I wanted so badly for my first baseball-related post of the 2017 season to be about the outlook of every team as Spring Training commenced. After all, optimism springs eternal for every team this time of year, and wouldn’t it be great to write a commentary on that for each team?
Yeah, it would have been, but Yankees President Randy Levine made sure that post wouldn’t happen. Yet.
Ugh. I’m so mad. As a Yankees fan, this whole episode with Levine makes my blood boil. For those of you reading who have no idea what is going on, let me fill you in: Yankees reliever Dellin Betances and the New York Yankees just finished an arbitration hearing to negotiate Betances’ salary for the 2017 season. Betances filed for $5mil, the Yanks filed at $3mil – that’s quite a difference. Dellin and his agents’ rationale was that he has been one of the best relief pitchers in baseball over the last few seasons and should be paid what teammate Aroldis Chapman was paid after his first arbitration hearing (since 2014, Dellin has been a 3x All-Star, has a 8.5 fWAR, 392 strikeouts through 247 innings pitched, and a 14.28 strikeouts per 9 innings).
Arbitration hearings are always messy and not fun. The players have to listen to their team explain all of their shortcomings and why they are not worthy of a higher salary. But these hearings are part of the game and no matter what side wins, the loser still pushes on and the two sides tend to be amicable towards each other regardless. The Yankees won the arbitration hearing and all signs were pointing toward Dellin taking his salary and moving on, like a normal person.
Then team president Randy Levine opened his mouth.
Levine stated that Betances was not a closer, so even though he could be one, he was not worthy of more money. He said Betances was used by his agents to upset “the system”, referring to the idea that relief pitchers not given the “closer” title are not worth more money.
The idea that Betances was “used” by his agents is absurd – Betances did have a valid argument for wanting more money. Though he may not be a closer, he’s not exactly your typical set-up man. The fact is that even though the Yanks’ closer is Aroldis Chapman, Betances could easily fill that role.
Understandably, Betances and his agents were not going to take Levine’s comments lying down. Betnaces, when asked about the comments, said “I was planning on putting everything behind me until I was aware of Randy Levine’s comments saying I was the victim in this whole process and saying how much they love me, but then they take me in a room, trash me for about an hour-and-a-half.” He then added, “You look at it a little differently now. I think (free agency) will be a little easier when the time comes.”
RANDY LEVINE YOU BUTTHOLE.
Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal then wrote an article with the response from Rick Shapiro, the senior union executive who was tapped to represent Betances. Shapiro gave details about Levine’s manor in the courtroom, which makes the whole story even more infuriating. Levine was said to bully the panel and didn’t even contribute to the majority of the hearing. When he did contribute, he called Dellin by the incorrect name repeatedly and began to blame him for declining ticket sales and for the Yanks lack of postseason appearances. ARE YOU SERIOUS.
Okay. Deep breath.
Let’s unpack this bit-by-bit:
First, Dellin Betances hails from the Big Apple and grew up a Yankees fan. He’s one of the fans’ favorite players and the fact that he is a home-grown player is even better. It makes my heart hurt that Levine unnecessarily damaged the relationship between a home-grown player who grew up a fan and the front office.
Second, it’s normal for players to feel ill-will towards the front office after arbitration hearings. Feelings get hurt, but players move on. Dellin wanted to move on, but Levine made his thoughts heard in a press conference (which is totally unprecedented, BTW). You don’t air out your thoughts and dirty laundry with a presser.
Third, HIS NAME IS DELLIN.
Fourth, Dellin is not responsible for declining ticket sales. MAYBE THE FACT THAT YOUR TICKETS ARE UNREASONABLY PRICED IS WHY YOU ARE NOT SELLING TICKETS. Like, I can hardly afford crappy seats at Yankee Stadium! It’s such a nice ballpark and the views are incredible, but dear Lord it’s crazy! After paying for my NJ Transit ticket, subway fare, crappy tickets to the game, and for food and beer, I’m out well over $150. That may not seem like a lot to someone like Randy Levine, but to a girl who is trying to pay off student loans, car payments, etc, $150 is huge. If anything, watching Dellin and some of the other young, homegrown players are INCENTIVE for me to come to the ballpark. I don’t get to watch #BaeRod anymore, so I want to see these young kids play, even if we don’t win.
Fifth, the reason the Yanks haven’t made the postseason in a few years is because they are old, decrepit, injured, and frankly, not that of a great of a team. Let’s be real: it’s amazing they have still managed to have winning seasons the last few years.
Look, arbitration hearings are tough, but it did not have to get to this point. Levine could have shut his face and moved on, just like Dellin was trying to do. Dellin was upset with what he heard during the hearings, but he was more than happy to move on and contribute to the team. He is under contract until 2020, so I hope that the Yanks are able to mend fences with the fans’ favorite reliever. The Yanks front office and upper management have made several gaffes over the last few years (the whole Ticketmaster debacle, no digital tickets, the comments that basically said the casual fan doesn’t deserve nice seats – really, I could keep going), and they are all disheartening. But it is especially hard for me to see them trash one of their best players publicly.
Dellin Betances is a fan favorite and he is one of the best relievers in the game today. He deserves better.