The sensitive side of Randy Levine

An A-Rodian 'What If?'
Where have you gone, Colter Bean?

For the last week, the Yankees have been slammed by the press over the empty, high-priced seats at Yankee Stadium. All of the city’s papers and sports pundits have been talking about it, and even I got to appear on TV to discuss it.

But when the head of Major League Soccer raised the issue on Friday, well, Randy Levine finally lost it. The Yanks’ team president unleashed his inner beast on MLS, and I have to wonder if Levine would have been better off just keeping quiet.

Here’s how it started: On Thursday, Don Garber, MLS commissioner, said, “It’s incomprehensible that you watch a game, and there will be front-row seats empty.”

On Friday, when informed of the soccer head’s barb, Levine went on some rant. “Don Garber discussing Yankee attendance must be a joke,” Levine said to the AP. “We draw more people in a year than his entire league does in a year. If he ever gets Major League Soccer into the same time zone as the Yankees, we might take him seriously. Hey Don, worry about Beckham, not the Yankees. Even he wants out of your league.”

Later int he day, Garber defended his remarks. “The Yankees are one of the world’s strongest sports brands and the context of my comments about a few empty seats at Yankee Stadium was to illustrate the economic challenges we are all facing,” he said in a statement. Garber shouldn’t have backtracked.

With this silly spat, Levine hasn’t exactly endeared himself to a Yankee fanbase already skeptical of his role in the organization. Ross at New Stadium Insider called Levine’s attack classless and noted that it makes the Yanks look bad. His co-writer there noted the continued disconnect between the Yankee Front Office and fan perceptions of the team.

The Yankees are treading on dangerous ground right now. While a lot of fans have no problems with the high ticket prices, a good number feel slighted and scorned by the Yankee Front Office. Levine is practically spitting in those fans’ collective faces here. It would do him wonders to step back for a few days and listen to Bud Selig. Humility has never done anyone wrong.

An A-Rodian 'What If?'
Where have you gone, Colter Bean?
  • Artist formerly known as ‘The’ Steve

    “With this silly spat, Levine hasn’t exactly endeared himself to a Yankee fanbase already skeptical of his role in the organization. Ross at New Stadium Insider called Levine’s attack classless and noted that it makes the Yanks look bad. He’s co-writer there noted the continued disconnect between the Yankee Front Office and fan perceptions of the team.”

    Really? Guess that depends on your view of the team and its context in the sports landscape.

    The Yanks have a zillion fans and a zillion detractors. People either love or hate them, but most have an opinion one way or the other. Levine is the Yanks hatchet man, anyone who knocks the team will hear from him about it. As a fan, I like that.

    I know that people who aren’t fans of the team or were opposed to his key role in building the new ballpark would prefer the Levine and/or the Yanks to constantly take shots and never fire back, but that’s not how life works. Good for Randy, and fuck anyone who hates the Yanks.

    • El Generalissimo

      Agreed, I think any major corporation or entity needs someone to do the dirty work, and for the Yankees that’s Levine. As always, sometimes he makes a mistake… like he probably should have left this alone… but, he may make people think twice about speaking up.

  • Rebecca-Optimist Prime

    Levine’s treading in dangerous waters.

    For one thing, Farber has one advantage: lower expectations. Farber isn’t expected to draw 50,000 to every match; Levine is.

    Like some of the AIG execs, Levine needs a real, big, good, long wake up call.

  • james

    I think Levine’s comments were hilarious and true.

    • yankees=warriors

      That’s how I see it as well.

  • Mike HC

    What is the point of ripping into MLS? Great, Randy Levine proved that more people like the Yankees than MLS. That is only going to bring more attention and negative press. Yankee Stadium seats should be filled, and it is a joke that they aren’t. The worst part is that the Yanks don’t seem to want to do anything about it. I guess if they can sell 33% of the seats for a 500% markup, it is worth it to them. (I’m not sure what the exact numbers are there).

  • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

    Garber didn’t make his comments in the context of an attempt to make a favorable comparison of MLS to the Yankees and, as such, Levine’s response is disproportional and childish. Levine didn’t address what Garber actually said, he instead chose to make an irrelevant attack on MLS. He just comes off looking like as asshole, and it’s unfortunate that he went that route.

    Ben, I do have one question… How were Levine’s comments about MLS an example of Levine “practically spitting in those fans’ [fans who feel slighted/scorned by Yanks’ front office] collective faces here?” I think that connection may be a bit of a reach. Like I said above, I think Levine looks like a punk here, but I don’t feel like he’s spitting in my face or anything like that.

  • RustyJohn

    Yes, it is odd that someone affiliated with soccer would be making that comment- unless he is going to bring the Cosmos back, be quiet. However, I think the bigger problem is not so much a few empty corporate seats whose owners are either under indictment or too scared to be seen publicly while their companies tank- the bigger problem is Cashman putting together his team of geriatrics and AAAA players- pretty sad that Jack Z in Seattle has put together one of the best bullpens in baseball with a few under the radar free agent signings, obtained a productive first baseman for $1.5 million a year, and obtained the best defensive outfield in baseball for trading an overvalued closer.

    I’m more and more convinced that Cashman has to be one of the worst GM’s in baseball.

    • Mike HC

      If only the Yankees could be more like the … Seattle Mariners???

    • jsbrendog

      batshit insane

    • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      This comment is dripping with fail.

      “Yes, it is odd that someone affiliated with soccer would be making that comment- unless he is going to bring the Cosmos back, be quiet.”

      So, unless you run a successful major league sports franchise that sells-out all of its games, you can’t make an observation about the Yankees not selling/filling the seats closest to the field in the new stadium? False. I, The Honorable Congressman Mondesi, am qualified to make that observation. Anyone is, really.

      “the bigger problem is Cashman putting together his team of geriatrics and AAAA players”

      According to ESPN, 11 teams are older than the Yankees, on average, including the Phillies, Dodgers, Angels, Red Sox, Blue jays and Mets. The Yanks have the same average age as the Devil Rays. And that’s all probably not even accurate since the Yanks have called up some younger players as injury fill-ins.

      The rest, I’m not even going to bother too much with. Maybe just some random thoughts/responses: It’s April 26. Bullpens are notoriously volatile, and the Yankees had a very good bullpen in 2008. It’s April 26. The Mariners don’t have a good first baseman, they currently have Russell Branyan and Mike Sweeney on the DL. The Yankees have Mark Teixeira at first base. It’s April 26.

      • Arod, all the time

        Claiming that the Yankees are a young team, mostly because their bullpen’s average age is 17.5, is hardly a reasonable statement. Most teams – those with strong bullpens – favor experience with those spots.

        • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

          Ok… Except I didn’t claim the Yankees are “a young team.” I took issue with calling them “geriatric” by giving evidence that their average age is a bit older than average but certainly not particularly old, relative to the rest of MLB, and I provided examples of teams that are older, on average (and are quite successful). I fail to see how that’s not a reasonable response.

      • RustyJohn

        Yes they have Texiera for how many more years and both Sweeney and Branyan (who is not on the DL) are owed a combined $2.5 mil this year and are free agents next year. The 1st baseman does not block the transition of their 36 or 37 year old catcher who is coming off a bum shoulder and who can’t DH because the DH spot is filled by a left fielder with two bum knees.

        Bullpens are notoriously volatile, which is why it isn’t smart to sign Marte to a 3 year deal when he can be replaced by someone making 1/2 what he makes.

        Yes, Jeter, Damon, Matsui, Posada are spring chickens. ARod is a couple of years younger and signed for another 9 years. How many more years does Tex have on his deal? And Sabathia and Burnett are here for several more years- that’s what I call payroll fleixbility.

        Can’t wait for all those young stud prospects in AAA to fill in for Damon, Posada, Matsui and Jeter in the next year to two years. Oh yeah, there’s one prospect that might be major league ready then- maybe Cashman can fill those holes with more 6-10 year deals of free agents in their 30s.

