What Bryant Gumbel should have asked Derek Jeter in his HBO interview

Derek Jeter Ceremony
What Bryant Gumbel should have asked Derek Jeter in his HBO interview
Some of the people Derek Jeter fired since taking over as part-owner of the Miami Marlins. This screenshot is from the HBO interview on REAL SPORTS with Bryant Gumbel.

When you have your tuchis kissed for 20 years, is it any surprise you think you’re infallible? That’s the story with Yankee legend Derek Jeter. We always heard about how smooth and media-savvy he was in the Bronx. But it’s easy to come across well when the so-called tough NYC media rarely asked him a tough question. Now that he’s in a completely new role, as CEO and part-owner of the Miami Marlins, he’s actually facing criticism in the media (the non-Squawker media, that is!) for the first time ever.

Bryant Gumbel’s interview with the former Yankee captain on HBO’s REAL SPORTS with Bryant Gumbel, which aired for the first time last night, has been very controversial, thanks to Jeter acting testy with Gumbel in a previously released clip. After being asked whether the Marlins were “tanking,” Jeter calls Gumbel “mentally weak” and says he “can’t wait” to get the interviewer “on the golf course.” Huh? Gumbel is pushing 70, and Jeter is a retired professional athlete in his 40s. What will being on the golf course together prove, exactly?

Between Jeter’s insults, obsession with golf, and him taking on a whole new field he has zero experience in, he sounds a little like Donald Trump here, and that’s obviously not a compliment!

The thing is that Gumbel wasn’t even doing a particularly tough interview, yet you could tell Jeter wasn’t exactly pleased. I watched the whole thing this morning, and I thought of multiple questions/topics Gumbel should have broached, but didn’t. Here are the things I would have liked to have seen Jeter asked:

  • You talk in the interview about how Miami, not your home at St. Jetersburg, is your home now. So why don’t you move there instead of getting a $1 million dollar yearly travel budget from the Marlins?
  • Does it make sense, given the precarious financial state of the team, for you as an owner to also draw a $5 million a year salary, a $4 million a year management fee, as well as an unlimited Marlins credit card? Is that prudent financial management to make you the highest-paid person in the franchise, over any player?
  • Your reputation is all about winning, yet according to the Miami Herald, your bonus plan with the team involves you making additional millions each year not if the team does well, but if it makes a profit. Is that why you’ve slashed payroll so much — to ultimately put more money in your pocket?
  • You bragged when you were a player that you never watched a baseball game you didn’t play in. So why do you want to be a team CEO, when knowledge of other players is part of your job description?
  • The New York Yankees, your old team, has a well-stocked farm system, yet you didn’t get any of their top prospects when trading Giancarlo Stanton to them. Why didn’t you ask for more?
  • You reportedly still hold a grudge with the Yankees after tough contract negotiations with them after your 10-year deal with the team was up. You reportedly didn’t think they gave you enough “re2pect.” So, given your love of re2pect, why didn’t you meet with Stanton until December, two months after buying the Marlins?
  • When you did finally meet with Stanton, he begged you to get some pitching and give this team half a season before trading everyone. The Marlins did finish 77-85, in second place in the NL East, last year. Why didn’t you take advantage of the many available names on the free agent market last year and try to win with the many young players on the Marlins?
  • You never really answered Gumbel’s question about the many people you have fired so far. Why was it crucial to fire them? How much money did you save by firing the guy who portrayed Billy the Marlin?
  • What is your philosophy on picking players, other than referring to the 90s Yankee teams and what the Astros and Cubs recently did, as you mentioned in the interview?
  • You told Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated that you were getting advice from Michael Jordan. Do you think that’s a good idea, given that Jordan’s had an awful track record as a team owner?
  • In the interview with Gumbel, you talked about trying to get people to buy Marlins’ season tickets. Why should they do that, given the no-names playing now? What, exactly, are you offering fans for their money, other than you as owner?

I’m sure there are many additional questions Gumbel could have asked Jeter. Frankly, I was a little disappointed with the interview; too many missed opportunities. But it doesn’t say much for Jeter’s “savvy” with the media to give that “mentally weak” soundbite, which has been featured in so many stories about this interview. Makes him sound like he has paper-thin skin.

Is it possible Jeter could turn out to be a great owner? Of course. But so far, I haven’t seen him show any great knowledge or plan on how to do anything with the Marlins other than put more money in his pocket. You would think he would have enough money, but let’s not forget that this is the guy who sold his used socks for $410 each.

My guess is that he’ll loot this franchise for as much as he can, and in five years or so, sell out, saying he needs to spend more time with his family or some such nonsense. Would love to be proven wrong, but we shall see.

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