Randy Levine rips Betances after arbitration hearing, says he “doesn’t have the stats” to ask for $5M

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Earlier today it was announced the Yankees have beaten Dellin Betances in their arbitration case. The three-person panel sided with the team following yesterday’s hearing, which means Betances will earn $3M next year, not the $5M he was seeking. That $3M is a record salary for a first year arbitration-eligible setup man.

Because beating Betances in arbitration apparently wasn’t enough, team president Randy Levine jumped on a conference call Saturday and ripped Betances and his agent Jim Murray for what he considered an unrealistic salary request. A few of the highlights:





Murray told Joel Sherman that Levine didn’t even pronounce Betances’ name correctly during the arbitration hearing, calling him Dylan instead of Dellin. “The Yankees hid behind the system. It is really unfortunate,” said Murray to Sherman.

First things first: the Yankees were not wrong to take Betances to an arbitration hearing. They felt he was worth one number, he felt he was worth another, and arbitration is a collective bargained part of the process. It’s not the team’s fault the arbitration system is archaic and overvalues saves.

Arbitration is an unfortunate part of the game, but it is part of the game. There’s a reason the two sides usually try like hell to avoid it. What is not part of the game, however, is holding a conference call to trash one of your best and most beloved players. That’s total garbage. Betances never once has complained about his role and his heavy workload, and he does a ton of stuff with the team in the community. The guy has been a model employee.

Beating Betances in arbitration should have been enough. Once that happened, the Yankees should have moved forward and worked to repair their relation with Dellin. Instead, Levine went out of his way to kick dirt on Betances and minimize his accomplishments. I’m sure all the young players the team is trying to develop noticed that. The Yankees couldn’t just win and be happy with it.

Then again, I guess I shouldn’t have expected anything different from an organization in which the COO says poor people shouldn’t sit in expensive seats and the owner says we should all just forget about Aroldis Chapman’s history. What a joke.

Saturday Links: Betances, Tanaka, Proposed Rule Changes

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

This is the penultimate weekend without baseball games until November. Pretty great, isn’t it? The Yankees will play their first Grapefruit League game two weeks from yesterday. Thank goodness. Anyway, here’s some news and notes to check out this weekend.

Yankees, Betances set for arbitration hearing Friday

According to George King, the Yankees and Dellin Betances are scheduled to have their arbitration hearing this coming Friday, February 17th, in St. Petersburg. “Nothing has changed, we haven’t talked. We have no intention of talking. It’s not close. Somebody else will make the decision,” said Brian Cashman. Betances is seeking $5M while the Yankees countered with $3M, which, as far as I can tell, would still be a record salary for a first year arbitration-eligible setup man.

Since the arbitration hearing is Friday, chances are the three-person panel will announce their ruling Saturday morning. That’s usually how it goes. The hearing is one day and the ruling is announced the next. Maybe they’ll wait until Monday because it’s the next business day. Eh, whatever. Each side will state their case at the hearing and the panel will pick either the $5M or $3M for Dellin’s salary in 2017. Nothing in-between. My guess is the Yankees win. (There have been six arbitration hearings around the league so far and each side has won three, for what it’s worth.)

Tanaka not thinking about opt-out

Earlier this week, Masahiro Tanaka told Dan Martin he hasn’t put much thought into whether he will use his opt-out clause after the season. “Obviously, I’m aware of what my contract says, but it’s something I put aside going into the season,” he said. “You can’t really be thinking about that while you go through the season. I’m really focused on this season. When the time comes after the season, then I’ll probably have a chance to think about that more.”

Back in 2012, we heard CC Sabathia say pretty much the exact same thing when his opt-out was looming. It’s the best possible answer, right? “I’m only focused on trying to win, not my contract.” That’s what everyone wants to hear. These guys are human beings though. Of course Tanaka is aware a big season would mean a shot at a(nother) monster contract. We’ve been through this before with Sabathia. The opt-out is going to be a thing all year.