        How many more years are you going to let Cashman, with $200 million at his disposal, assemble inferior teams and keep making excuses for the guy?

        I seem to recall the “it’s April 26” conversation occuring on April 26, 2008, April 26, 2007, April 26, 2006….those seasons turned out swimmingly too. What would Jack Z, Billy Beane or Bill SMith do with $200 million?

    • Rich

      Small sample sizes rule your world. Sweet.

    • Old Ranger

      I’m more and more convinced that Cashman has to be one of the worst GM’s in baseball.
      Well, if it’s not A-Rod it has to be someone…why not have it Cashmans’ turn?
      There is a truth of life out in the real world, something like; “Every plan is perfect…until the first shot.”
      Setting up a team is easy…if you have a crystal ball, as most of us don’t, one does the best we can and don’t panic.
      Let’s wait until things go south before you jump ship on Cashman!

      • Artist formerly known as ‘The’ Steve

        Nicely done, OR.

        I only wish there was some penalty attached to jumping ship this early, other than making a fool of oneself. That clearly isn’t much a deterrent for these types.

        Some penalty that would get their attention, something like not being able to watch the team in October if you were calling for Girardi’s head in April.

      • Whitey14

        Old Ranger, it’s very good to see you my friend. Hope all is well ;-)

      • RustyJohn

        Seems like every year when the inherent flaws in the Yankees team are exposed and someone points out how Cashman has failed the “experts” of the blogosphere jump at the first chance to defend the guy. He has had control over this team for how many years now and the inherent flaws remain the same- old or older players, no developed position players to take the spot of older players, long-term contracts giving zero payroll flexibility.

        He should be congratulated for bringing depth to the starting pitching, which was a huge problem, but that problem was solved with throwing insane amounts of money around, not any mysterious GM moxy, mojo or genius.

        The fact is the proposed line-up would have been great if the there were zero injuries- however the catcher, left fielder, right fielder and DH have either a history of injury or are just coming off serious injury. There is minimal young talent to fill the gaps once Matsui and Damon’s contracts expire. Three other position players are signed until their late 30s or early 40s.

        Brian Cashman is the Federal Reserve of baseball- low interest rates cause the bubble to build and burst, how to solve, lower interest rates. Long-term contracts and no player development for 10 years, how to solve? How about more long-term contracts.

        As far as the Seattle Mariners are concerned, it was an example of how a smart GM can build a team on the cheap in one off season- there is a team that had over 100 losses last year. They cut payroll, filled the gaps with short-term low risk, high reward players like Branyan, Chavez, and the bullpen was put in place with a plan without having to trade or give up anything other than an overrated closer. From a payroll that has decreased by 10%, they stand to win 85 games this year. Next year the payroll will decrease by another 20 million.

        Where will the Yankees be next year? A $200 million payroll, empty seats in the stadium and two more free agent players in their 30s to replace the players in their mid-30s who are leaving.

  • Joseph M

    Maybe he should just have let it pass but honestly how could he resist. The MLS commissioner commenting on empty seats is like Billy Joel giving safe driving tips.

    My kids play soccer and I’ve been to Giant Stadium many times to watch the Red Bulls play and boy if you want to see empty seats… We had seats a couple of years ago second deck, first row 50 yard line, there was only 5 other people on that level!

  • schuyler

    Whether you like soccer or baseball doesn’t really matter with Levine’s argument–he’s comparing a team with 81 home games alone to a league where each team plays 15 home games. Despite the fact that yes obviously the Yankees in bad times have a better daily attendance, annual fan attendance is really an apples and oranges argument…

  • Rich

    As a person who has shrewdly exploited the revolving door between the public and private sector to benefit both his employer and himself, Levine obviously understands the art of making a deal, but when it comes to public relations, he’s a moron.

    By responding to what is actually a meaningless comment by an obscure sports management person, Levine has made the Yankees’ failure to sell high priced tickets even more prominent in the public consciousness.

    The Yankees would be well-served to tell him to be more circumspect. In other words, STFU.

    • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      Well said. His comments are very counter-productive.

