Derek Jeter shrugs off Steinbrenner talk

Updated: February 23, 2011, 7:24 AM ET
By Wallace Matthews | ESPNNewYork.com

TAMPA, Fla. -- Who, me?

That, essentially, was Derek Jeter's reaction when asked to respond to comments made by Hank Steinbrenner on Monday that the 2010 New York Yankees may have spent too much time celebrating their 2009 world championship and not enough time concentrating on baseball.

Steinbrenner, the co-chairman of the team, also said some players were "too busy building mansions," a remark widely interpreted as aimed at Jeter, who recently moved into a 30,000-square foot estate in an exclusive section of Tampa. Steinbrenner did add, though: "I'm not singling out any individual."

"I don't think my name came out of his mouth," said Jeter, who laughed off the subject during a 12-minute interview at his locker at George M. Steinbrenner Field early Tuesday. "So it was not directed at me. Plural, I think it was. This was a plural thing."

When it was pointed out that he was the only Yankee known to be building "a mansion" last season, Jeter said: "You don't think anyone else here? You're probably wrong, buddy."

Steinbrenner said again later Tuesday his comments were not directed at Jeter.

"It was a generalization, a euphemism. A bad choice of a euphemism," Steinbrenner said. "That's all it was."

Steinbrenner sent a message to Jeter clarifying his remarks.

"Sometimes teams get a little complacent, they celebrate for too long," Steinbrenner said. "It certainly isn't Derek. Derek's got five rings. You don't win five rings by being complacent. So, it was definitely not Derek I was talking about, and it wasn't, obviously, a few other players, either. But in the end we've got to win."

Jeter did take issue, however, with Steinbrenner's contention that the Yankees lacked the hunger to win last year.

"I think every time it seems like you don't win, people say that you don't have the hunger," Jeter said. "We got beat by a team that was better than us in that series, that was the bottom line. I wouldn't say there was a lack of hunger. I just think we didn't play as well. That's why we lost. But any time teams lose you always hear that."

Jeter was careful to emphasize several times that he had "no problem" with Steinbrenner. "Owners can say anything they want to say," Jeter said. "They're owners. They're entitled to their opinion. You don't have to necessarily agree with their opinion but they can say what they want to say. I have no problem with it."

In 2003, George Steinbrenner famously criticized Jeter publicly for staying out too late at a birthday party, a dispute the two later spoofed in a credit-card commercial.

Asked if he thought another commercial with an owner named Steinbrenner was in his future, Jeter said: "I really don't know what there is to be fixed. I'm not upset. It doesn't bother me. I mean, I don't know what else I can give you. I'm not moving, so we won't be talking about this again."

Although Jeter shrugged it off, it seems as if he has been the target of more darts from ownership and the front office since the contentious negotiations that resulted in him signing a new three-year, $51 million contract in December.

"I don't feel that way," he said. "But I have no problems. Don't make it like I have a problem with Hank. I try to look at the positive. He didn't say me, did he?"

After Steinbrenner's comments Tuesday, Jeter said he never thought the remarks were directed at him.

"I guess I was right," he said.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi believes Steinbrenner was just venting about how last season ended.

"The same frustration all of us had last year," Girardi said. "I was not happy about the way we played. The players were not happy about the way we played. We didn't play well against Texas for a lot of reasons. We didn't, necessarily, hit. We didn't, necessarily, pitch. That's bad combination."

Some consider the Yankees to be an underdog in the AL East after Boston added left fielder Carl Crawford and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. It's a position Steinbrenner will not take.

"I'm not going to say that about our players," he said. "That would be insulting our players. All I'm saying is we're one of the four or five best teams in baseball. Any one of those teams could win the World Series."

Wallace Matthews covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
Follow Wallace on Twitter »  Chat archive »

SPONSORED HEADLINES

EDITORS' PICKS

  • Vidal Force
    The Yankees posted a four-run 12th inning behind to top the Rays in Tampa.
  • Oh, Happy Day?
    Curtis Granderson may have flipped his year around with the flick of a bat in the 14th.
  • Lunch Money Gone
    The Broad Street Bullies beat down the Blueshirts on Broadway.
  • Who's That?
    Paul Pierce responded to the Raptors GM shouting an exploitative about Brooklyn.
  • Things Could Get Messy
    Forcing Geno Smith into an open competition threatens to stunt his growth as a QB.

ALSO SEE

MORE MLB HEADLINES