MLB considering new extra innings rules

According to Jeff Passan, MLB will test new and impossibly stupid extra innings rules in rookie ball this season, assuming Joe Torre, the league’s chief baseball officer, signs off. Under the new rule, a runner would be placed at second base at the start of every inning after the ninth. The goal is, obviously, to cut down on extra innings and eliminate games that last long into the night.

“Let’s see what it looks like,” said Torre. “It’s not fun to watch when you go through your whole pitching staff and wind up bringing a utility infielder in to pitch. As much as it’s nice to talk about being at an 18-inning game, it takes time. It’s baseball. I’m just trying to get back to that, where this is the game that people come to watch. It doesn’t mean you’re going to score. You’re just trying to play baseball.”

One, position players pitching is fun! Two, it doesn’t happen all that often anyway. And three, they have this rule in many amateur leagues and international tournaments. Every inning plays out the same: they start with a runner at second, the first batter bunts him to third, and the second batter is intentionally walked to set up the double play. Every single time. It’s terrible and horrible and I hope this rule change never ever ever comes to MLB.

Now, that said, I could understand implementing this in the minors as a way to avoid overusing pitchers. Maybe make them play 12 innings, allowing each team to go through the lineup one more time, then put a runner at second? This should never come to MLB though. Forget that. I like that commissioner Rob Manfred is open to new ideas. That’s great. This one though? Bad. No thanks.

MLB proposed changes to intentional walks, strike zone

In addition to the stupid extra innings rule, MLB has formally proposed changes to intentional walks and the strike zone, reports Jayson Stark. The ball is now in the MLBPA’s court. Neither side can implement a rule change unilaterally. Both MLB and the MLBPA have to sign off. For what it’s worth, Passan hears there’s no chance the players will approve any changes to the strike zone.

MLB proposed raising the bottom of the zone approximately two inches, which would undoubtedly increase offense. Jon Roegele’s research has shown the strike zone has increased downward in recent years. So not only are more low pitches being called strikes, but now hitters have to protect against them too, and pitches down below the knees are hard to hit with authority. Raising the zone would mean more hitter’s counts and more pitches in hittable locations.

The intentional walk rule change is simple: rather than making the pitcher throw four pitches, they issue a signal and the runner is sent to first automatically. I hate it. Intentional walks are a competitive play. Make the pitcher and catcher complete it. Pitchers are prone to losing the zone after intentional walks, plus we see a handful of wild pitches each year. Gary Sanchez did this last year:

There were 932 intentional walks in 2,428 games last season. It works out to one every 46.1 innings or so. I get MLB is looking to improve the pace of play, but this won’t help much. Intentional walks are too infrequent to make a meaningful change to the time of game. Want to improve pace of play? Cut down on mound visits. The catcher gets one per inning, per pitcher. That’s my proposed solution.

Fake Old Rumor: Expos offered Vlad Guerrero and Pedro Martinez for Derek Jeter

Vlad. (Getty)
Vlad. (Getty)

I’m not much of a baseball historian, but the older I get, the more I enjoy thinking back to the game when I was a kid. Don Mattingly and Dave Winfield, the late-1990s dynasty, that sort of stuff. It’s fun to remember those years. I’m a sucker for “what ifs” too. What if David Cone didn’t walk Doug Strange with the bases loaded? What if Jim Leyritz didn’t hit that homer? What if Tony Clark’s double was off the wall and not a ground-ruler?

So, needless to say, this super old and fascinating and weird rumor is right in my wheelhouse. From Nick Cafardo:

As the story goes: When Jeffrey Loria owned the Expos, he was obsessed with Derek Jeter. So he ordered his general manager, Jim Beattie, to try to make a deal with the Yankees and to give up whatever he had to. Beattie offered Yankees GM Brian Cashman Vladimir Guerrero and Pedro Martinez. Stunned, Cashman told Beattie, “I can’t trade Derek Jeter.”

How about that for a rumor? Imagine trading young Jeter for young Vlad and prime Pedro. Loria’s a native New Yorker and he has long admired the Yankees — why do you think he hired Mattingly this offseason? — so it makes total sense that he’d want Jeter. Who wouldn’t want Jeter back then? He was already a megastar.

