The Rangers have had two pitching prospects — Omar Beltre and Alexi Ogando — on their roster for several years now, though they’ve been unavailable to join the club or its minor league affiliates because of a visa problem. The kind of visa problem that comes from taking part in a human trafficking ring. I hate it when that happens.
But their luck, and by extension the luck of the Rangers, has changed, as the State Department appears poised to lift their visa restrictions and allow them to come to play in the U.S. The long and the short of it is that Beltre and Ogando were pawns in a much larger fraud, and since their restrictions, each have worked to educate others about the dangers of human trafficking, which more or less earned them a second chance.
And based on the scouting reports, they should get a good shot at taking advantage of that second chance. Each has serious heat, and each have pitched well in winter ball. Assuming no problems in spring training, each should be starting at AA ball which, given how often teams use AAA to stash minor league veterans instead of prospects these days, is practically a step away from the big club.
Derek Jeter has not covered himself in glory since taking over the Miami Marlins. His reign atop the team’s baseball operations department has been characterized by the slashing of payroll in order to help his new ownership group make more money amid some pretty crushing debt service by virtue of what was, in effect, the leveraged buyout of the club. A club which is now 5-16 and seems destined for five months more and change of some pretty miserable baseball.
Jeter has nonetheless cast the moves the Marlins have made as good for fans in the long run. And, yes, I suppose it’s likely that things will be better in the long run, if for no other reason than they cannot be much worse. Still, such reasoning, while often accepted when a lesser light like, say, White Sox GM Rick Hahn employs it, isn’t accepted as easily when a guy who has been defined by his hand full of championship rings offers it. How can Derek Jeter, of all people, accept losing?
That’s the question HBO’s Bryant Gumbel asked of Jeter in an interview that aired over the weekend (see the video at the end of the post). How can he accept — and why should fans accept — a subpar baseball product which is not intended to win? Jeter’s response? To claim that the 2018 Marlins are totally expected to win and that Gumbel himself is “mentally weak” for not understanding it:
JETER: “We’re trying to win ball games every day.”
GUMBEL: “If you trade your best players in exchange for prospects it’s unlikely you’re going to win more games in the immediate future–”
JETER: “When you take the field, you have an opportunity to win each and every day. Each and every day. You never tell your team that they’re expected to lose. Never.”
GUMBEL: “Not in so–”
JETER: “Now, you can think — now– now, I can’t tell you how you think. Like, I see your mind. I see that’s how you think. I don’t think like that. That’s your mind working like that.”
. . .
DEREK JETER: “You don’t. We have two different mi– I can’t wait to get you on the golf course, man. We got– I mean, I can’t wait for this one.”
BRYANT GUMBEL: “No, I mean–”
DEREK JETER: “You’re mentally weak.”
I sort of get what Jeter was trying to do here. He was trying to take this out the realm of second guessing among people who know some stuff about sports and subtly make it an appeal to authority, implying that he was an athlete and that only he, unlike Gumbel, can understand that mindset and competitiveness of the athlete. That’s what the “get you on the golf course” jazz was about. Probably worth noting at this point that that tack has never worked for Michael Jordan as a basketball executive, even if his singular competitiveness made him the legend he was on the court. An executive makes decisions which can and should be second-guessed, and it seems Jeter cannot handle that.
That being said, Gumbel did sort of open the door for Jeter to do that. Suggesting that baseball players on the 2018 Marlins don’t expect to win is not the best angle for him here because, I am certain, if you ask those players, they would say much the same thing Jeter said. That’s what makes them athletes.
No, what Gumbel should have asked Jeter was “of COURSE you tell your players to win and of COURSE they try their hardest and think they can win every night. My question to you is this: did YOU try YOUR hardest to get the BEST players? And if not, why not?”
Question him like you’d question Rick Hahn. Not like you’d question Future Hall of Fame Shortstop, Derek Jeter.