’s immediate future. Save for the wars Bowie Kuhn and Fay Vincent won by suspending him in 1974 and 1990, the voice in the owner’s office always rang loudest.
Today, not so much. Hal is a more laid-back fellow, more compassionate than his win-at-all-costs dad. It came as no surprise, then, that Vincent, the man who wanted to tried to run The Boss out of baseball permanently after he paid off gambler Howie Spira to dig up scandal on Dave Winfield, out-Steinbrennered the younger Steinbrenner when talking the return of the prodigal slugger.
That would have embarrassed George no end. To hear an outsider, much less a sworn enemy, light up Alex Rodriguez as “a disgrace” and “stupid” in a Canadian radio interview would have set his public relations team into overdrive. The basic message: “Mind your own business. A-Rod may be dirty and an idiot, but he’s our juiced-up idiot. And, by the way, you’re not in charge anymore. So stuff it!”
Vincent was absolutely correct in everything he said about A-Rod, all the way down to characterizing the player as “a sad figure” who the fans now have to put up with as he tries to make a comeback. But such trivial matters as truth never cooled George’s fiery temperament.
After he tuned up Vincent, The Boss might have turned his attention toward his own roster. The media probably would have heard something much different than the palm tree pablum Hal spilled Wednesday.
He filled the Tampa air with calm and optimism.
“We’re at the beginning of the season, no one is on a hot seat right now,” Hal told the New York Post. “I am absolutely comfortable with (Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi).
“I like their approach to things and how they come up with decisions and recommend things. I’m comfortable with that. I think when you lose four out of five starters by the All-Star break, it’s going to affect 90 percent of the teams out there and we were one of them. I don’t blame anyone for that.”READ MORE: Inside Look At 9 DeKalb Avenue, Brooklyn's First 'Supertall' Skyscraper
It was almost like listening to Mr. Rogers — “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…blah, blah, blah.”
He told The Post “We’d be embarrassed” and “Anything would be on the table” were the Yanks to miss the playoffs a third straight season. But still, that’s a long way from the grandiloquence of his father.
Here’s how the old man would have handled it.
“Yeah, sure. Cash and Joe get a mulligan for last year. But we spent enough this year. We’ve got more bullpen, another starter, re-signed the third baseman, found us a shortstop.
“We’ve got the makings of a winner here. And if one of them goes down, we’ll spend again to replace them. Joe is going to have all the support he needs from me, but he’d better produce.
“I fully expect to be back in the postseason. Around here, the only acceptable season ends in late October, in the World Series. That’s our goal. That’s always our goal. And if Brian and Joe can’t get us there, or at least show signs that we’re moving in that direction, well, then we’ll go out and find somebody who can.”
“No excuses. Two years out of the playoffs is two years too long. Everybody’s on notice!”
Joe Torre heard that every year, even as his teams won four World Series.
Billy Martin heard it, too, as he won a World Series and a couple of pennants. And Steinbrenner fired him repeatedly.MORE NEWS: Student, 14, Arrested With Loaded Handgun At Brooklyn High School
Ah, the good old days. Gone forever.