Yankees chairman Hal Steinbrenner addressed the media for the first time since spring training Wednesday, and his words evoked his late father.
Speaking in Pittsburgh, where the Yankees are playing a two-game series against the Pirates, Steinbrenner broached the topic of a new contract for slugging outfielder Aaron Judge. But Steinbrenner made it clear that he expects the entire organization’s focus to be on winning the World Series for the first time since 2009.
“In no way, shape or form can [Judge’s contract situation] be a distraction,” Steinbrenner said, per The Athletic. “The sole focus is winning a championship. That’s all anyone needs to worry about right now.”
The no-nonsense message was reminiscent of Hal’s father, George Steinbrenner, who was the club’s primary owner from 1973 until his death in 2010.
Nevertheless, observers will continue to speculate about the future of Judge, who is poised to become a free agent after this season. He turned down a seven-year, $213.5 million extension prior to Opening Day.
Steinbrenner did discuss Judge’s importance to the Yankees, but he stayed true to the club’s decision not to publicly talk about negotiations with the slugger.
“Aaron is a great Yankee, and he’s very valuable in this organization,” Steinbrenner said, per The Athletic. “He’s a great leader. Obviously, he’s performing extremely well this year. … Yes, [re-signing Judge is] going to be something we’re going to be looking at and talking about seriously.”
Judge, a three-time All-Star who leads the majors with 29 homers and 64 runs this season, avoided arbitration with the Yankees last month by agreeing on a one-year deal worth a reported $19 million. He is batting .281 with a .360 on-base percentage and .612 slugging percentage.
The Yankees boast the best record in the major leagues at 58-23 entering Wednesday’s games.
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