Kevin Love opens up on The Players Tribune, a Derek Jeter project that is working well

 

You’ve read some stinging criticisms of Derek Jeter in this space from time to time, all of them dealing with his disconnect when it comes to Miami Marlins fans being fed up with the team’s constant teardowns.

I’ll give Jeter credit, however, for recognizing that athletes often have a deeper story to tell but don’t really trust anyone else in the telling of it.

FILE – In this Jan. 8, 2018, file photo, Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kevin Love watches from the bench in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves in Minneapolis. Love disclosed in an essay for the Players’ Tribune on Tuesday, March 6, 2018, that he suffered a panic attack on Nov. 5 in a home game against the Atlanta Hawks. He was briefly hospitalized at the Cleveland Clinic and the episode left him shaken. (AP Photo/Jim Mone, File)

We’re talking about The Players’ Tribune, a website founded by Jeter in 2014 and expanded since then with videos and podcasts to augment the written content provided by sports celebrities.

The latest buzz created by this site is an essay written by Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love. He reveals that he had a panic attack during a game in November but at first wanted to keep that information from teammates for fear that they would consider him weak.

“Everyone is Going Through Something” is the title of the essay, and in it Love writes “No matter what our circumstances, we’re all carrying around things that hurt — and they can hurt us if we keep them buried inside.”

Would a player feel comfortable talking about private reflections and personal issues with a member of the traditional sports media?

Some have, like Ricky Williams, and with full knowledge that they might be misconstrued or ridiculed or marginalized. Toronto Raptors star DeMar DeRozan took all of those risks last month in an interview with the Toronto Star about his ongoing problems with depression.

For most, though, it figures that truly opening up to a reporter in the locker room is way outside the comfort zone.

If you only see that reporter ever now and again, how do you make a connection that is solid and believable? And if that reporter covers the team every day and strikes up something like a friendship with a player there, sooner or later he or she will wind up writing something that offends the athlete because it points out an error made to lose a ballgame or is perceived to be taking the wrong side in a contract negotiation with the team.

Honestly, if I had the blessing of athletic skills worthy of millions of dollars on the open market, it might just be easier to keep spouting clichés in interview settings. That’s pretty much what Jeter did in the high-profile position of New York Yankees captain. He made no enemies that way and he tried, other than what happened on the field, to make no news.

Are these Players’ Tribune essays ghost-written? Surely, in some cases, they are crafted and edited and packaged by people who are writers by profession. Since the athletes approve every presentation before it is published, however, this shouldn’t bother anybody all that much. If it’s a genuine expression of their feelings on a particular matter, they are saying what they want to say.

Not journalism in its strictest sense. More like journal writing, and then passing that journal around the room for anyone who is interested to read.

Jeter is a smart guy to figure all this out. We all need to know each other a little better, and any forum that makes that possible is a benefit.

[Jim Kelly astonished a Boca Raton crowd with his courageous story]

[Marlins’ inaugural spring training 25 years ago was a Space Coast blast]

[Wade’s return strikes every emotional touchstone for Heat fans]

Where was Derek Jeter 25 years ago when his new Marlins team was born?

 

The Miami Marlins are making a big PR effort during their current teardown mode to celebrate the franchise’s 25th year with a special teal logo and with the promise of $4 seats and throwback uniforms during a special June 8-10 series against the San Diego Padres.

So what was Derek Jeter doing 25 years ago, and how strange would it have been to imagine him running the Marlins’ show in 2018?

Miami Marlins owner Derek Jeter leaves Major League Baseball owners meetings at the Four Seasons Hotel, Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Turns out The Captain was 19 years old and playing in North Carolina with the Greensboro Hornets of the Class-A South Atlantic League. Gary Denbo was his manager there, just as was when Jeter broke into pro ball with the Yankee’s Gulf Coast League rookie team in Tampa.

