Steinbrenner all but guarantees Yanks WS victory

Updated: February 23, 2006, 6:36 AM ET
Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. -- George Steinbrenner is predicting the New York Yankees' five-year World Series drought will end this October.

"We're going to win it this year," the Yankees owner said Wednesday. "We're going after it."

The Yankees haven't won the World Series since beating the New York Mets in 2000. They lost to Arizona in 2001 and to Florida in 2003, were eliminated by the Angels in the first round of the playoffs in 2002 and 2005, and wasted a three-game lead against Boston in the 2004 AL championship series.

Steinbrenner had kept a lower profile in recent years, but has been present daily at Legends Field since the start of spring training last week.

"You guys want to talk to me," he said.

Steinbrenner walked into the manager's office while Joe Torre was talking with reporters. When a reporter asked, "Who is the best owner in the majors?" Torre pointed at Steinbrenner.

"Who's the best manager in the majors?" Steinbrenner then said, before pointing to Torre.

Steinbrenner then sat down on a sofa and listened to the rest of Torre's daily media session.

"I can't do much to teach him anything, but I'm just there so he knows he's got my support," Steinbrenner later said.

Torre addressed the team during a one-hour meeting prior to the first full-squad workout. The expectation of winning the World Series was the key topic.

"You can't camouflage it," Torre said. "You hope in entertaining people that you obtain your goal. But they do know that there's pressure. You don't try to ignore the fact that there is pressure. You just understand that's part of what you do."

Center fielder Johnny Damon, the highest-profile acquisition during the offseason, worked out with his new teammates for the first time.

"He's a great player," Steinbrenner said.

The former Boston Red Sox star, who was given a $52 million, four-year contract, pointed his bat skyward after fans chanted "Johnny" when he walked onto the field.

"I thought the first day was awesome," Damon said. "It's great to see a lot of the fans accept me as being a Yankee. You feel proud because you know what you've done over your career and you know what your reputation is, and they know what I can bring to New York."

Damon hit .316 for Boston last season with 117 runs, 10 homers, 75 RBI and 18 steals.

"My time in Boston was great," Damon said. "But now I'm here playing for the greatest franchise in the world. The team with the most championships."

Damon is reunited with former Oakland teammate Jason Giambi -- who has an adjacent locker. Damon came up from behind and gave Giambi a hug in the clubhouse.

"Everybody sees Johnny Damon for long hair and the beard, but he's a great, great teammate," Giambi said. "He's fun to play with. He'll be fun for this team. I think they'll really enjoy having Johnny around."

Giambi doesn't foresee Damon having any transition problems.

"I think it's going to be a little bit easier for Johnny," Giambi said. "He's coming over from Boston. I think he has already been through it. He's not going to have the deer in the headlights [look], where I came over from Oakland and the media outweighs the players."

Giambi says he is feeling the best he has in years and again expressed his desire to play mostly at first base this season.

"When I DH, my numbers are terrible," he said. "I don't know what it is. If they want me to be that player and do the things I did at the end of the year last year & drive in the runs and hitting big homers & that's kind of the way to go."

Notes
Steinbrenner is not a proponent of the World Baseball Classic, but said he supports it because it's something baseball commissioner Bud Selig wants. ... RHP Carl Pavano (back) said he remains on target to work off a mound by next week. ... RHP Chien-Ming Wang remains undecided about pitching for Taiwan in the WBC. ... Closer Mariano Rivera felt good after his third bullpen session in five days. ... Reliever Tanyon Sturtze (tired shoulder) had his first mound session. "My shoulder is great," Sturtze said. "Disappointed with my location." He is to throw again Friday.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press