Tanking talk leads to heated baseball debate

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In the NBA, teams tank to get better draft position. In baseball, tanking has more to do with saving money, and in turn making money. As a result, tales of baseball tanking typically don’t land on the PFT radar screen, since NFL teams would (do) tank not to save money but to enhance draft standing. This specific story about tanking, however, is worth your time on a somewhat slow Saturday.

Via Deadspin, an upcoming interview of Marlins partial owner and CEO Derek Jeter by Bryant Gumbel of HBO includes a contentious exchange, with Jeter (who was beloved as a player and who quickly has become reviled as an executive) not taking well to talk of tanking.

It started with Jeter actually asking Bryant Gumbel “What is . . . tanking?” And it went downhill from there.

Jeter argues that the team isn’t tanking because the team is competing, and he refuses to entertain the distinction between bad players competing and good players competing. He also accuses Gumbel of being “mentally weak,” and Jeter glosses over the inherent difference between competing and contending.

The story caught my eye because of the clumsy, awkward, condescending manner in which Jeter handles himself, proving yet again that the mere fact that a person played a sport at a high level doesn’t mean he has any business running a sports team. It also underscores the reality that, regardless of the reason, a fundamental disconnect exists between the importance of making fans believe that winning is the only thing while also making decisions based on broader business considerations that sometimes run contrary to doing everything necessary to win.

For NFL teams, those business considerations are painfully obvious. If you’re already bad, be as bad as you can be, in order to lay the foundation to get better. As long as the draft is based on the worst teams getting dibs, the games will not have full and complete integrity, because some of the games at the end of the season will feature teams whose management realizes that the only way to truly win is to lose.

36 responses to “Tanking talk leads to heated baseball debate

  1. “because of the clumsy, awkward, condescending manner in which Jeter handles himself, proving yet again that the mere fact that a person played a sport at a high level doesn’t mean he has any business running a sports team”
    ————————

    Bryant Gumbel set the interview with an accusatory tone right off the bat about “tanking”, with Jeter trying to softening the message. Gumbel kept pressing the accusation and Jeter finally responded in kind. Nothing awkward or condescending.

  2. Jeter has sullied what I thought was a forever bullet proof image. I hear Aaron Rodgers wants to take over the Milwaukee Bucks day to day operations after he retires. See, isn’t that stupid?? Derek needs to step down soon or the attendance might fall below 4,000 per night.

  3. Even with MVP Stanton, the Marlins were only averaging 20,395 fans (NL average 31,529). What’s funny was their World Series year in 2003 and they were only averaging 16,290!!!

    Sorry, but he’s doing what needs to be done in a league without revenue sharing or salary cap like the NFL.

  4. I’d rather have a tanking team than a team like Cleveland which pretends to care about putting a good product together only to tolerate incompetence at all levels of coaching and management and pay not one price for their dishonesty. It is time to revoke Cleveland’s franchise and to never put one back ever.

  5. Baseball is a little different. If a team is out of contention around the trade deadline it makes sense to dump high paid players on an expiring contract. Contracts are fully guaranteed so you can’t just cut people. Getting what you can from a contender makes sense. Small market teams do it all the time. Draft talent, make a run, then do a salary dump. There’s no cap in baseball but there is a luxury tax. Big market teams can pay it. Small market teams can’t. It is what it is.

  6. Jeter may be a jerk, but MLB and the sports community in general have no reason to get upset with the Marlins – unless they retroactively come down HARD on the Astros for that series of 100 loss seasons.
    Tanking at its finest.

  7. Everyone knows, but everyone chooses to forget. Jeter has a 4 percent ownership stake–he’s not calling the shots, he’s the front man. If you’re asking him for answers, you might as well ask the cat, as Basil Fawlty once said.

  8. You can’t use the word tanking without mentioning the 76’ers. 6 straight years of it has given them a bounty of young talent

  9. Give Jeter five years before you start accusing him of anything. I remember when a lot of people were questioning Bill Belichick when he chose Tom Brady over Drew Bledsoe, and when he got rid of their best player, Terry Glenn. Now, if I knew more about baseball than Derek Jeter, I might be in better position to second guess him.

  10. Baseball is a lot different ….to compare the two is just silly , we should be less concerned with ownership or players not trying as hard and more attention paid to the blatant steering accomplished by the NFL and the refs…..what you were forced to use two challenges early on plays that were obviously ruled on wrong?…. sorry, holding call late again that offsets a great play, and is utterly ignored by the protect the shield crowd…..integrity ….picture that.

  11. because an athlete played at a high level doesnt mean they have any business running a team…yet we go to them for political insight, social issues etc. maybe we can start to recognize athletes with very minimal education may not be the bastions of knowledge and insight

  12. Jeter accuses Gumbel of being “mentally weak”. Uhhh, for all his weakness, Gumbel’s show has managed to garner 32 Emmys. I should be so weak.

    Meanwhile, I wouldn’t be calling anyone mentally weak if I was trying to pass the con that I don’t understand the concept of tanking, as Jeter did, putting on his dunce cap without shame.

