"I have no problem saying that. I think they've come into this spring with a new hunger. That's what it takes."
Team captain Derek Jeter went through difficult negotiations on a new three-year, $51 million contract over the offseason. In January, construction was completed on Jeter's $7.7 million waterfront mansion in the Tampa area.
When a reporter asked Steinbrenner how many other Yankees had built mansions over the winter -- locally, the shortstop's home has been dubbed "St. Jetersburg" -- Steinbrenner said he wasn't speaking specifically about Jeter.
"I'm not singling anybody out," Steinbrenner said. "Maybe they were riding the wave of '09 a little too much. Psychologically, that happens.
"This year, in spring so far, from what I've seen and from what I've been told by everyone that's down there with them -- our coaches and so forth -- they've come in with a real new drive and determination, the kind they had in '09."
Steinbrenner also voiced opinions about baseball's revenue sharing and luxury tax programs, saying that they need changes and that Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig is open to the idea.
Steinbrenner said that the Yankees' 2010 payments are expected to total about $130 million.
"We've got to do a little something about that, and I know Bud wants to correct it in some way," Steinbrenner said. "Obviously, we're very much allied with the Red Sox and the Mets, the Dodgers, the Cubs -- whoever's in that area.
"At some point, if you don't want to worry about teams in minor markets, don't put teams in minor markets, or don't leave teams in minor markets if they're truly minor. The socialism, communism, whatever you want to call it, is never the answer."
Selig recently was a guest on 98.5 the Sports Hub in Boston and addressed revenue sharing in baseball.
"We have more competitive balance than ever before," Selig said. "We have more competitive balance than any other sport.
"Now, look, is the system perfect? No. I didn't say it was perfect, but I said that I think what exists today is pretty darn good. In the next labor negotiation, we have to tweak it in some areas, and it's significant tweaks."
On other baseball topics, Steinbrenner said that he believes Alex Rodriguez "can still do it, big time," and noted that pitchers around the league did not want to face the three-time MVP last season, even with Robinson Cano batting behind him for protection.
"That kind of tells you something," Steinbrenner said. "I think they know a little more than we do."
Steinbrenner said that general manager Brian Cashman spoke to Rodriguez during the offseason about taking on more of a leadership role with the team.
He also said that manager Joe Girardi, closer Mariano Rivera and several hitters were consulted on the idea of signing Rafael Soriano, who eventually agreed to a three-year, $35 million deal.
"Everyone's missing the point. We didn't get [Cliff] Lee, but we got the second-best relief pitcher in the American League next to our own guy [Rivera]," Steinbrenner said. "Now he's the setup guy.
"They seem to be conveniently forgetting that fact. Our guys were all asked; Joe and Mo were asked, the hitters were asked, they all said, 'Yes.' We didn't get the starter, but we got the reliever."
Rivera said last week that he had not been consulted on Soriano's addition, saying on Feb. 17, "I didn't know anything about it. He's definitely a good pitcher and definitely can help us."
Also according to Steinbrenner, right-hander A.J. Burnett seems "very hungry" for a bounce-back season, and the Yankees' baseball people have filed high reports on right-hander Ivan Nova's progress.
"We've got some other young pitchers coming, so I think it's going to be better than everyone thinks," Steinbrenner said. "Obviously the bullpen speaks for itself and so does the lineup."
Steinbrenner said that the AL East "may be the best division in all of American sports," noting that Red Sox owner John Henry is "committed to winning as we are" and that the division will present difficult competition for the Yankees this year.
"The Red Sox are going to be tough, they made good moves," Steinbrenner said. "The Rays are still going to be tough, in my opinion. Who knows what the Blue Jays and the Orioles will do? It's the American League East, and we've got to play each other more than anyone else. That makes it even tougher."