What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
This episode’s final score: Derek Jeter 1, Bryant Gumbel 0…
For various and sundry reasons you likely don’t care about, the first part of this month was a busy time here at Dubsism, which means I wasn’t able to write as often as I would like. That was followed by an extended vacation during which I spent a lot of time drinking some mystery blue liquor out of a hollowed-out pineapple. which means I didn’t write at all. Despite all that, there was no way I was letting this gem go by without comment.
Regular readers of this blog know I’ve no love for HBO Sports’ professional noise-hole Bryant Gumbel. I’m on record calling him a “race-baiting parasite.” But something special happened to him during my hiatus; he finally got called out for what he is. Race-bating aside, there’s really no denying Gumbel is a sludge-pump of a journalist. Consuming what he produces is an exercise in only the lowest of hanging fruit. But in a recent episode of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, Miami Marlins minority owner and New York Yankee legend Derek Jeter undeniably hit the proverbial nail on the head.
In the following excerpt of the complete transcript, Gumbel is string a line of questions which is not so subtly accusing the Marlins of “tanking.” This puts a burr under Jeter’s saddle-blanket, his competitive nature kicks in, and voilà…magic happens.
Bryant Gumbel: “If you were tanking, would you tell me?”
Derek Jeter: “Tanking? What is tanking?”
BG: “Tanking is — not trying your hardest to win ball games in — every day. If you were tanking, would you tell me?”
DJ: “We’re trying to win ball games every day.”
BG: “If you trade your best players in exchange for prospects it’s unlikely you’re going to win more games in the immediate future–”
DJ: “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.”
BG: “Not in so–”
DJ: “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.”
BG: “No, I get that. But I guess not in so many words–”
DJ: “But you don’t. But you don’t get it.”
BG: “I do.”
DJ: “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.”
BG: “No, I mean–”
DJ: “You’re mentally weak.”
BG: “No, I just– I’m– I’m realistic. You really expect this team–”
DJ: “I expect this team to–”
BG: “–as presently configured to contend–”
DJ: “–compete, to compete. To compete–”
BG: “Compete is one thing–”
DJ: “Every sing–”
BG: “Watch my lips. Not compete.”
DJ: “I see your–”
DJ: “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.”
BG: “You expect them to contend?”
DJ: “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?”
BG: “But as an executive, it looks like you’re delusional if you believe otherwise–”
DJ: “Well, call me delusional.”
Once you get past the pants-shittingly funny moment when Jeter called Gumbel “mentally weak,” you realize what is really happening here. Bryant Gumbel embodies what journalism has become in this country. The days when journalists strove to discover the truth have been replace with a belief that a journalist’s suppositions ARE reality and interviews like this one become an exercise in shaming and brow-beating somebody into accepting what have been pre-anointed as the truth.
In this case, Gumbel has decided that the Miami Marlins are “tanking,” which for the non-sports fan means losing deliberately in order to save money on payroll and/or secure better draft picks to rebuild for the future. I’m not here to say that isn’t the case; the Marlins are in last place and have no real ability to climb out of the cellar. “Tanking” or not isn’t the point; rather it’s Gumbel’s smugness in his assumption he knows more about the direction of the team than one of it’s owners.
That becomes obvious when Gumbel’s line of questioning turns to the trading away of “the best players for prospects” such as uber-slugger Giancarlo Stanton and rising star Christian Yelich. This is what the “Tankers” like Gumbel use as the underpinning of their argument. There’s a stadium full of intellectual laziness in that, which is why Jeter was right to call him “mentally weak.”
The first problem is that trading established major-league players for prospects is as much of a time-honored tradition in baseball as eating a hot bog at a ball game. That’s why here at Dubsism we have the annual Shark Week Trade Deadline comparison. That is an exercise in teams which can’t contend shedding current obligations to acquire the bricks for building a future. Of all the team sports in America, baseball is arguably the one which requires the most depth in order to build a winner. It is not like the National Football League, where the difference between winners and losers can for the most part be broken down to who has a quarterback.
The Marlins’ very own division is a monument to this philosophy. The “Tankers” will point out the Marlins finished second in the National League East in 2017, and while doing so will ignore the fact they notched a barely-mediocre records of 77-85 and trailed the division-champ Washington Nationals by 20 games. The reality is this: The Marlins area team which despite having won the World Series in 1997 and 2003 has never won it’s division and since that last championship a decade-and-a-half ago has lost at least 90 games more often than they’ve finished above .500.
That in and of itself says it may be time for a change.
Just look at the NL East powerhouse Washington Nationals. Now, this is a team which despite it’s failings come October is a perennial post-season contender. Nobody remembers the Nats in 2010 who were a glorified Triple-A roster built around two cudgel-like bats in Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman and whose best pitcher was a used-up and overweight Livan Hernandez. If that isn’t enough for you, look at the two teams currently in front of the Nationals in the NL EAST. Both the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies figured out a while ago that to return to their division-winning days meant rebuilding from the bottom up.
That’s not an overnight process.
Go back to the trades of Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich. Granted, Stanton is the reigning NL Most Valuable Player, and Yelich is an emerging star, but to the new ownership of the Marlins, they represented little more than one gargantuan contract and one waiting to happen. The harsh realities of the economics of baseball meant the Marlins couldn’t pay those guys and rebuild the franchise. The two most expensive commodities in the game are pitching and power, and very few teams can afford to buy both on the open market. Most have to grow at least one of those on the farm.
That brings us to the big problem the Marlins have. A few years back, the Marlins were ready to bet the future on Stanton being their home-grown power, and Jose Fernandez to be the anchor of the formidable starting rotation a contender needs. That’s why they locked up Stanton with that $325 million dollar long-term deal knowing they had control of Fernandez for quite some time.
Then Jose Fernandez died, and along with did the future plans of the Miami Marlins. They were going to build a franchise around once-in-a-generation talents, and now one of them was gone. You can’t win in baseball without pitching, which doomed Stanton to being a guy hitting 50 dingers a year on a losing team because the Marlins couldn’t afford to pay for another big-time arm.
But those facts simply do not matter to a mental pygmy like Gumbel. He decides the team is “tanking,” he tries to browbeat a guy who has forgotten more about baseball in his life than Gumbel will ever know, and he got his hat handed to him. We use the term “rebuilding” all the time for franchises in such a condition. If the saying goes that Rome wasn’t built in a day, then why would anybody expect a major-league sports franchise to be any different?