Hal Steinbrenner was on hand at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, standing next to his players on the warning track as they shook hands with season ticket holders prior to his team’s game with the Blue Jays.
Before taking the field, Steinbrenner, 43, took part in a Q&A with ESPN New York. Later, he spoke with a group of reporters.
Below is the edited version of the two conversations, delving into his optimism about signing Robinson Cano. He believes an agreement could be completed before free agency.
Steinbrenner spoke about how he thinks there are affordable Yankees tickets and addressed the drop in attendance thus far. Through the first 23 home dates, the average attendance was down from 41,115 in 2012 to 37,461 in 2013.
Plus, Hal discussed what it was like to grow up the son of George Steinbrenner and the responsibility he feels owning the team.
Is the goal with Cano to get that done by a certain time?
The goal is to continue to work on it. That’s what we are going to do. I haven’t set a time frame, to be honest with you. We are going to continue to plug away and work hard on it, both sides, I’m sure, and we’ll see what happens.
Are you optimistic to get it done before free agency?
I would be optimistic to get it done by then, yes, but I haven’t really set a timetable up here. It is a fluid situation.
Do you have a position on how long contracts should be? Do you go beyond six years?
I think anyone would get a little nervous when you start getting out on a six, seven, eight, nine-year deal, but the market is the market and you really have to go on what the market is. It is the way it is in any business, really. Supply and demand.
Do the stars in baseball need to be overpaid to keep them on a team or to get them from another team?
I haven’t even thought about it. That’s a good question. It depends on the age of the player, too. With an eight-year contract to a 34-year-old, I probably wouldn’t do that. To a 25, 26-year-old [maybe].
Has there been progress with Cano’s agent?
I’m not going to really get into that. I’m not going to be reading about this in the paper every day. The meetings we have had with Brodie [Wagenen] have been meetings face-to-face. 'I’m Hal. I’m Brodie. Good to meet you.' Very procedural thing that you would expect for the first couple of times.
In terms of the stadium, what is your take on where the attendance is so far?
We just had MLB meetings and we are definitely not the only team that is down. I think it is obvious by watching other games on TV. I think there are a lot of factors involved. I still think the economy is a big part of it. People are struggling out there -- and we understand.
Summer is coming around, warmer weather, and we have a lot of half-price ticket days and $5 ticket days. Things we have done for years. I think the fans are going to take advantage of that. There are affordable good seats in the stadium every game. This team really deserves to be supported. I’m looking forward to summer when the weather is better. April was terrible, weather-wise. I think the fans are going to come out and are going to support these guys because they have earned it.
What do you say about the ticket prices?
You hear about that in the media. You don’t hear that there are thousands and thousands of affordable seats in the $25 range for every game, not to mention the specials that we do, that we used to do at the old stadium. We have done every year. It is nothing new. We want to make sure that everyone that comes out here to see a Yankee game can get here and see one. There are plenty opportunities.
In terms of owning this team, the transition from watching your dad for so many years and then being in charge?
I’ve learned you can’t push a transition. It kind of has a life of its own. You can steer it. You can guide it, but you can’t push it. It was a process, without a doubt. My dad did things differently than I did. Similar that I did in certain ways, but different in a lot of ways. It took everyone a little bit of time to get used to what decisions I want to be involved in and ones I expect them to make.
What’s the biggest thing you learned from your dad?
The biggest thing I learned from my dad is that this job is a blessing, it is a gift, and you treat it with respect. It is being the managing general partner of the greatest team in the world of any sport. It is a blessing. So you treat it with respect every day.
In terms of your early years, what are your kind of earliest memories when you knew this was important?
My favorite Yankee memory is the '77 Series when [Mike] Torrez caught that pop up there. We won. It was my dad’s first World Series. I remember it well. I remember being down in the clubhouse with Billy and everybody. It was pretty special for an 8-year-old.
What type of player were you?
I couldn’t hit a curveball at all. I was a decent fielder, but I couldn’t hit a curveball. I was definitely not a great baseball player by any stretch of the imagination. But I loved playing it.
Was there a sport you were best at?
I played tennis for a lot of years. I played baseball and I played tennis and I ran some hurdles as well. But I was nowhere as good as my dad was in that either. So I’m a mediocre athlete at best.
In terms of the day-to-day, how much do you enjoy it?
I like it. It is challenging. It is not just baseball operations. It is not just what is going down here on the field. It is marketing. There are stadium operations. There is finance. There is a lot of stuff going on on a daily basis that keeps you busy and keeps you challenged.