The Marlins wouldn’t have been on Jeter’s mind back then. He only had eyes for Yankee Stadium and, as everybody knew, he would make it soon enough. Five times he won World Series titles with the Yankees and once, in 2000, he was the World Series MVP.

Crazy to think that his first try as a baseball executive would come with the Marlins, but the old ties are still strong. When Jeter traded away Giancarlo Stanton, Miami’s homegrown star and the biggest slugger in the majors, it was to the Yankees.

Denbo is back in the picture, too, as Jeter’s Director of Player Development and Scouting in Miami.

All those nostalgic connections to the old Marlins, 25 years in the making, actually seem a bit of a stretch these days than a continuation of something special. This is Jeter’s life and these are Jeter’s Marlins. Welcome to a new world of baseball in South Florida, starting all over again.

[There was a time when Miami Heat, gulp, played in NBA’s Western Conference]

[Please, NFL, takes us back to the days when a catch was a catch]

[Eagles went from losers to champions in one year, but what about Miami?]

 

Derek Jeter apparently missed the memo on how fed up Marlins fans are with fire sales

 

With Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton in the same lineup, every day will be Home Run Derby for the New York Yankees.

It’s an excess of riches for Derek Jeter’s old team. And his new one? An excess of prospects, building toward some grand plan that Jeter, part-owner and top baseball executive of the Miami Marlins, has thus far failed to articulate.

New Yankee Giancarlo Stanton answers questions during a press conference at the Major League Baseball winter meetings in Orlando, Fla., Monday, Dec. 11, 2017. (AP Photo/Willie J. Allen Jr.)

The optics are not good here, trading away the franchise’s home-grown NL Most Valuable Player. Some of the worst ever, actually.

Even Jeffrey Loria, the owner everyone wanted to ride out of town on a rail, got off to a better start than this when he bought the Marlins from John Henry in 2002.

Forget for a moment that Loria basically had the team handed to him in an orchestrated deal that sold his floundering Montreal Expos to Major League Baseball first. Forget it because fans care far less about the financial underpinnings of any franchise than they do about the players they buy tickets to see.

In that respect Loria and his general manager, Larry Beinfest, got busy in a hurry on a set of transactions that were far more popular and beneficial to the team’s roster than anything Jeter has done or will do over the next few years.

Tim Raines, a good clubhouse guy and a future Hall of Famer, instantly came aboard as a low-cost free agent at the end of his career. Everybody loved “Rock,” whether he played a lot or not, so no harm there.

Next came a spring-training trade that sent Antonio Alfonseca, a flighty and overweight closer, to the Cubs in a package that got the Marlins an interesting young pitching prospect named Dontrelle Willis. The D-Train was on the verge of a breakout, from minor leaguer in 2002 to NL Rookie of the Year in 2003, so that worked, too. It was all part of a quiet rollout in which the Marlins improved from 76 wins to 79, with Loria making signs that he meant to compete for something.

In Loria’s second season he shifted into a different gear altogether, trading away Charles Johnson and Preston Wilson in a deal that brought Juan Pierre, a great leadoff hitter, to the Marlins.

Next came the free-agent signing of catcher Ivan Rodriguez for $10 million, which was more than one-fifth of the team payroll at the time. Pudge, a future Hall of Famer, was exactly what the Marlins needed to get the most out of a staff of kid pitchers who themselves would go on to be stars.

In May Loria showed his impetuous side, firing manager Jeff Torborg and replacing him with the ancient Jack McKeon. Nobody knew quite what to make of that, and the sale of Kevin Millar to the Red Sox was a puzzler, too, but then came the moves that really proved Loria wanted to win the World Series as soon as possible.

In July the Marlins got a top closer, Ugueth Urbina, in a trade, and in August Jeff Conine, a Marlins favorite who was lost in an earlier Wayne Huizenga fire sale, returned to the team by trade as well. The pieces were then in place for a World Series upset of the Yankees, with a mix of veterans and young stars developed in what was then recognized as a strong farm system.

