Dallas Green on Thursday responded to criticism from owner George Steinbrenner with the most forceful rebuttal from a New York Yankees manager since Gene Michael’s “fire me” challenge in 1982.
With subtle sarcasm, Green refuted Steinbrenner’s second-guessing and clearly implied the owner has a novice understanding of baseball. He even ridiculed the owner, saying: “The statement that ‘Manager’ George made about the game is a very logical second-guess. And hindsight being 20-20, that’s why managers go gray ... It’s always easier to (criticize) from above.”
Green seemed unafraid of a public confrontation with the owner and seemed to challenge him to it. “What better forum than New York City?” he said. “When and where.
“I don’t know the point (Steinbrenner was trying to make),” he said. “You have to shunt it and shut it off.”
The owner offered his opinions after the Yankees’ doubleheader split with the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday night. He called a reporter in the Yankee Stadium press box and, unsolicited, complained about the performance of the Yankees’ coaching staff and two moves Green made during the doubleheader.
Steinbrenner’s first public disagreement with his first-year manager involved Green’s positioning of his outfielders with the Yankees ahead, 7-6, in the ninth inning of the first game. Green had them play back to prevent an extra-base hit. Although power-hitting Kent Hrbek did drop a two-out hit into shallow left field and reach third on Brian Harper’s hard double over third base, Dave Righetti was able to get the final out.
“In 15 years, I’ve never seen outfielders play with their backs to the wall as they were doing in the first game,” Steinbrenner said. “It almost cost us when they got two hits in front of the fielders (actually one).”
In the second game, with the game tied at 3 in the ninth inning, the Yankees loaded the bases with none out. They squandered the opportunity when left-handed-hitting Hal Morris struck out against left-hander Dave West, Don Mattingly hit a short fly to left off West with the Twins’ outfield playing shallow, and Steve Balboni bounced into a force play against Jeff Reardon.
“A manager has to find a way to score a run in a situation like that,” Steinbrenner said. “Why not send up (Randy) Velarde to hit for Morris? Then if they bring in Reardon, at least you have Mattingly batting against a right-hander.”
In response to the owner’s second-guessing, Green questioned Steinbrenner’s knowledge of baseball. “I’ve known a lot of owners who can talk the lingo (of baseball),” he said. “Once in a while, you have to sit down and talk logical baseball sense, common sense. That doesn’t happen much here.”
After the games, Steinbrenner told the New York Daily News, “From what I saw tonight, the manager and the coaches are going to have to do a better job for us to win.” He was unavailable for comment Thursday night.