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PITTSBURGH — The Yankees have the best record in the majors, but Hal Steinbrenner has his eyes on a familiar foe.
“We all need to be concerned about Houston,” the Yankees managing general partner said on a Zoom call Wednesday. “They’re a very good team. The games we’ve played so far have been close, for the most part. It’s gonna be a challenge, but it’s gonna be a challenge for them, too, make no mistake.”
The Astros have emerged as a rival of the Yankees, especially in the wake of Houston’s sign-stealing scandal during their 2017 World Series-winning season. They beat the Yankees in seven games in the ALCS that season.
Since then, Houston also knocked off the Yankees in the 2019 playoffs, and the two teams appear to be on a collision course for October this year.
One thing Steinbrenner declined to address were the comments made by Astros owner Jim Crane, who took issue with Yankees general manager Brian Cashman saying this spring the scandal was “illegal and horrific. … The only thing that derailed us [from the 2017 World Series title] was a cheating circumstance that threw us off.”
Crane said in May he disapproved of Cashman still criticizing the World Series-winning Astros team because the Yankees were found to have made transgressions in previous years.
Steinbrenner said Wednesday he has stayed out of the fray.
“I did not respond,” Steinbrenner said. “This is history, as far as I’m concerned. I’m not gonna relive history. I’m looking forward, not backward. And I’m gonna be looking at the Astros. As has been pointed out, we’re probably gonna be playing them in some pretty big games.”
Steinbrenner said discussions have not even begun about what the Yankees will do prior to the Aug. 2 trade deadline, adding that he was willing to consider anything brought to him by Cashman — even if it meant giving up top prospects or increasing payroll.
Steinbrenner defended sitting out the free-agent shortstop class, praising the performance of Isiah Kiner-Falefa.
“We knew Isiah would be a great defensive shortstop,’’ Steinbrenner said. “He’s lived up to the billing. To be a great team, Gene Michael used to say [you needed], ‘Defense up the middle.’ That’s something we definitely improved upon. I didn’t spend $300 million to do it, but I think most people are pretty happy with Isiah and the job he’s done.”