That’s a great old rumor. Too bad it’s completely bogus. First and foremost, Loria did not buy into the Expos until 1999 — even then he didn’t have controlling interesting, that came a few months later — and by then Pedro was already with the Red Sox. He was traded to Boston in November 1997. Also, Cashman was promoted to GM in February 1998, two months after Pedro was traded to BoSox.

So no, this Jeter for Vlad/Pedro conversation didn’t actually happen. Sorry for being such a buzzkill. I don’t doubt Loria wanted Jeter, and hey, maybe Beattie did offer Vlad or Pedro for Jeter at some point. Pedro has said he was almost traded to New York. Time has a way of warping things — the older the story gets, the farther the home run travels, that sort of thing — and I’m sure this rumor had legs somewhere along the line. The Expos probably wanted Jeter. Everything else broke down during the game of telephone.

This is a very interesting what if though. Would Jeter for Vlad and Pedro have made sense for the Yankees? Let’s assume this happened during the 1997-98 offseason, when the Expos really got serious about trading Pedro. The Yankees would have traded four years of Jeter for five years of Vlad and one year of Pedro. If you simply add up the WARs — the lazy man’s trade analysis — it would have been 25.2 WAR (Jeter) for 32.9 WAR (Vlad) and 7.2 WAR (Pedro), so the Yankees would have come out way ahead.

It’s not quite that simple though. Who plays shortstop after Jeter? Andy Fox? Homer Bush? Shortstops like Jeter are harder to find than outfielders like Vlad, and don’t mean that as a knock on Vlad. He was awesome. Jeter was a much more valuable commodity as a player. So the Yankees would have no shortstop, and Guerrero would have to play left field because the Yankees had Bernie Williams in center and Paul O’Neill in right. They’d go into the season with a starting lineup that looks something like this:

  1. 2B Chuck Knoblauch
  2. DH Tim Raines
  3. RF Paul O’Neill
  4. CF Bernie Williams
  5. 1B Tino Martinez
  6. LF Vlad Guerrero
  7. C Jorge Posada
  8. 3B Scott Brosius
  9. SS ???

Would the Knoblauch trade have even happened if the Jeter trade went down? Would the Yankees trade their starting shortstop (Jeter) and top shortstop prospect (Cristian Guzman) in one offseason? Maybe! Knoblauch was a star and Vlad looked like a future star. The Yankees still had Bush as a stopgap and D’Angelo Jimenez in the system, after all.

The rotation aspect is pretty straight forward. Pedro, who won the NL Cy Young in 1997, would have joined holdovers Andy Pettitte, David Cone, and David Wells in the 1998 rotation. Ramiro Mendoza was the fifth starter to start that season, and eventually Hideki Irabu and Orlando Hernandez joined the starting five. One of those two would be out of the picture. Probably Irabu since Bush would have had to play short (and therefore not been involved in the Irabu trade with the Padres), but maybe El Duque instead.

This is a pretty wonderful what if scenario. It’s impossible to complain about in hindsight. The 1998 Yankees were one of the ten best teams in baseball history and the Yankees won three straight World Series after this hypothetical trade would have gone down. That Jeter guy stuck around for a while too. Things worked out pretty okay.

(Update: Cashman told Bryan Hoch the rumor was bogus. He did say he tried for both Vlad and Pedro over the years, and the Expos did ask about Jeter at one point.)

The Latest on the Yankees vs. StubHub

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Two weeks ago the Yankees announced they will eliminate the print-at-home ticket option this season. Hard-stock tickets and mobile barcodes will be the only way into Yankee Stadium. The team says the goal is eliminating ticket fraud. I’m sure the potential for increased ticket revenue is only a secondary concern. (To be fair, the Yankees are not the only pro sports team eliminating the print-at-home option.) Anyway, here’s an update on the team’s war with StubHub.

Yankees meet with StubHub, accomplish nothing

Last week team president Randy Levine and StubHub president Scott Cutler met to discuss … something. I’m not sure what, exactly. Here are the statements Levine and Cutler released afterwards:

Levine: “I met today with Scott Cutler, President of StubHub, and we had a good and productive meeting. It lasted about an hour and we agreed to continue talking. There is nothing to announce at this current moment, but we will update everyone when we have news.”