      • Artist formerly known as ‘The’ Steve

        How so, and for who?

        Anything that keeps the Yanks in the public eye is good for business, including public pissing matches between executives of other sports leagues. I can’t imagine a scenario where the Yanks fail to sell a single ticket based on Levine’s comments.

        • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

          “How so, and for who?”

          Counter-productive for the Yankees, in the sense that negative comments about the situation with the sparsely-filled expensive seats near the field are being given a much more public forum than they would have received if Levine hadn’t responded as he did. I think Rich’s comment was pretty clear on that point (which you have every right to disagree with), I was simply agreeing with his take.

          “Anything that keeps the Yanks in the public eye is good for business, including public pissing matches between executives of other sports leagues.”

          So, you think they’ll sell more tickets because Levine is an asshole? Agree to disagree.

          “I can’t imagine a scenario where the Yanks fail to sell a single ticket based on Levine’s comments.”

          That’s fine, I’m sure they won’t lose any sales over this issue. He still looks like an asshole though, and that’s not really a good thing in my opinion. I don’t think that the low probability of lost sales is justification for (1) being an asshole and (2) giving criticism a more public forum.

  • Pete c.

    Levine gives the MLS relevance by even responding to the comments by Garber. Then, by overreacting to the statement he makes himself look even more clueless to the teams image around the country, when nationally telecast games show the fans staying away in droves. Nothing will be done this year for if ticket prices are reduced, the present day season ticket holders will want a refund; so next year would have to be the giveback year. However as I’ve read on this site the team is planning on having an increase in ticket prices for next season already. Add to all this the story that fans from the upper decks won’t be allowed into the lower bowl during batting practice, along with obstructed views in the right field bleachers gives you the idea that not only does the team look tone deaf, they’re showing their fans the arrogance that was usually reserved for the competition.

  • GG

    Levine’s comments dont really bother me

    • DP

      Yeah I don’t have a problem with this either. Everything he said is accurate, and did someone ask this guy specifically about the Yankees? Like why did he decide to just hate on the Yankees? Of course, what he said is true, but I think if he just takes it upon himself to let his opinion be known about an organization he has no affiliation with, it’s fair game to let your opinion of his organization be known. Also much as it’s fun to pile on Randy, it’s not like he’s the sole person to blame for high ticket prices- he just takes all the shit for it. At some point, I’d probably lose it too. And, honestly, this MLS dude probably should be worrying about his own league; I can’t imagine Colorado Rapids shirts are gonna be flying off the shelves given the conditions.

      • Rich

        The issue isn’t the accuracy of his comments, it’s how do his comments further the Yankees’ interests.

        It’s readily apparent that they don’t.

  • Drew

    I kind of like what Levine said. While I feel it’s important to get exposure to the obvious seating problem, Garber doesn’t belong in the conversation.

    • Pete c.

      Excactly, just solve the problem and don’t make a big deal about it. Everyone steps on their dicks now and again, it’s just important to realize it asap and figure out how to fix it as quick as possible. The fornt office isn’t really getting it right now. Truth be told it was obvious they weren’t getting it when they decided to tear down the old one.

  • gxpanos

    The real question here is, “why didn’t Hank Stein fire back?” Levine is almost as useless as Felix Lopez or whatever his name is. Hank is the real hatchet man, and his responses are always hilarious! I hate that they seem to have given him the gag order. Remember last year when he said the Yanks had to play better or he’d make them, “by force if necessary?” Hank Stein threatened world-class athletes with physical violence (!); Levine’s got nothing on Hank.

    I don’t care about this public posturing, it’s only important if the fans and media MAKE it important. I think we should look at it ironically and bask in its ridiculousness. We shouldn’t be so serious about it; the FO obviously already takes it too seriously.

    In an unrelated note, Jet fans: I can’t seem to find a really good Jets blog I like. Which do you prefer/read regularly? Any more analytic, Football Outsider-type and less fanboy Jet blogs out there?

    • Drew

      Hank has been so quiet as of late. I think he’s in timeout.

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  • rsam

    Thank you Randy