In filming the next episode of “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel,” the show’s host and Miami Marlins executive Derek Jeter exchanged words in a way that will rival any spat between cast members of Bravo’s “The Real Housewives.”
Over the years on HBO, “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” has covered a myriad of serious topics like poor working conditions for Olympic athletes. In the episode which will air on Tuesday, April 24, Gumbel is somewhat in charge of an interview with Derek Jeter that looks like it is nothing more than an attempt at boosting ratings.
Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald obtained a transcript of the interview of Jeter and revealed part of it an article for the paper. In the interview, Gumbel challenged Jeter on the choices he has been a part of making since becoming part of the ownership group and front office of the franchise.
The “juiciest” part of the transcript comes when Gumbel challenges Jeter’s expectations for on-field performance this season.
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.”
The entire exchange is ridiculous. Jeter should have expected this topic would come up, as he should actually be surprised if he does an interview this season and the question of tanking doesn’t come up. It’s to be expected for any franchise in the season following an off-season in which so many of a team’s most talented players are traded away, but even more so for a franchise with a track record of fire sales like the Marlins.
At the same time, Gumbel should have also expected that Jeter would not give him the answer he is looking for. The Miami Marlins are a business first and foremost, and admitting to tanking would be like any other business owner admitting he/she is intentionally selling an inferior product. It’s simply not going to happen even if it is the truth.
Instead of getting defensive about the line of questioning, Jeter simply could have calmly told Gumbel the front office is confident in its direction. Instead of pushing Jeter for an answer he knows he isn’t going to get, Gumbel could have posed some actually relevant questions like how long the front office expects it to take for the prospects acquired in the off-season trades to reach the majors. That’s information that fans could have actually gotten some value out of.
While the heated debate might have made for good drama, it’s a waste of time for actual baseball fans. There’s nothing of any substance in the interview and the blame for that belongs on both Gumbel and Jeter.