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Steinbrenner's presence here certainly missed

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN
  • Star Tribune
  • October 7, 2010 - 12:53 AM

For the first time in 35 years, the Yankees are in the postseason without George Steinbrenner.

Steinbrenner, who died on July 13 at age 80, is a very close personal friend forever and had a ton of friends here in all types of life. His presence when the Yankees were playing here was important to a ton of local business people.

If he were here today to watch his team bid for its 28th World Series championship, I would be driving him around town to visit with people in shipping and grain businesses, as well as people involved with racing horses, a sport he might have loved more than baseball.

George really hated the Metrodome. He called it the "Homerdome" and no doubt he would have enjoyed the new Target Field.

Speaking about his dad's passing, Hal Steinbrenner, who has taken over for his father as Yankees managing general partner, said: "It is sad, but as you know, he had a great life; 35 years with the Yankees and baseball was one of his loves, no doubt about it. So I'm glad we were able to win it last year for him."

Hal said he is enjoying his new role. "There's a lot of ups and downs and injuries to get through, and kind of bad streaks to get through, but it's been good overall," said the younger Steinbrenner, who doesn't always like the media spotlight. "We hope it's going to be a good October and [the Yankees] are going to step it up now."

The Yankees, like most teams, have had a number of injuries but have played through them. So the roster the Twins face in this year's playoffs is similar to the one that won last fall's title. "For the most part, the vast majority of the players have done it," Steinbrenner said. "They were there last year, and they're champions already, so we've got to hope that they're going to bring that magic back this season. And the guys that weren't there last year are certainly good professionals, so I think we've got a good chance, there's no doubt." Steinbrenner respects the Twins. "The Twins are always a concern," he said. "You've got good pitching, you've got good hitting and you've been playing well -- I know [they] stumbled a little bit [in the] last week. Well, join the club. But [the Twins have] been playing pretty strong.

"These five-game series are tough series. You have two bad games in a row, as you know, and you're in a lot of trouble. We'll see, but it's going to be a nail-biter, I'm sure."

New stadium a success

The Yankees opened their new Yankee Stadium across the street from the old one in 2009, and the team celebrated their new building by winning the World Series their first year.

"It turned out great," Steinbrenner said. "The most important thing is the fans have loved it, really since day one. [Pollster] Frank Luntz did a pretty comprehensive survey about a month ago, over the course of several games, talking to the fans. Of all the fans he talked to, 99 percent of them reported having an overall positive experience with the stadium, and he said that's unprecedented, so I think that speaks for itself."

Moss trade finalized

Even though ESPN, Fox and others had reported that the trade to bring Randy Moss back to the Vikings was completed on Tuesday night, Vikings President Mark Wilf and Vice President of Player Personnel Rick Spielman said nothing was complete until Wednesday morning.

Spielman said there has been some talk with the Patriots for a couple of weeks, but it didn't get real hot until Saturday, when he and Nick Caserio, New England's director of player personnel, had occasion to both be scouting the Texas-Oklahoma game in Dallas.

"We found out there was interest on both sides at the time, and we talked some more and finalized the deal Wednesday morning," Spielman said.

Before the Wilfs signed the papers to buy the Vikings they thought they had an agreement with Red McCombs that he wouldn't make trades without consulting them. But McCombs wanted to get rid of Moss' salary, so he ordered the football people to make a deal with the Raiders, picking up linebacker Napoleon Harris, a first-round pick that ended up being Troy Williamson and a seventh-round pick they traded for linebacker Sam Cowart.

After being traded by Oakland to New England, Moss signed a three-year, $27 million contract that expires with this season.

The addition of Moss will not only help the Vikings win but will also help sell tickets and might even boost their cause in getting a new stadium built.

Mark Wilf said the Vikings will make every effort to sign Moss to a multiyear contract, even though an extension wasn't a part of the deal.

Jottings

Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman said he regards Joe Mauer as one of the great players in the game, but because of financial reasons and the number of free-agent players Cashman has coming up this offseason, there never was any thought of being able to match the salary that the Twins paid the 2009 MVP had he become a free agent this offseason. "I was concerned that the Red Sox might sign Mauer," Cashman said.

Butch Wynegar, the longtime Twins and Yankees catcher, is in his fourth year as the batting coach at the Yankees' Class AAA team at Scranton-Wilkes Barre. Wynegar has been coaching with the Yankees the past two weeks.

Twins President David St. Peter said the team sold 2,000 standing-room- only tickets for each playoff game, all in advance.

Somebody mentioned to Vikings linebackers coach Fred Pagac that the team was re-acquiring one of the great athletes in professional sports today, and Pagac, an assistant at Ohio State from 1978 to 2000, countered by saying, "No, the best athlete in the Moss family was his brother Eric, who was a 6-6, 290-pound tackle-tight end and one fantastic athlete. He got injured and it killed a great career." In fact, Eric played for the Vikings in 1997.

Had Kevin Warren, the Vikings vice president of legal affairs who was a finalist for the job as president of the Seahawks, gotten that job, he would have been the first black team president in NFL history. The job went to St. Louis Blues CEO Peter McLoughlin. It was a lucky break for the Wilfs, who really value Warren's presence.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. • shartman@startribune.com

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