New York Magazine has a collection of emails between Alex Rodriguez and Yankees president Randy Levine, which at first seemed to be an unfunny parody, but are apparently real, and therefore hilarious. You can and should read those in their entirety here.
First off, let’s acknowledge that having your personal email exposed to the public is always going to be some degree of embarrassing; anything not intended for public consumption is going to appear vulnerable when put under a spotlight. That said, let’s go on to also acknowledge that these emails are still really weird.
Most people know Randy Levine as a humorless businessman who aggressively defends the Yankee talking points of the day and once compared his Golden Retriever to Derek Jeter (“very calm”). But it turns out that Levine does have a sense of humor, albeit an awkward one that he probably regrets at the moment.
So what we can learn from this intrusion into the private emails behind 2013’s most mesmerizing sports feud? There is (as usual) a German word that applies here: Fremdschämen, which basically means joint or vicarious embarrassment. Let’s feel some.
First, despite all his jaunty “r’s” and “u’s,” Levine can get a bit passive aggressive:
May 11, 2011
Levine: Hey, tough game, I’m worried about your health, u sure u r ok? You look to me like you’re a little off. If just a slump, you will come out, but if more, let me know.
Normally someone who looks this bad would be hurt! Hope you’re not hurt! (And shouldn’t that be “ur health”?) More to the point: the Yankees have a trainer, coaches and a manager for this, no? Later, there’s this:
December 7, 2012
Levine: Pictures of party at your house circulating all around tonight … Guys in rehab don’t do this. This is not the sedate, small party you […] said. You need to focus on getting better. …
Levine: Just looking out for you.
That’s some skillful concern-trolling there, which Rodriguez brushes off, albeit very politely. I guess these two will not be filming an amusing credit card ad about this later.
On the other hand, Levine really does seem to believe all the Yankee Exceptionalism that he and the team are always spouting:
Levine: When u succeed it will be Yankees lore. There is nothing more powerful than that.
Nothing. Not steel, not adamantium, not cold fusion. Pride, Pinstripes, Jayson Nix.
Oh, and about that sense of humor — from 2012, when Rodriguez was out with an injury:
Levine: How r u feeing [sic] since u left Robby [Cano] under 200, he needs some steroids fast!
Ha… ha? I imagine most of us have made inappropriate jokes in private emails, but what makes this one so cringeworthy is that it’s being made to Alex Rodriguez. Steroids! Like the ones you used to take! Get it? Boy, was that a disaster or what?
For the most part, Rodriguez’s emails are faultlessly professional. Unlike some people we could mention, he spells out “you” and “are.” He is unflaggingly polite and eager to please.
May 2011: Rodriguez: Yessir!! Our team needs me to hit and lead us.
May 2012: Rodriguez: You are 100% correct. This is no time for blame or excuses. Is time for me to be a leader and rally the troops… Is not how you start, but how you finish. Let’s get it going tonight. Thanks for the support and stay in touch.
That is some Jeter-level cliché-fu.
Interestingly, as the relationship between Rodriguez and the team devolves, starting early in the 2013 offseason with the Biogenesis revelations and getting worse throughout the summer, Rodriguez’s emails get less formal, more emotional and demonstrative — while Levine, who clearly at some point had the sinking realization that these could be subpoenaed or leaked, goes into full corporate lawyer-speak.
From August of 2013:
Rodriguez: Can u please stop!! I want to play baseball and I could make a big difference to the game. Steinbrenner would roll in his grave IF he knew what was happening! Stop, Randy, this isn’t going to be good for any of us!! You are a businessman and what you are doing is ruining the business of baseball. If u want to meet in person to discuss it, let’s do it!
Levine: I received your email, the contents of which are a complete shock to me. As I have repeatedly told you, this is an MLB investigation. We had no role in initiating the investigation or assisting in the direction of the investigation. Despite your continued false accusations (which you know are false) we have acted consistently. My focus and direction, as well as that of the entire Yankees organization, has been, and continues to be, to treat you in the same manner as we do all of our players, to have you healthy and ready to play as soon as possible.
More than anything else, the emails are fascinating look at the unraveling of a work relationship. Larger issues aside — though there are plenty here — note Rodriguez’s classic use of the “If George were still alive!” trope in his above email. If he doesn’t get to play for the Yankees again, Rodriguez has a promising if far less lucrative career ahead of him as a New York sports columnist.
If he does play for the Yankees again, it seems safe to assume that future correspondence will move to off-the-record gChats, if not Snapchat.