The Miami Marlins are bad. This is no secret. Having team traded Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich and Dee Gordon, the team was widely pegged as one of the worst in baseball, and they’ve performed as such so far this season, with a 5-14 record and -55 run differential.
The only person who seems hesitant to admit the Marlins reality is rookie CEO Derek Jeter, who got a bit testy during a sitdown with Bryant Gumbel that will air on HBO’s Real Sports on Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET. Jeter was somewhat defensive throughout much of the 14-minute Real Sports segment, but the interview really went off the rails when Gumbel asked about “tanking.”
BRYANT GUMBEL: “If you were tanking, would you tell me?”
DEREK JETER: “Tanking? What is– no– tanking?”
BRYANT GUMBEL: “Tanking is — not trying your hardest to win ball games in — every day.”
DEREK JETER: “We’re trying to win ball games every day.”
BRYANT 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–”
DEREK 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.”
BRYANT GUMBEL: “Not in so–”
DEREK 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.”
BRYANT GUMBEL: “No, I get that. But I guess not in so many words–”
DEREK JETER: “But you don’t. But you don’t get it.”
BRYANT GUMBEL: “I do.”
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.”
BRYANT GUMBEL: “No, I just– I’m– I’m realistic. You really expect this team–”
DEREK JETER: “I expect this team to–”
BRYANT GUMBEL: “–as presently configured to contend–”
DEREK JETER: “–compete, to compete. To compete–”
BRYANT GUMBEL: “Compete is one thing–”
DEREK JETER: “Every sing–”
BRYANT GUMBEL: “Watch my lips. Not compete.”
DEREK JETER: “I see your–”
BRYANT GUMBEL: “Contend.”
DEREK JETER: “I see your lips. I see. I’ve been seeing ’em this whole interview. I see your lips moving constantly. You’d never tell your players that you are expected to lose. You don’t do that. You should take that as a slap in the face as a player. You should take that as a slap in the face.”
BRYANT GUMBEL: “You expect them to contend?”
DEREK JETER: “I do. I do. If I don’t believe with the– in the players that we have on the field, who’s going to believe in them?”
BRYANT GUMBEL: “But as an executive, it looks like you’re delusional if you believe otherwise–”
DEREK JETER: “Well, call me delusional.”
Jeter smiled throughout much of this exchange, and the “mentally weak” comment was clearly said somewhat in jest, but the former All-Star was clearly bothered by the line of questioning.
It’s hard not to see Jeter’s responses as a bit disingenuous. Jeter presumably knows that tanking refers to front-office strategy, not player effort, his attempt to pretend otherwise didn’t particularly work. Instead of responding to Gumbel’s legitimate question, he tried pulling the “you just don’t understand” card to suggest that we mortals simply can’t comprehend his line of thinking.
It continues to be remarkable that a player who won so much, in every sense, as a player, has lost so much since taking over the Marlins last fall. Jeter survived a 20-year MLB career hardly ever making the wrong move. Now that he’s an executive, he rarely seems to make the right one.