No matter what anybody thinks of Loria now, at least he came into this thing with the idea that the Marlins should strive to be the best and South Florida fans should know that.

So far, the only things this market knows about Jeter are bad. He won’t care about winning for a while, it’s clear. He believes there is time for a rebuild because he is new to this project. Poor guy. He doesn’t realize that new projects are old news around here. Finished projects are what we crave.

I’m not telling you to love Jeffrey Loria. It seems, though, that he at least cared about first impressions as the owner of the Marlins.

Jeter figures he has already made his first impression, the only one he’ll ever need to make, by being one of the greatest players in Yankees history. That was a different time in his life, though, and this job of empire-building, the one that even George Steinbrenner struggled to master, does not come so naturally to him.

[A dream night for Jakeem, but not without familiar frustrations]

[It’s OK to start wondering if Tiger will return to Honda Classic]

[Before Richt was available, UM interviewed Schiano and Mullen]

Better consider the cosmic consequences before trading Giancarlo Stanton

One day soon, unless fate intervenes, the monster headline will drop that Giancarlo Stanton has been traded by the Miami Marlins for money reasons alone.

Though it won’t come as a surprise, there is no warding off the shock of dumping so spectacular a slugger at the peak of his powers.

Derek Jeter should know better. He is a major player in the history and the mythology of

Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton high-fives teammates before the start of the team’s home opener, against the Atlanta Braves, at Marlins Park in Miami on Tuesday, April 11, 2017. (David Santiago/El Nuevo Herald/TNS)

the New York Yankees. Even if he doesn’t believe in it, he has heard a million times about the Curse of the Bambino, a baseball fable that lived on for what seemed like forever.

Not saying that Stanton is Babe Ruth or ever will be, but stick with me for a minute.

The Boston Red Sox were doing just fine, a fistful of World Series titles and everything, until they sold Ruth to the Yankees following the 1919 season.

It’s not like there was anything wrong with the Babe at the time. He was 24 and coming off a season in which he led the American League in home runs (29) and RBI (113). Players like that are too good to be true.

Money got in the way, however. Red Sox owner Harry Frazee needed some to finance a string of Broadway theatrical productions he wanted to stage and the Babe, fairly theatrical himself, was getting a little hard to handle with this party lifestyle. So Frazee moved the budding superstar for $100,000 in cash from the Yankees plus a sizable loan from the team.

Over the next 86 years the Red Sox won zero world championships and the Yankees won 26. Curse or coincidence? You be the judge.

All I know is that trading Stanton for any reason feels like throwing away the gift of a lifetime. It figures there should be some kind of punishment for that. Short-term there will be, of course, in the form of fan backlash against the new owners. Long-term? Well, the Marlins haven’t exactly been killing it lately but it can always get worse.

The Red Sox suffered 14 consecutive losing seasons after selling the Babe, and included in that skid were nine last-place finishes.

Jeter doesn’t expect something so dire to result from trading Stanton for a raft of prospects that may someday remake the Marlins in the way that the world champion Houston Astros have been remade. Maybe that will happen, too.

Just don’t say that I didn’t warn you about Giancarlo Stanton and would could become the bane of the franchise’s existence for decades to come.

Call it the Hex of the Hulk.

Hoping for a little churn at the top of the NBA and not the seemingly inevitable Warriors-Cavs rematch

 

Surely in the minority here, but I’m glad Dwyane Wade is with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the simple reason that it makes the 2018 NBA Finals worth watching.

It’s going to be Golden State vs Cleveland again next June. You know that. Every other team in the league knows that, too, though they will try to convince themselves otherwise as the new season kicks off this week.

Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant defends Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) during Game 3 of the 2017 NBA Finals in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)

Does this make the 82-game regular season that stretches before us a crashing bore? Of course not. There will be all kinds of drama. Sensational and courageous playmaking. Comebacks and upsets and teams, like the Miami Heat last year, playing absolutely out of their heads for significant stretches.