Cutler: “StubHub appreciates the Yankees willingness to meet and have an open dialog with regards to their ticketing policies. We were encouraged by the tenor of the conversation and look forward to continuing these discussions in the days ahead. StubHub is committed to putting fans first and passionately advocating for them with both our partners and the industry at large.”

If nothing else, this at least gives off the impression the Yankees are making an effort to work with StubHub. They’ve been so anti-StubHub over the years though — remember, they once sued StubHub because their ticket kiosk was too close to Yankee Stadium — that it’s hard for me to believe any sort of meaningful change will come out of this.

Yankees may let StubHub transfer mobile barcodes

According to Billy Witz, Levine said the Yankees may be willing to allow StubHub and other ticket providers to unlock mobile tickets. “The bottom line is, we would work with ticket providers as long as we know they’re legitimate, doing it in the spirit of helping our ticket buyers. But the ones I’ve talked to, including StubHub and SeatGeek, they don’t want to do that because they don’t want to spend the time and money,” said Levine.

This sounds great — as long as you have a smart phone — except this is the first StubHub has heard about it. “That is definitely news to us and definitely something we’d be interested in,” said StubHub spokesman Glenn Lehrman to Witz. “You’d be opening up a playing field and being given the opportunity to buy and sell tickets in an open marketplace, which is what we’re asking. All we would like is an opportunity to compete.”

Transferring mobile barcodes through StubHub (or another ticket company) would likely require the use of a third company like Flash Seats, writes Witz. Buyers would have to register with Flash Seats to receive mobile barcodes, allowing the team to track who is sitting in each seat. It would be a way for the Yankees to track the market and possibly charge additional fees.

StubHub considering courier service for tickets

In an effort to get hard-stock tickets to fans, StubHub is considering a courier service that would deliver tickets from the buyer to the seller, reports Jared Diamond. This could all happen within hours of first pitch. Nothing is final yet; StubHub is still exploring the possibility. I assume the courier service would come with some sort of fee, though it’s possible the tickets plus courier fee would still be a better deal than buying tickets at face value from the Yankees themselves, especially as prices drop big time before first pitch.

Based on Trost’s comments, the Yankees continue to be tone-deaf to their fan base

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Earlier this week we learned the Yankees are discontinuing the print-at-home ticket option, which is a pretty big inconvenience. You can now get ticket barcodes on your phone, which is great, but the days of grabbing some last minute tickets on StubHub and printing them out are a thing of the past. Hard-stock tickets or mobile barcodes only. That’s how you get into Yankee Stadium now.

The Yankees claim the decision to discontinue print-at-home tickets is based on eliminating ticket fraud, and while I’m sure that’s a factor, this is about money. It’s obvious. The Yankees have long been opposed to StubHub and this move undercuts the secondary market. It helps establish a minimum price on all tickets by giving fans a reason to purchase them either directly from the Yankees or on Yankees Ticket Exchange, and that reason is convenience.

For whatever reason the Yankees don’t want to come out and admit this is a business decision designed to make money. Yesterday morning, Yankees COO Lonn Trost appeared on a talk radio show to discuss the team’s decision to dump print-at-home tickets, and, well, it wasn’t pretty. Here’s the video. Here’s a transcript:

“The problem below market at a certain point is that if you buy a ticket in a very premium location and pay a substantial amount of money. It’s not that we don’t want that fan to sell it, but that fan is sitting there having paid a substantial amount of money for a ticket and (another) fan picks it up for a buck-and-a-half and sits there, and it’s frustrating to the purchaser of the full amount … And quite frankly, the fan may be someone who has never sat in a premium location. So that’s a frustration to our existing fan base.”

The Yankees don’t want their rich fans to sit next to poor fans, basically. I hope that’s not what Trost intended to say — I do plenty of radio hits these days and believe me, I know how easy it is for things to come out incorrectly when answering questions live — but that’s how it came out. This is not the first time Trost has said something like this, so it’s tough to give him the benefit of the doubt here.

