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There was a really weird play in the White Sox-Blue Jays game

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The White Sox beat the Blue Jays last night thanks to a late Jose Abreu home run. Earlier, though, in the top of the fifth, a super weird play went down that, while not greatly affecting the outcome, was pretty much the play of the game. At least for conversation purposes.

With the score tied 1-1, Jays pitcher Aaron Sanchez loaded the bases with one out. Yoan Moncada of the White Sox hit a ball to the wall in left field. Curtis Granderson leapt to catch it. The ball bounced off his glove and flew into the air. Granderson landed on the ground on his back and the ball landed on his chest. He grabbed it before it hit the ground. Umpire Jordan Baker, running toward Granderson as the play developed, called it an out.

White Sox catcher Wellington Castillo had been on third base. He broke for home when he saw the ball bounce, but did not see Granderson ultimately catch it. Before he could cross home plate, he realized what happened and scurried back to third base to beat the relay throw trying to double him off. If the play had ended there, it’d be a big screwup by Castillo, who could have and should have waited for the play to fully develop, given that Granderson was so far away from the plate that even if Castillo had waited a second or two to tag up and run.

Except the play didn’t end there. Well, the active part of it did. The RE-play, however, then began. It dragged on a long time, but ultimately the replay officials determined that the ball had hit the wall before Granderson’s juggling act began, meaning that it was a live ball. Since the play had been stopped by umpire Baker, replay officials had to use their judgment to place the runners. They gave Moncada a hit and awarded Castillo home. All of which seems about right. Can’t really fault Baker either, because in real time that sure looked like a catch.

Anyway, if you can stomach seven minutes worth of replay delays, there’s the highlight. Everything that matters happens in the first minute or so though:

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.