Many New York Yankees not only agree with Don Mattingly's criticism of owner George Steinbrenner. They wonder why it hadn't been voiced a long time ago.

"I think all of us have talked about it at some point amongst ourselves," relief pitcher Dave Righetti said. "I think it needed to be said by somebody."Before Monday night's 9-2 loss to the Oakland Athletics - the 10th in 14 games for the Yankees - Mattingly said he didn't regret a word he said a day earlier. He also had a closed-door meeting with manager Lou Piniella, who said Mattingly's outburst was the result of personal frustration.

"I wasn't trying to start anything," Mattingly said. "I never intended on saying anything. It just came out. But it's been in my heart a long time. It's been building over the years."

Saying he was not provoked by a recent event, Mattingly lashed out at Steinbrenner's "disrespectful" treatment of the players.

"There won't be many in here who would disagree with that," third baseman Mike Pagliarulo said. "But he's the owner and I guees he can do whatever he wants."

Co-captain Willie Randolph, the longest-standing every-day player on the club, said, "We don't enjoy playing baseball here day-in and day-out. It's pretty much been that way since after '81. And Donnie's right, it won't change. It doesn't matter what you say, you can't change it. But Donnie has a right to blow off steam. He plays hard every day."

Righetti called Mattingly at home earlier in the day, "to make sure Donnie was all right and let him know I was behind him, that we all support him. He was just scared that it looked like he was complaining."

Both Mattingly and Righetti signed three-year contracts before the season.

"We talked about our feelings when we both signed," Righetti said. "We knew what to expect here. I've seen the good and the bad in this organization, and I've probably seen more of the bad than Donnie. But, above all, I'm happy where I'm at. It's a great place to play if not for the distractions. But you could deal with the distractions when you're winning. Winning is the only thing that matters around here. Winning is the best time to be around here."

Following Sunday's 4-2 loss to Seattle, Mattingly said Yankee players "get no respect around here. They give you money, that's it. Not respect. Money is not respect."

Although Mattingly did not mention Steinbrenner by name, the owner was clearly the target of his outburst.

Steinbrenner, referring to himself as "The Boss" said in a statement Monday that he was confused by Mattingly's criticism because "I'm not making errors on the field, I'm not leaving men stranded in scoring position time and time again. I'm not carrying a 5.30 ERA since the All-Star break, and I was 2,000 miles away when we lost three out of four games to the Seattle Mariners, of all people.

"Contrary to many opinions, I'm not managing the ballclub, either, and I'm sure as hell not making millions of dollars a year for playing a game. But as usually is the case, who else can we blame without getting a teammate PO'd at us or getting the manager and coaches upset with us. Who else is there to blame?"

Steinbrenner also criticized Mattingly for attacking him in the media instead of confronting him personally.

"He should have said it to me man to man like we agreed - but then we wouldn't have sold those thousands of newspapers and kept all you guys secure in your employment, would we?" the owner said.