Jeff Kent on “Survivor” recap: “I’m a motorcycle dealer”

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I watched Jeff Kent on “Survivor” last night so you didn’t have to …

• Kent explains to the camera that last week he went back and forth on whether to direct his alliance to vote out Jonathan, ultimately deciding against it. Moments later Jonathan tells the camera: “I think Jeff and I have built a trust with each other.”

• The two remaining tribes merge, creating one 11-person tribe. Kent makes it clear that he wants to get rid of Jonathan and Michael, both of whom are returning contestants from previous “Survivor” seasons, saying: “I believe a veteran player should not win this game.”

• Upon meeting his new tribemates Kent is pleased that none of them seem to know his identity and when they all go around in a circle introducing themselves he leaves out the part about earning $90 million as a professional baseball player, instead lying: “I live in Texas. I have a ranch. I’m a motorcycle dealer. I’m a salesman.”

• Kent gets into a conversation with two new tribemates and tells them he doesn’t like Jonathan, doesn’t want Jonathan to win, and wants to “get him out of here.” They begin to scheme ways to get rid of Jonathan as Kent tells the camera: “I’ll join any gang as long as I can get Jonathan out before I get out.” This is about the time I begin sympathizing with Barry Bonds.

• This week’s immunity challenge involves every contestant trying to keep their grip on a rope that’s holding up a bucket containing 20 percent of their body weight in sand. Kent is one of the final three and seemingly taunts the other two guys. He says “attaboy Artis!” as Artis’ grip is slipping away. And then with Carter as his only competition Kent tells him “c’mon young buck!”

• Minutes later Kent appears to be struggling and tries to cut some sort of a deal with Carter, saying: “If I drop you owe me one, if you drop I owe you one, OK?” Carter doesn’t really respond and then says he wants to win, at which point Kent loses his grip and is eliminated in second place.

• Kent talks to Michael–who he previously talked about wanting to get rid of–about voting out Jonathan, saying: “I can’t let Jonathan beat me in this game.”

• Kent talks to Carter about what to do, but they’re interrupted when Jonathan strolls over and pleads his case to them by bringing up his “loyalty.” Kent and Carter can barely make eye contact with him.

• It becomes pretty obvious that Kent controls the whole situation and can essentially choose who he wants to vote out. He then makes what is now a weekly forced baseball reference: “If you treat baseball with disrespect you’re gonna get bit in the ass and I know if you treat this game with disrespect you’re gonna get bit in the ass too. With all humbleness, a decision on who goes home tonight is gonna go based on which way I go tonight.”

• Kent’s growing alliance group decides to vote for both Jonathan and R.C., figuring Jonathan will either have to use up his immunity idol in order to remain in the game or will get voted out if he opts not to use it. Jonathan is smart enough to play the immunity idol, saving himself from what would have been elimination, and R.C. is voted out instead.

• In the preview for next week’s episode Jonathan is basically shown going rogue now that he knows Kent and everyone else were screwing with him.

Derek Jeter: no longer the media’s darling

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There was a time, not too long ago, where the baseball press practically gave Derek Jeter awards for providing them no information whatsoever. As a player, he turned not answering questions into an art form. To the point where, eventually, the press just stopped asking him substantive questions almost entirely.

Unlike a lot of players who shut out the media, Jeter did it rather politely, so he did not get that passive aggressive treatment — or, occasionally, the aggressive-aggressive treatment — the press often gives uncommunicative players. To the contrary. He was positively lauded for his lack of communication. Lionized, even.

Take this column from Jeff Peralman at CNN.com from 2014, under the headline “Derek Jeter: Baseball’s Humble Hero”:

Throughout the first 18 seasons of his career, Jeter has often been labeled “dull” by the media. His answers to questions are unimaginative and full of cliché baseball nothingness blather. In hindsight, however, such lameness is almost to be admired. We live in an era where too many athletes feel as if they need to draw attention to themselves — for confidence, for commercials. If you’re not tweeting trash talk, you’re texting trash talk. Or making bold promises. Or demanding money or respect . . . he’s a guy who merely wanted to be a guy.

How about this from the New York Times around the time of his retirement:

Jeter’s ability to maintain a posture of sustained inscrutability — or, if you must, dignified comportment — has extended especially to the spoken word . . . he has played his best defense in front of his locker: catching every controversial question thrown to him and tossing it aside as if it were a scuffed ball unsuitable for play.

In a major league career that dates to the Clinton administration’s first term — he is the only Yankees shortstop a generation of fans has known — inquiring reporters have gathered around Jeter in the clubhouse thousands of times. He has maintained eye contact, answered nearly every question posed to him — and said nothing. This is not a complaint, but rather an expression of awe; of admiration, even. His batting average and fielding percentage aside, this kid from Kalamazoo, Mich., entered the New York meat grinder two decades ago and came out the other end looking as sharp as Joe DiMaggio’s suit.

This opinion of Jeter was pervasive throughout his career, but especially pronounced at its end of it. Jeter was deified by the press for saying nothing to the press. Praised for making the media’s job harder by the media itself. That’s pretty amazing when you think about it.

Times, however, have changed.

Some minor grumbling about Jeter’s non-answers to media questions began soon after he took over as Marlins co-owner. Ken Davidoff of the New York Post wrote a column about it all back in October, saying Jeter’s “Crash Davis Rules of Media Relations don’t apply anymore.” Not too many people echoed that at the time, probably because it came in the wake of a pretty boring introductory press conference and the stakes were pretty low. I did wonder at the time, though, if the media was waiting to turn on Jeter once he actually started making moves in his new role.

I think we can now say the answer to that is yes.

In the wake of the Giancarlo Stanton trade, a lot of baseball writers had a lot of questions for Derek Jeter. Jeter, however, decided that he didn’t even need to show up here at the Winter Meetings to answer them, despite the fact that he lives just a couple of hours away.

On Monday morning Buster Olney of ESPN made conspicuous note of it:

Later in the day Jeter deigned to talk to the media via a conference call. As usual, he said mostly nothing, but unlike 1997, 2007 or 2014 (a) he got testy about it; and (b) the press made a note of it:

They likewise noted when he passed the buck to someone below him on the org chart:

Last night I think a dam broke, and I don’t think Jeter will ever be able to sweet non-talk his way out criticism again. It all happened at a football game:

To sum up:

  • Jeter is now bad for not talking to the press;
  • Jeter is not lauded for his composure anymore; and
  • Jeter is being called out as a poor leader who does not face the music.

What a difference a few years and a change of role makes.

All of which, one would think, would make me at least a little happy. I mean, I’ll totally own up to rolling my eyes at the kid glove treatment Jeter got back when he played. About how his attributes, however great, were elevated even above their actual greatness and how his faults were, perversely, spun into attributes. You’d expect that, in light of that, I’d be sorta pleased that the tables have turned.

I’m not happy, though. Indeed, I have something approaching sympathy for Captian Jeets.

Why? Because, while I’d like to see him face the press, defend his moves as owner and explain his vision to Marlins fans everywhere, I know that he cannot. I know that he has no good answers to any of the questions he might be asked because the real answer to all of them is “hey, we need to make money for the ownership group and everything flows from that” and that’s not an answer he’s prepared to give.

Have some sympathy for Derek Jeter. He’s really in a tough, tough spot. Even if he put himself into it.