David Lennon David Lennon has been a staff writer for

David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.

He was named one of the top 10 columnists in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors in 2014 and also took first place in that category for New York State that same year.

Lennon began covering baseball for Newsday as the Yankees' beat writer in 1995, the season the Bombers snapped a 14-year playoff drought by becoming the American League's first wild-card team. Two World Series rings later, Lennon left the Yankees' beat after the 1998 season, bounced between the Bronx and Shea for the next three years, then took over on the Mets for the demise of Bobby Valentine in 2002. He became Newsday's national baseball writer in 2012.

Lennon also is a Hall of Fame voter, a former Chairman of the New York Chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America and co-author of "The Great New York Sports Debate."
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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.

Arbitration cases by nature are contentious affairs. They do not have to be World War III, though. And the scorched-earth policy employed by Yankees president Randy Levine in the wake of the team’s victory over Dellin Betances was a shockingly vicious attack that also was completely unnecessary.

That’s the senseless part for everyone involved. It would have been so easy to avoid. But Levine chose Saturday to launch a verbal assault — after a $2-million win! — that could very well threaten Betances’ longer-term future with the Yankees. And for what?

In arbitration cases, cooler heads usually prevail and both sides walk away, understanding that shots fired in the hearing room should not resonate beyond those walls.

With Betances, that should have been doubly true. While his camp definitely pushed the envelope by requesting $5 million, the Yankees still offered $3 million, easily a record sum for a setup man in his first year of arbitration. Anyone who has watched the homegrown Yankee during the past few seasons knows he’s not merely an eighth-inning pitcher, especially given that he shared a bullpen with Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman, two of the top closers in the sport.

So when Levine held a conference call with reporters Saturday, it would have been a good time to be a gracious winner, given Betances’ value to this year’s team, a rebuilding squad with precious few established stars. Maybe talk about how much everyone is looking forward to a great season and how the Yankees hope Betances will be a big part of that.

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Instead, Levine chose to pour gasoline on the smoldering ashes, and the flames from the arbitration hearing blazed anew — out in the open this time. Levine felt that Betances’ representatives were unjustly trying to get closer money for their client, and he apparently couldn’t simply let that thought slide.

“That’s like me saying, ‘I’m not the president of the Yankees, I’m an astronaut,’ ’’ Levine said during Saturday’s conference call. “Well, I’m not an astronaut and Dellin Betances is not a closer. At least based on statistics, not whether he could be or couldn’t, but he isn’t.”

None of that is a false statement, but why say it at all? Betances is among the game’s most intimidating relief pitchers, and his 15.53 K/9 ratio in 2016 was tops in baseball for bullpen arms. Levine also emphasized that Betances doesn’t pitch the ninth inning nor have the number of saves required to earn a closer’s salary, but in this era, those are arbitrary circumstances.

As Miller plainly showed last October, the most valuable type of reliever these days is one who has the flexibility to pitch in any situation, at any time. As for the save itself — a statistic invented by a sportswriter — that’s been under assault by the analytical crowd for years now and serves little function other than as a negotiating tool.

Betances clearly didn’t appreciate Levine’s minimizing his role with the Yankees and wasn’t afraid to say so at Steinbrenner Field after hearing the president’s comments.

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“Is it selfish of me just to say now, ‘Hey, guys, I just want to come in for the eighth inning, with no runners on all the time?’ ” Betances said. “That’s not the player I am. I try to go out there and battle for my teammates and try to do the best I can. But now that you go in that room and you see some of the stuff, do you put yourself at risk at all times?”

That was Betances’ frustration speaking. It’s impossible for a player to maintain that sort of mindset once a season begins, not around his teammates, and not in such a competitive environment. But he certainly can store these hurt feelings away in the back of his mind, to unpack when he hits free agency in two more years. That was something he also suggested.

“You look at things differently now,” Betances said. “You learn a lot of stuff going through this. I think it will be a little easier when that time comes.”

We’ll see how much all this calms down. The Yankees have a season to play and Betances has a job to do. But this whole mess was so pointless, and for a rebuilding franchise aggressively trying to cultivate some positive vibes, it was the worst kind of attention.

After Hal Steinbrenner has spent so much time publicizing the next generation of Yankees, Levine disparaged one raised in Brooklyn during a personal victory lap, of all things.

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“No matter how much I’m making, it’s really not about the amount,” Betances said. “It’s just I wanted to be treated fair.”

Maybe Betances didn’t have a right to that $5 million. But he did deserve better.