Yankees: It’s The Process, Not The People Who Suck (Part One)

Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /

The Yankees are coming off a weekend that can only be described as horrible and demoralizing. The personalities involved in the Betances episode are who they are, and there’s no point in trying to “fix” them. But there is something that baseball can do, which is to fix what caused the problem in the first place – the arbitration process.

The Yankees are still in the process of mending fences in the wake of a weekend that began with yet another tirade from an angry old man, Rich Gossage, who seems to delight in coming to Spring Training every year with his same agenda. That episode washed itself out rather quickly when most people saw through the thin veneer of Goose Gossage’s annual attach on Mariano Rivera.

But what followed on Saturday cannot be washed away, and its effects will linger like a bad odor in the air when the wind isn’t blowing. The series of events surrounding Dellin Betances and his arbitration case have been well documented and should be known to everyone. But on the chance that you need a prep course, you can start here.

The Major Players

Dellin Betances:

By all accounts, Betances is a very shy young man tucked away in a massive frame. The advice he received from his agent (and we’ll get to him in a minute) was to “go for it” by asking/demanding (pick one) a raise from $504,700, the league minimum, to $5 million for the 2017 season. The Yankees said no, you’re only worth $3 million. They won, Betances lost.

Betances, who is 28 has been an All-Star in each of the past three seasons, and he led all major-league pitchers with 15.5 strikeouts per nine innings in 2016. He posted a 3.08 ERA and 1.12 WHIP with 126 strikeouts in 73 innings. He is slated to be the seventh and eighth inning set-up man for Yankees closer, Aroldis Chapman.

Jim Murray, Betances’ Agent

Jim Murray is associated with Excel Sports Management, a firm that represents Derek Jeter, and Jason Heyward. As with all other agents, his job is to get the best contract for the player he represents. His logic in advising Betances probably shakes out something like this. Closers are getting the big bucks. Witness the contracts given to Chapman (5-years $86 Million), Kenley Jansen (5-years $80 million), and Mark Melancon (4-years $62 Million).

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Apparently, Murray believes that a change in thinking is in order and set-up men need to be recognized as being as valuable as closers and therefore should receive similar money. Now, if you are going to make that argument, he couldn’t have picked a better client than Betances to make the point.

To bolster his thinking, you could easily make the argument that an effective pitcher is valuable no matter what inning(s) he pitches in. How else can you explain, for instance, Terry Francona using his closer, Andrew Miller, in the fifth inning of a World Series game he knew he had to have.

And while his timing may be off a bit, it’s hard to criticize the content of his stance. And after all, you have to start somewhere for change to come about. Where, for instance, would players be today if Curt Flood hadn’t gotten the ball rolling towards free agency a half-century ago?

Randy Levine, Yankees President

Randy Levine is usually not making headlines for the Yankees. But in this case, he apparently was clearly PO’d about the argument’s made by Betances’ side during the arbitration hearing. And Levine wasted no time in letting his feelings be known. And although his comments centered on Betances and all the reasons he sucked as a pitcher, it is now clear that the primary source of his anger was directed at Murray. Even though, at one point during the hearing, Levine referred to Betances as Dylan, instead of Dellin.

Why The Scene Played Out As It Did

To his credit, Dellin Betances appeared in person at the arbitration hearing on Friday. Clearly, it was something he dreaded, and previously he had asked the Yankees and was granted permission to not be in camp until the hearing was completed. As planned, he reported for work on Saturday morning just in time for the fireworks to begin.

Nevertheless, the real culprit, which is the arbitration process, cannot be permitted to escape from scrutiny. Because none of this would have happened if the archaic system wasn’t still in place

It seems likely that Murray and Levine either have a history of some kind or maybe they had words in the hall before the hearing. Who knows? But something was going on between the two of them. Quite accurately, Levine saw Murray’s strategy for what it was and took exception to it, claiming that Murray was trying to “change the marketplace.” From that standpoint, he was representing the Yankees well and should have left it at that.

Instead, his remarks came across as personal towards Betances and, he personally came across as a bully. The Player’s Association jumped into the fray, with their director, Tony Clark, spitting venom calling the attack “unprecedented and is unprofessional and should not have happened in the fashion that it did.” (Source: New York Times.)

To their credit, Yankees players remained noticeably quiet. But it’s hard not to believe that the younger ones especially were not thinking, “Geez, is this what I have to look forward to as a New York Yankee?”

The Real Culprit, Though, Is The Arbitration Process

With the exception of Betances, who came out of his shell to answer questions forthrightly, and, in fact, is still answering them today, both Levine and Murray behaved badly with their exchange of words. And both men deserve to be chastised for reflecting, not only on the Yankees but all of baseball, a negative sequence of events that no one needed, especially one that occurred in the opening days of a new season.

Next: Envisioning What The Yankees Will Look Like In 2020

Nevertheless, the real culprit, which is the arbitration process, cannot be permitted to escape from scrutiny. Because none of this would have happened if the archaic system wasn’t still in place. In Part Two, scheduled for Tuesday, we’ll take a look at the how and why the process came about, as well as ways that baseball can fix the problem, so situations like this one never occur again.