When you’re in the same room as the two brothers, who are separated by more than 11 years, it’s almost impossible to ignore the Felix-Oscar comparison. Trim, in pressed chinos and a blue-and-white polo shirt, Hal is all wariness and restraint, every bit the conservative young businessman suggested by his 1994 M.B.A. For his part, Hank, with his proudly liberated gut and shopworn, untucked appearance, is clearly not one to hold himself back.
If the stadium’s exterior, with its limestone and granite facade, is self-consciously retro, the interior will be thoroughly modern. [Lon] Trost might as well have been talking about a new themed hotel in Las Vegas as he described what would become of one drafty concrete chamber after another: the New York Yankees martini bar, a steakhouse (NYY Steak), a grill room, a Yankees museum, a year-round banquet hall and a conference center. The team’s interlocking “NY” logo will be everywhere, from the door handles to the latticework. Lining the so-called Great Hall that runs from home plate to the right-field foul pole will be huge two-sided banners, with Yankee legends in black-and-white on one side and more recent superstars in color on the other. The Yankees are eight years removed from their last world championship, but it’s hard not to regard the new stadium, with its over-the-top evocation of Yankee mythology, as an in-your-face assertion of Yankee might, a pointed and – depending on your perspective – either desperate or reassuring reminder that the team is less a baseball club than an American institution. It will be Red Sox Nation’s version of hell.
Unlike Hank, who kept his distance from his father for most of his adult life, Hal seems to have long taken it for granted that he was going to do whatever his father wanted him to. “That was always going to be up to George, obviously,” he said when I asked him what sort of role he had envisioned with the Yankees. “I just made sure that I was there at Legends Field three or four days a week, and if they needed me for anything, I was there.” Hal’s first tour of duty with the team came just after his graduation from Williams in 1991. At the time, George was suspended from baseball, but he wanted his younger son to learn the family business and instructed the team’s chief operating officer at the time, David Sussman, to take him under his wing.
Hal is now the chairman of Yankee Global Enterprises – a title formerly held by Steve Swindal – which on paper places him a rung above Hank, a senior vice president of the Yankees, but both brothers describe themselves as equal partners. There seems to be no formal arrangement, though they say the plan is for Hal to defer to Hank on baseball-related issues and for Hal to have final say on business decisions. But Hank’s high profile – and Hal’s near invisibility – during the off-season has clearly created the perception that Hank is the one in charge.
In an effort to save face, Hank went out of his way to cast A-Rod, not exactly a hayseed, as an almost unwitting dupe of Boras ” He sounded shellshocked,” Hank told me, like he didn’t know what was going on and suggested that he, personally, had helped bring Rodriguez around by lecturing him on the majesty of the pinstripes.
“You look at what Hank says and how he’s conducting himself and you get the impression that he’s trying too hard to be George,” said one of the team’s limited partners, who did not want to be identified because he was wary of speculating publicly about the family. At the same time, though, Hank seems eager to escape his father’s long shadow. During our day together in Tampa, he repeatedly criticized his dad for any number of things, from his insatiable appetite for celebrity to his lack of patience with the Yankee farm system to his treatment of his employees. “Hank is the pariah who’s come home with something to prove to his old man, even if his old man is not going to be around to see it,” says one former business associate of Steinbrenner Sr.
And the BEST for last:
Red Sox Nation? Hank says. “What a bunch of [expletive] that is. That was a creation of the Red Sox and ESPN, which is filled with Red Sox fans. Go anywhere in America and you won’t see Red Sox hats and jackets, you’ll see Yankee hats and jackets. This is a Yankee country. We’re going to put the Yankees back on top and restore the universe to order.”