That is really, really bad. It makes Trost — and by extension, the Yankees — look completely tone-deaf and elitist. They don’t want fans in premium seats getting upset because the people sitting next to them may have found a better deal somewhere else even though it happens in every venue all around the world. Those premium seats have rarely been full since the new Yankee Stadium opened …

Good seats behind the dugout still available. (Presswire)
(Presswire)

… and the Yankees have spent more time blaming (and suing) StubHub than offering practical solutions. The ticket price is set and the Yankees seem totally unwilling to adjust even if the demand is not there. Now the COO insinuates the team doesn’t want a certain kind of fan sitting in those premium seats. That’s a real thing that really happened.

This is a problem. The Yankees come off as snobby and favoring the elites in premium seats. Trost didn’t just double down on the club’s decision to eliminate print-at-home tickets, he made it personal. Despite the glamour of baseball blogging, I am not independently wealthy, and if I happen to find a good deal on a premium ticket, I’m going to jump on it. No one has a right to tell me I don’t belong in that seat just because the guy sitting next to me paid full price. Tough. That’s life.

The numbers do not lie: attendance at Yankee Stadium is dropping and YES Network ratings are taking a hit. The Yankees’ biggest offseason acquisition was a guy being investigated for domestic violence, and regardless of how you personally feel about that, a lot of people don’t like it. The team has been marginally competitive the last few years and ownership continues to talk about the desire to cut payroll. These things are all generating negative PR. Now getting good deals on tickets will be more difficult for the average fan.

Look, I don’t begrudge the Yankees for making a business decision. I imagine it’s only a matter of time until other teams eliminate the print-at-home ticket option. But man, can they do this without being insulting or snobby? There’s a line and Trost crossed it. The Yankees seem to be out of touch with the majority of their fan base, and given the way things have been going the last few years, they need all the goodwill they can get.

Saturday Links: A-Rod, YES, NYCFC, Nicaragua, Mustaches

Bern baby Bern. (Presswire)
Bern baby Bern. (Presswire)

The Yankees and Mets resume the Subway Series later this afternoon at Yankee Stadium. It’s a 4pm ET start. Blah. Until then, here are some stray links I had lying around to hold you over.

How the Yankees will fight A-Rod‘s home run bonuses

Back in Spring Training we heard the Yankees were “confident” they could get out of paying Alex Rodriguez his home run milestone bonuses. Now that the season is underway and A-Rod is mashing taters, the breaking point is rapidly approaching. He is two shy of tying Willie Mays on the all-time home run list with 660 dingers, so it could happen any game now and trigger the first $6M bonus.

Ken Davidoff and Joel Sherman have the breakdown of exactly how the Yankees plan to get out of the bonuses, which are part of a separate marketing contract, not Rodriguez’s player contract. Here’s the nuts and bolts of their report:

According to two sources familiar with the situation, when Rodriguez goes deep with number 660, the Yankees will have a precise period of time — two weeks, as per one of the sources — to declare this as a marketable milestone. If they were to do this, then Rodriguez would sign over the rights to his image and associated branding for the price of $6 million.

Once the Yankees formalize this decision, then A-Rod has a set period of time — 30 days, according to one source — to file a grievance. Though Rodriguez has shied away from publicly discussing this, every indication is that he will challenge the Yankees’ interpretation of the side deal.

The Yankees will have to prove they utilized good faith in declining to declare A-Rod’s 660th homer a milestone. They’ve gone so far as to not include A-Rod in the “Upcoming Milestones” section of their daily press notes.

I dunno, seems like a lot of work to save $6M. They really can’t slap together some generic AROD660 shirts, call them official, and at least break even? Besides, you know they were hoping he didn’t hit the two homers in Detroit just so they could get the attendance boost on the homestand.

YES Network ratings down 21% so far in 2015

According to Richard Sandomir, YES Network ratings have dropped a staggering 21% so far this season, down to 267,000 viewers per game. Woof. The report is from Thursday, so it doesn’t include the last few games of this little hit streak. YES averaged over 400,000 viewers per game when it first launched and 355,000 as recently as 2012. Viewership fell to 244,000 per game in 2013 and rebounded to 288,000 per game last year thanks to Derek Jeter‘s retirement. There are still 145 games left to play, so there’s plenty of time for ratings to increase, but still. That’s a big drop. I imagine it would have been even worse if a whole bunch of people weren’t tuning in to hate-watch A-Rod.

