Rangers 5, Rays 1: so how screwed are the Rays?

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Given how bad the Rangers had been against AL playoff teams on the road and given that ace David Price was going for the Rays today, Tampa Bay probably felt pretty confident coming into today’s game. Of course, that’s why they play the games.

Jeff Francoeur hitting an RBI double and Bengie Molina going 3 for 4 with a homer and a couple of RBI himself wasn’t exactly something you’d bet the mortgage on. But Cliff Lee showing up strong was, and all three of those things happened. It was interesting in the ninth as Neftali Feliz walked the first two batters, but a good defensive play from Jeff Francoeur — he’s so dreamy; I love him so — and calmer nerves on the part of Feliz closed things out to preserve the game.

So: how screwed are the Rays?

Pretty screwed, I’d say! As our friend Joe Posnanski noted today, teams that win the first game of five-game series are 70-26 over the years. That’s pretty good. And that’s before you realize just how big a falloff the Rays rotation has from Price to James “Shomer Shabbos” Shields and Matt “I ain’t been all that since my no-hitter” Garza. Sure, the Rangers have a big falloff from Cliff Lee to the rest of their rotation as well, but at this moment of the season I have more faith in C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis and Tommy Hunter.

But hey, if we didn’t predict Frenchie and Molina’s star turns today, we can’t predict gloom and doom for the Rays either. It’s one game. There are as many as four more remaining. They have a shot.

Just a lot less of a shot than the Rangers do, statistically speaking.

Derek Jeter calls Bryant Gumbel “mentally weak”

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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.