Boss not happy with Yankees in WBC
TAMPA, Fla. -- George Steinbrenner began spring training in classic Boss style, saying he was disappointed some of his New York Yankees stars will be leaving camp for the first World Baseball Classic.
Steinbrenner was surrounded by reporters when he finished his lunch at Legends Field on Thursday, the team's reporting date for pitchers and catchers. He gave brief responses to questions, talking about the Yankees and the WBC, which runs from March 3-20. Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Johnny Damon are on the U.S. roster, and Bernie Williams is on Puerto Rico's preliminary roster.
When baseball owners approved the World Cup in August 2004 at the urging of baseball commissioner Bud Selig, the Yankees abstained.
"We don't like it that well," Steinbrenner said. "If a player gets hurt, he's risking a lot. But it was Selig's idea and he wants to do it, so I suppose we're going to do it."
Several New York stars won't be participating in the 16-team tournament. Catcher Jorge Posada decided not to push the issue after the Yankees said they'd prefer he not play for Puerto Rico. Closer Mariano Rivera and outfielder Hideki Matsui said they weren't interested, and second baseman Robinson Cano and pitcher Chien-Ming Wang have said they don't want to play, although they were included on preliminary rosters.
"Sure, there will be some more back out, whether it's our players or somebody else's," Steinbrenner said. "I'm used to spring training being to concentrate on the World Series, and that's what we like to see our players do. But we don't tell them not to play."
Steinbrenner was sitting in a golf cart as he answered questions, and the 75-year-old owner kept trying to drive away as reporters and camera men surrounded him.
"Don't let me run over you," Steinbrenner said to the group.
Earlier in the day at the Yankees minor league complex, Jeter said Steinbrenner never talked to him about the WBC and that "it's going to be kind of awkward, I think, wearing a different uniform."
"I think it will be fun. I'm looking forward to it," Jeter said. "I never had a chance to play for my country before."
Rivera didn't want to pitch for Panama because he didn't want to start throwing earlier, preferring to save his arm strength for the season.
"The clubs voted overwhelmingly in favor of the World Baseball Classic," baseball spokesman Rich Levin said. "It also has the full support of our partners, the Major League Baseball Players Association and the International Baseball Federation. The Clubs, the MLBPA and the IBAF all realize that the goal of the tournament -- to grow the game and to increase interest in the sport worldwide -- is in the long-term best interests of the game."
Steinbrenner also briefly addressed the Yankees' prospects for the season.
"It's going to be a good spring. I'm feeling very good about the team," he said. "I think we'll be good. I think we've got good pitching, good balance in pitching, good balance on the team."
Despite winning eight straight AL East titles, the Yankees haven't won the World Series since 2000. Steinbrenner was asked whether he was impatient for another ring.
"Yes, very impatient," he said, adding: "Get out of my way."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press