The Yankees won’t be in the playoffs, and yet we’ve heard the same musings from #YankeesTwitter all year. Firing manager Aaron Boone or general manager Brian Cashman is the key to winning that 28th World Series ring.
Changes are definitely coming to East 161st Street and River Avenue, but it won’t be owner Hal Steinbrenner showing those two the door. But given the state of affairs … perhaps he considers letting another longtime executive go? Like Randy Levine, the longtime Yankees president and one of the last bastions of the George Steinbrenner Era.
A little background on Levine, who’s held his current job since 2000. He’s an attorney by trade, mostly in government work. He was a deputy associate attorney general for the Department of Justice in the 1980s before serving as New York City’s labor commissioner for two years. Levine also did economic development work for then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani before the Yankees hired him. Plus a few years of simple private practice.
So, what’s missing from Levine’s objectively impressive resume? Unlike most MLB team presidents, he doesn’t have extensive baseball experience. His only work in MLB prior to joining the Yankees was being MLB’s chief labor negotiator in 1996. And Levine was back in City Hall a year later.
All this to say, what does Levine actually do for the Yankees anymore? That isn’t to say he hasn’t done great, important work for the team. His political connections surely helped spearhead the new Yankee Stadium’s construction.He has also evolved the YES Network beyond a simple regional sports network. This has led to lucrative relationships with Serie A’s AC Milan and the Premier League’s Manchester City. Above all else, Levine is a decent businessman who knows how to continually build commercial partnerships.
Except that’s just it. Levine is a great businessman, but he’s never been a baseball man. He’s absolutely a baseball fan, but that doesn’t necessarily make a successful MLB executive.
Looking across MLB, excluding chaotic franchises like the Athletics and Angels, all team presidents, presidents of baseball operations and even general managers have one thing in common. They all have extensive experience working in baseball. Some are even former players, and those who aren’t usually played in college at a minimum.
Levine not only doesn’t have this background, but also courts controversy. He publicly feuded with setup man Dellin Betances in 2017 over, of all things, a salary arbitration dispute.
“It’s like me saying, ‘I’m not the president of the Yankees; I’m an astronaut,’” Levine infamously said. “No, I’m not an astronaut, and Dellin Betances is not a closer.”
Granted, Levine wound up being correct and I even agreed with him about it later on. Even so, a front office executive feuding with a player is never a good look. More recently, he made some pretty tone deaf remarks during last season’s lockout.
That all being said, where does this leave the Yankees at the end of the season? Something has to change, starting at the top, and Cashman isn’t going anywhere. He just signed a new contract last offseason.
In reality, it might be time for Steinbrenner to let his father’s longtime loyal lieutenant go. Levine has done great work for the Yankees for over 20 years, but it’s time to move on. George Steinbrenner has been gone for over a decade. Why have wisps of his influence remained behind? Levine gave the Yankees over two decades of great work. It wasn’t always easy, but he always showed up to work and gave his all. He never played, but he is very much a Yankee.
It’s just that the Yankees now need baseball men, not businessmen. Third-party audit or not, the key decision is right in front of Steinbrenner. Send Levine off with a hearty handshake and the gold watch, and then name Cashman president of baseball operations. In turn, Cashman can then hire his own general manager.
Will Levine still have his office at Yankee Stadium this time next year? Only time will tell.
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