No stadium deal for NYCFC on the horizon

New York City Football Club, the expansion MLS franchise that is doing the pro sports team version of crashing on the couch at Yankee Stadium this year, is not any closer to securing their own stadium. “We’re recognizing it’s probably going to take longer than we thought,” said MLS commissioner Don Garber to the Associated Press yesterday.

”There hasn’t been too much buzz about playing in Yankee Stadium or a baseball stadium yet,” said Garber, referring to problems with the field. ”That will happen soon, after somebody trips on a divot perhaps and perhaps misses a ground ball, but we hope that doesn’t happen.” Uh, yeah. Me too.

When we first learned NYCFC would call Yankee Stadium home, it was reported they would play their home games in the Bronx for three years (!). They still need to find a stadium location, build the place, and move in. So yeah, NYCFC isn’t going anywhere for a while. They’re 1-4-3 on the season and 1-2-1 at Yankee Stadium, in case you’re wondering. They’re playing like an expansion team.

MLB announces new amateur prospect league in Nicaragua

Earlier this month MLB announced a new amateur prospect league will be launched in Nicaragua this summer to provide scouts with “neutral in-game scouting opportunities of unsigned prospects.” This is baseball’s second amateur prospect league — they launched one in the Dominican Republic back in 2012. The league will run until July 4th, and there will be another “season” starting in September.

The press release says 46 players from Nicaragua have signed with MLB teams since 2010 and right now there are 31 Nicaraguan players under contract in MLB or the minors. Everth Cabrera and Erasmo Ramirez are the only players from Nicaragua in the big leagues at the moment. By far the best player to ever come out of the country is Dennis Martinez. (Vicente Padilla and Marvin Bernard are distant runners-up.) I’m glad MLB is branching out and giving young kids a chance to show their stuff. Hopefully they open more prospect leagues in other Latin American countries soon.

The Yankees are growing mustaches, for some reason

And finally, you may have noticed during last night’s game that several Yankees are growing — or attempting to grow, anyway — mustaches. Apparently it is part of some kind of team unity thing. Marly Rivera says Mark Teixeira, Chase Headley, Esmil Rogers, Dellin Betances, Garrett Jones, and Stephen Drew are among those growing mustaches, and during the game last night it looked like Jacoby Ellsbury is trying to get in on the act as well. This is either going to be very good or very bad. Maybe a little of both.

Brian Cashman on next Yankees captain: “Captaincy should be retired with No. 2”

(AP)
(AP)

With Derek Jeter now retired, the Yankees are without a captain for the first time since 2003. And since Robinson Cano bolted for the Mariners last year, there is no obvious captain candidate on the roster either. That’s alright. The Yankees have gone years between captains before and they’ll do it again.

If it was up to Brian Cashman though, there would be no next captain. During a radio interview on Thursday he said he believes the team’s captaincy should be retired alongside Jeter. From Bill Price:

“As far as I’m concerned, and I’m not to decision maker on this, that captaincy should be retired with No. 2,” Cashman said. “I wouldn’t give up another captain’s title to anyone else.”

“Leadership comes in a lot of forms, it would be a hard one to anoint someone captain,” Cashman continued, “regardless of how great they might be.”

That … seems a little excessive. But, then again, the majority of the Jeter lovefest has been over the top, so this fits right in. Jeter was undeniably a tremendous player and leader, but at some point another tremendous player and leader will come along, and he will be deserving of the captaincy. I man, geez. Retire the concept of Yankees’ captaincy?

Anyway, captaincy isn’t up to Cashman, that’s an ownership call. The Yankees went seven and a half years without a captain between Don Mattingly and Jeter — not to mention 37 years between Lou Gehrig and Thurman Munson — and it looks like it’ll be several years before another captain emerges. I’m cool with that. Captains should be all-time greats, like Jeter. The captaincy shouldn’t cease to exist because of him though. Sheesh.