In a story appearing on the front page of Friday's USA Today, Steinbrenner said in an interview that took place in Tampa, Fla.: "There's a lot of excitement around here from the Rays fans, but almost to a point of arrogance. They better be careful. They'll learn this [stuff] can change real quick."
The Yankees have the largest payroll in the Major Leagues at $215 million, while the Rays are at $55 million. The story also pointed out how Steinbrenner said the Rays should be thanking the Yankees for subsidizing the Rays and other teams with their revenue-sharing and luxury-tax payments.
"People in baseball know it, whether they want to admit it or not," Steinbrenner said. "It helps everyone when the Yankees are good. The Red Sox, whether they're good or not doesn't necessarily matter, nationally. ... Let's face it: The Yankees are baseball history. You're talking about 26 championships."
Maddon just smiled when the remarks were recounted.
"I happened to read the front page of USA Today," Maddon said. "Again, it's always about one person's opinion. I just know that the fans of Tampa Bay are very excited."
Maddon added that he has not problem with "arrogant" Rays fans.
"I just know the fact that they're there," Maddon said. "And that they're recognizing us and they're starting to show up. I don't know that arrogance is the word as much as we have a newfound group of fans, and we're very happy to have them. And we want to keep them."
A reporter asked Maddon if he found it ironic that anybody from the Yankees would be accusing another team's fans of being "almost to the point of arrogance."
"I really can't go there. I pass," said Maddon, again smiling. "We went through this in Spring Training. ... He's the owner of that ballclub, and whatever he wants to say, I'm fine with it."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.