Once the Yankees were out of contention this season the questions quickly turned towards how the Steinbrenner family along with Brian Cashman were going to fix this team. In this exclusive "Respect Jeter's Gangster" interview, a candid Hank Steinbrenner explained to us his entire plan for bettering the Yankees for 2009 and beyond. Though he would not bite at the chance to name free agents, he did outline some specifics of how to better the Yankees.
The hallway that led to Steinbrenner's office was lined with plaques that showed the storied history of this New York team. From Babe Ruth's called shot, to Don Larsen's perfect game all the way to the 2000 World Series victory over the Mets, the story of the Yankees was described in detail. But noticeably absent from the wall were the most recent years of the Yankees. Ones that have been marked by post season disappointments, aging mercenaries, and consistent inconsistency. For this, there are no plaques. Coming into Hank Steinbrenner's office one gets the feeling that this team loves its storied past, loves to make history, and Hank as a person is no different.
"I'm not concerned with just making a good team." Explained Hank, the oldest son of Yankee owner George Steinbrenner. "I'm concerned with making a great team. One that has the same feel as the Murderer's Row Yankees of the late 1920's, or the Mantle and Maris Yankees of 1961."
Hank, surrounded by the history of this team, made it perfectly clear that his plans would be unconventional but popular, risky but historically significant.
"I'm a fan of history. Its why I want to take the team in this direction. I'm combining history and baseball to make this team better than ever before."
Hank pulled out a rolled up poster from behind his desk, and held it in his hands like an ancient scroll filled with the wisdom of the ages, just waiting to unfurl this wisdom on the 2009 Yankees.
"The question is, how do you make something, anything, better than it already is? Say something is really good already, how can you improve that? If I told you to make the '96 - 2000 Yankee teams better, how could you do that?" Hank asked and paused waiting for an answer. I shrugged, not knowing what it could possibly be, and with a smile Hank gave me the answer.
Hank unrolled his poster which showed the new Yankee Stadium with several prehistoric creatures featured in prominent positions. A brontosaurus in the outfield, a raptor at the plate, and pterodactyl's flying over head among others.
"You see." Hank continued, after I remained speechless for a moment. "Dinosaurs make everything better. Just think about this conversation we're having right now. If there was a brontosaurus standing behind me, would you not enjoy it that much more?"
The question surprised me. Not because of how absurd it was, or how out of place it was, but because I found myself agreeing with it. If there was a brontosaurus behind Hank, it would vastly improve the conversation. I thought to myself, where else could this apply? Would not my house be better if there was a Stegosaurus in my back yard? Would work be better if a T-rex rampaged out doors? The truth is, it would be.
"Take that concept to the baseball field." Said Hank. "Fans in the outfield can buy branches with leaves on them to feed the brontosaurus. We can have children try to race the raptors. There are endless possibilities here."
But how would this improve the team?
"You kidding me!?" Asked Hank in half-astonished disbelief. "Just imagine how many homeruns would be blocked by a brontosaurus? Just imagine a raptor on the basepaths? Imagine a T-Rex standing behind homeplate just to keep the umpires honest. How will this not help the team?"
"Admittedly, there are a few immediate concerns." Hank continued. "For example, Girardi's never managed dinosaurs before, and I don't know how easy it will be to handle their egos. Some of them are going to want to play everyday, and what happens if Jeter hits on one of the dinosaurs girlfriends, and they go hang out with him? Imagine Raptor Ruth starts dating Madonna, what will happen to A-Rod? Its all uncharted territory, but to be honest, if Girardi can't manage it, I'll find someone that can."
I was still a bit in shock, and sat for a moment gathering my thoughts while Hank took a toy T-Rex and a toy Brontosaurus sitting nearby and started having a dinosaur fight on his desk. I was not sure how to react. What kind of costs would be involved? Where do you get dinosaurs? I had to ask.
"Obviously, there are some significant costs involved. We'll need more tranquilizers, and we'll probably need to increase the food budget to include tree leaves and raw meat and stuff like that. But honestly, we still have tranquilizers from when Rocket pitched with us. His mood swings were legendary."
But where would the dinosaurs come from?
"That's Cashman's job. If he wants an extension with the New York Yankees, he needs to bring me dinosaurs. If he doesn't, I'll find someone who will. Its that simple. I'm thinking I need a couple brontosaurus', maybe three raptors, one T-Rex, I think I need like seven pterodactyl's, and that's not even considering our bullpen."
I was still a little skeptical and Hank noticed this in me. He took a deep sigh, and offered to show me something. He then hit play on his 76 inch plasma television, which was cued to show a snippet of "Land Before Time".
"You see what I'm talking about now?" He followed. "This is the kind of magic the 2009 Yankees are going to have. A team that will move you, that grips your heart at every turn of the season. I mean, didn't you cry when Littlefoot's mother died?" Hank wondered. "I didn't, but its still magic."
"I'm a big fan of history. Dinosaurs are apart of history. Yankees are apart of history. It only makes sense to combine the two. The 2009 Yankees are going prehistoric. Write that down."
On the walk out of Hank's office, I did not notice the plaques as much. The 2009 Yankees will certainly have a new face, and that face is making a comeback from extinction.