  13. It isn’t as if the Marlins were contending with Giancarlo et al. these past couple of years. They could finish in last place with the high payroll they shed this offseason.

    Jeter is just the pinata. Feldman calls the $hot$ and Jeter takes the whacks.

  14. I just can’t wait for the day when two teams both need to tank just as bad as the other so that they try their best to lose on purpose. It’d be hilarious if things got so bad to where there were multiple fumbles on every play and no tackling. Wait…wait…that’s the Pro Bowl.

  15. Bryant Gumbel agitates the interviewee under the guise of hard nosed journalism. He started out accusatory which in any situation will put a person on the defense. I’m no Jeter fanboy, but the guy hasn’t done anything vile in his life as far as we know. The Marlins were already a poorly run team that not only snookered the locals but paid one guy an insane amount of money that resulted in nothing substantial in the win-loss column. He canned a bunch of special advisors who did nothing to improve the culture of the team. So what if they were fan favorites, they can still come to the park, they just won’t be collecting a paycheck for merely appearing. I’m sure their sizeable earnings and nice retirement fund keeps them from bumming change from their cousins. Rebuilding a bad product isn’t tanking, it’s trying to fix what’s broken in the manner set forth by the industry.

  16. If you are not a Jeter groupie you see through his con. He knows the difference between players not trying to win (ie compete) and management not putting the best product they can (ie payroll cutting) on the field. Not arguing with the strategy of salary dumping but Jeter was disingenuous with his reply. He understood the question. Maybe he should have given Gumbel one of his famous “gift baskets” and Gumbel would have just given him softball questions…

  17. Tanking isn’t tanking.

    Tanking in the NBA & NHL is due to the fact that in either sport teams that are bad generally know it early and know that with one superstar their entire franchise fortunes can change (more so in the NBA but NHL is as bad with tanking). As a result these team generally don’t put the best product on the ice/court in order to increase their odds in getting the #1 overall draft pick.

    In the NFL, bad teams generally won’t tank actively since the worst teams often see a complete purge of their upper managment. In fact we’ve seen teams that would have been better off in theory tanking but putting on several wins at the end of the season to push them outside of the top 5.

    MLB doesn’t really have tanking, they have teams that are trying to stay financially viable until they build up enough young talent to make a run.

  18. akira554 says:
    April 21, 2018 at 5:48 pm

    Sorry, but he’s doing what needs to be done in a league without revenue sharing or salary cap like the NFL.

    Google MLB Luxury tax.

  19. I’m not sure of the statistics, but I’d like to know how many MLB/NBA coaches/managment aren’t fired after a ‘tanking’ and then compare that to the NFL. Usually teams picking top 10 in the draft are doing so with new head coaches and GMs.

  20. Baseball has small markets and gauranteed contracts. Guy gets hurt, or doesnt pan out the team is stuck with him. And thier draft really isnt worth losing for.

  21. Tanking only gets you so far. How many times have the browns had the #1 pick.

    I dont see Tanking as a real issue in the NFL. A bad team may ‘tank’ in the last couple weeks of the season, but usually its to better teams they would have lost to any ways.

  22. Jimmy Johnson tanked his first year with the cowboys by not getting any star free agents so he could collect as many compensatory picks as he could… this is known common knowledge. He told Jerry Jones this plan.

  23. Jeter may be a jerk, but MLB and the sports community in general have no reason to get upset with the Marlins – unless they retroactively come down HARD on the Astros for that series of 100 loss seasons.
    Tanking at its finest…but it worked! and isn’t that the desired result?

  24. The first rule of fight club ….

    It goes on in every sport. In Baseball it is a necessity for the lower revenue clubs.

  25. “Bryant Gumbel set the interview with an accusatory tone right off the bat about “tanking”, with Jeter trying to softening the message. Gumbel kept pressing the accusation and Jeter finally responded in kind. Nothing awkward or condescending.”

    Actually a legitimate question was asked and Jeter responded like a teenager lying about why he was out late.

    I loved the guy when he played for the Yankees, but he’s starting to look like kind of a jerky rich guy. Whether or not his rebuild is successful remains to be seen, but his bewilderment at questions about the systematic dismantling of the Marlins comes off looking like incompetence.

  26. Jeter is like Michael Jordan: rich but not team owner rich! So his team needs to tank for a few seasons to allow Jeter to collect the funds to field a competitive team. Most team owners have successful businesses outside of the teams they own. Owners whose primary asset is the team itself tend to be tight on funds.

  27. I don’t know why you can’t cut in the teams that finish second, third, and fourth in each division in the post-season players’ pool. For a player making the league minimum, that $10,000 for finishing second, $5,000 for third, or $2,500 for fourth (which is about what the respective shares would be) would be well worth not tanking to get.

    And thereyougo2: Go to a flat lottery, with all 20 non-playoff teams having an equal chance of getting the 1st pick, and all 20 non-playoff teams having an equal chance of getting the 20th pick, in the first round only. From the second round onward, draft order continues the way it is now.

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