It has been a difficult road for Steinbrenner's Yankees, who have lost 11 of 16 and enter play on Tuesday trailing the Rays by nine games in the American League East. They started the evening five games behind the Red Sox in contention for the AL Wild Card, and will play 30 of their remaining 43 games against teams with winning records.
"I'm not writing off this season," the Yankees' co-chairman said Tuesday in Tampa, Fla. "They're trying hard to win. There's only so much you can do. They're not supermen."
New York has lost right-handed pitcher Chien-Ming Wang, a 19-game winner in each of the past two seasons, to a right foot injury suffered while running the bases that will keep him out until October -- if the Yankees can make it that far. Righty Joba Chamberlain left an Aug. 4 start against Texas with rotator cuff tendinitis and will only begin playing catch on Friday in New York.
Rookies Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy have missed much of the season and have combined for zero wins after opening the season in the starting rotation, and the Yankees have also moved on without catcher Jorge Posada and outfielder Hideki Matsui, the latter of whom may be cleared for Minor League rehab games later this week.
"I think it's very simple, we've been devastated by injuries," Steinbrenner said. "No team I've ever seen in baseball has been decimated like this. It would kill any team. Imagine the Red Sox without [Josh] Beckett and [Jon] Lester. Pitching is 70 percent of the game. Wang won 19 games two straight years. Chamberlain became the most dominating pitcher in baseball. You can't lose two guys like that."
The Yankees have tried to plug holes where possible. New York shipped four Minor Leaguers to the Pirates in late July for outfielder Xavier Nady and left-handed reliever Damaso Marte, and then pulled off a July 30 deal with the Tigers to acquire catcher Ivan Rodriguez in exchange for right-handed reliever Kyle Farnsworth, dealing from a position of strength to address a weakness.
The moves have shown mixed returns as the Yankees skidded on their first four-game losing streak of the season, including a deflating series sweep over the weekend in Anaheim. Steinbrenner points to the injuries as the crippling factor.
"It's not making excuses, it's reality," Steinbrenner said. "That's part of the game. That's clearly our problem."
Speaking before the Yankees' game at the Metrodome, manager Joe Girardi acknowledged that injuries have played a major role in the club's 63-56 showing so far, but said that the team must be able to win with the players who are in the clubhouse.
"I know that we've had a lot of injuries, but I still believe that this team is good enough to win," Girardi said. "We're going to work it through. We have a lot of tough series against a lot of tough opponents, but you can't look at that. You've just got to trust your club today."
Steinbrenner told the AP that regardless of how this season ends, he believes the '09 Yankees will be the team to beat in the AL East.
"We're going to win it next year," he said. "If we need to add a top veteran pitcher, we'll do that. We'll do whatever we need to do. Next year, we'll be extremely dangerous."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.