The Marlins got a lucky break during the fifth inning of Friday’s 7-2 win over the Pirates. Not twenty minutes after Pirates catcher Elias Diaz hammered a two-run shot to take the lead, he gave the advantage right back to the Marlins — and then some. Chad Wallach (replaced by Dillon Peters on a force play), Derek Dietrich and Miguel Rojas singled to load the bases against Chad Kuhl in the bottom of the fifth, and Starlin Castro lofted a a sac fly into shallow right field to tie the game.
At least, that’s what should have happened. Instead, Gregory Polanco fired the ball to Diaz, who caught it up the first base line and was unable to tag Dillon Peters at the plate. Diaz then misfired on a throw to second base, where the ball sailed past Josh Harrison‘s outstretched glove and rolled out toward the warning track in center field… giving Dietrich and Rojas plenty of time to circle the bases for a two-run lead.
It was a mistake the Pirates never quite recovered from. Tayron Guerrero, Kyle Barraclough and Junichi Tazawa combined for three scoreless innings in relief, while Wallach’s sac bunt and Justin Bour‘s three-run homer cemented the Marlins’ fourth win of the year. The Pirates will get a chance to redeem themselves — and become the first NL Central team to reach 10 wins in 2018 — on Saturday at 7:10 PM ET.
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.