If you happened to be in the neighborhood of the Yankee Stadium media room this Monday morning, you could have witnessed one of the rarest sights in nature: Yankees president Randy Levine announcing a policy that might actually benefit Yankees fans. The organization had finally put an end to their feud with StubHub, a scorched-earth war of attrition that made it damn near impossible for fans to purchase cheap tickets on the secondary market.
The Great StubHub War of '16 was a unique moment in recent Yankees history, not because the team committed to wringing every last dollar out of their fans—they do that all the time, given that they're a pro sports team—but because someone other than Levine led the charge as the most aggro and dismissive Yankees executive. COO Lonn Trost stole the show this time, implying that people who buy discounted tickets—you know, poors—might not know how to behave properly in the rarified air of the premium sections. This all led to a John Oliver segment and a horde of unwashed youths wearing silly costumes directly behind home plate during the team's 2016 opener. It's hard to imagine a more perfectly on-brand self-own.
It's not like Trost said anything that didn't reflect the Yankees' general view of fans, but in hindsight it's a reminder of why the team usually leaves it to Randy Levine to do this sort of work. On Monday, Levine came out swinging at every target. The Yankees had come to make peace with the StubHub-using plebeians, but Levine was not going to let the moment pass without lashing out at those who suggest the then-.500 Yankees might consider selling at the trade deadline:
"That's for you guys, obviously, [with] nothing more important to write about than than to write nonsense about that. When we decide to become sellers — if we decide to become sellers — or if we decide to become buyers, you'll know about it," he added. "But I guess the difference is that most of you guys have never run anything and we have a lot of history here of knowing what we're doing, a lot of confidence in our baseball operations people. So we'll see what happens. All the rest of it is just noise."
Keep in mind, at the time Levine got all You People on the assembled media, the team was 7.5 games back in the AL East and a 14.1-percent longshot to make the playoffs according to Fangraphs. Their most immediate trade chip is a soon-to-be free agent closer who recently finished a league-mandated suspension after he was accused of menacing his wife. You would not know it from Levine's condescending response, but it's a totally reasonable thing to think that such a player might be most valuable to a middle-of-the-pack team as a trade chip, especially given the Yankees' bullpen depth.
But that's how Randy Levine does what he does, and why he is the perfect Yankees executive. Grim, jut-jawed, and unsmiling, Levine looks like a curly-haired version of the bloated Senator/secret Hydra member Garry Shandling played in the Marvel films. In owner Hal Steinbrenner's own words, Levine is the "bad cop" of the organization, which is just about the creepiest comment the owner of a pro sports franchise can give. Hal and his brother Hank may have inherited the Steinbrenner name, but Randy Levine is The Boss' true spiritual heir, and he proves it every time he opens his mouth.
The Boss himself must have cried tears of joy when it came time to hire Levine in the winter of 2000. Here was a man after his own heart: deputy attorney general during the Reagan administration, negotiator for the owners during the mid-'90s, then deputy mayor under Rudolph Giuliani; most importantly, he was one of the attorneys who helped overturn Steinbrenner's lifetime suspension in 1992. Despite all the "we" bullshit he spouts when asked about trades, Levine's job is less about baseball and more about embracing George Steinbrenner's true legacy: Turning the Yankees into a perpetual money-making machine.
Levine spent most of his first few years in the background, save for the occasional public spat with Red Sox management and his impassioned criticism of anyone who questioned the necessity or wisdom of firing Joe Torre. The highlight of his career is clearly the building of the new Yankee Stadium, and he shows every sign of being exactly the type of person who would take deep pride and joy into tearing down the House That Ruth Built and building in its place a taxpayer-funded marble-clad sausage grinder designed to reprocess fans into revenue as efficiently as possible. His public sparring matches with New York State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky over the shady deals used to avoid financing the new Stadium are the stuff of asshole legend even in New York politics, which is itself basically one big sprawling asshole legend. Levine went big, publicly declaring that there were no subsidies involved, although of course there were. Then he went even bigger by declaring that the bonds used to subsidize the stadium, "don't cost the city or the state anything. It costs federal taxpayers all over the country."
By now you're probably thinking to yourself, "All that's missing is this dude comparing his negotiating to the Corleones in The Godfather." Oh, you better believe he did, while mocking a Community Board member who voted against his plan to build the stadium on park land.
As with most titans of sports executive dickishness, Levine has a critical weakness—the sycophantic need to cling to the star athletes in their circle. It's a tic that Levine pursues with a fervor even Robert Kardashian would admire. That desire spawned the finest piece of Levine schadenfreude: his email correspondence with Alex Rodriguez, which surfaced during A-Rod's suspension. The president of the New York Yankees comes off like a eight-year-old when communicating with the slugger:
"U are the man. I told u that for years. U can and will do it."
"u r the leader ... Keep confidence strong, get us home."
Of course, Levine would later spearhead the effort to recoup Rodriguez's salary after he admitted to using steroids, a fact made even more delicious when you read his lame-ass jokes to A-Rod about Robinson Cano: "he needs some steroids fast!"
Whether chastising reporters for reporting, exulting in the defeat of city politicians and the destruction of local parks, or dry-humping star players via email, Randy Levine has unwittingly and undeniably become the perfect public face of a Yankees organization currently mired in grumpy, expensive mediocrity. With his every utterance, he seals the deal more tightly. The only thing that would make him a more perfect emblem of these Yankees years would be strong public support for Donald Trump, which... oh, actually nevermind. We're all set, here.