In the end, though, it we wind up with Warriors vs. Cavs again, for what would be the fourth year in a row, it will be abundantly clear why fans get so worked up about the free-agency signing period each summer. It’s the only time when competitive conditions across the league are subject to real change.

Come to think of it, even that has become a bit of a wash in recent years, with all kinds of great talent going all kinds of interesting places but the Warriors negating that collective energy by taking Kevin Durant for themselves.

Which new talent grouping interests you most? My choice is Oklahoma City, with Billy Donovan trying to find a formula that works for Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George. Fascinating stuff, but again the Thunder aren’t expected to measure up to the Warriors in the Western Conference, so there they go again.

Trying not to be so cynical here, but a little churn at the top keeps the interest going stronger and longer for me.

Even with all the talk of Tom Brady and New England dominating the NFL, the last 10 Super Bowls have been won by eight teams. Two each by the Patriots and Giants, and the rest spread around among Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Green Bay, Baltimore, Seattle and Denver. That grows hope in more fan bases. It makes the regular season count for more than just playoff seeding.

As for baseball, here’s one that surprised me. There hasn’t been a World Series rematch since the Yankees beat the Dodgers in 1977 and again in 1978. And here we are looking at the Warriors and the Cavs for a possible fourth year in a row?

Thanks goodness it’s a league and an industry driven by stars because the teams alone seem to be fairly ordered.

As for the Boston Celtics winning eight NBA titles in a row from 1959-66 and a total of 11 in 13 years over the same stretch, we won’t go there, hopefully, ever again.

[What Miami will get from Syracuse, the team that lost to Middle Tennessee?]

[Flying high again with the ever-changing Central Florida Knights]

[Even greatest UM teams learned how tough it is to run the table]

 

 

With money obstacle removed, A-Rod to the Marlins is a less-than-crazy concept

(UPDATE – Alex Rodriguez’s spokesman said Monday afternoon that a potential return to baseball with some team other than the Yankees is not happening in 2016. Still no word directly from A-Rod)

Working right now on a print column about Alex Rodriguez as a possible pickup for the Miami Marlins after being cut by the Yankees.

The shorthand version is that such a move would work just fine for me if they don’t have to pay him. Dog days of summer, looking for a boost, Giancarlo Stanton is out and the player in discussion has 696 home runs. Where, other than the fact A-Rod can’t seem to hit these days, is the problem?

New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez acknowledges the crowd during a ceremony prior to his final baseball game with the team, against the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday, Aug. 12, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
New York Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez acknowledges the crowd during a ceremony prior to his final baseball game with the team, against the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday, Aug. 12, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

Meanwhile, here is a column I wrote last summer when A-Rod and the Yankees played at Marlins Stadium. It speaks of the excitement his one pinch-hit appearance brought to the game that night, and of the possibility that he and the team might one day get together if ever the money problem could be solved.

Give it a read for some 2015 quotes from A-Rod about loving Miami, his hometown, and admiring Jeffrey Loria for what he has done with Marlins Park.

Here goes.

 

(Dave George, Palm Beach Post columnist, in a reprint from June 16, 2015)

Could disgraced slugger wind up career in childhood home of Miami?

Do you loathe Alex Rodriguez enough to totally shun him and the famous pinstripes that clothe him in credibility? Judging by Monday night’s attendance, a sassy crowd of 33,961 to watch the New York Yankees lose 2-1 to Miami at Marlins Park, the answer is no.
Now comes the tougher question. Could you tolerate A-Rod enough to enthusiastically welcome him to Miami by trade some day?
That would take some serious rethinking for a fan base that doesn’t show up regularly to watch Giancarlo Stanton, a young slugger with no steroid history.
It would take some compromise by the Yankees, too, because Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria isn’t about to take on the megamillions that A-Rod is owed through 2017. Still, A-Rod on the verge of 40 is an everyday spectacle with his 666 home runs and what soon will be membership in the 3,000-hit club.
He lit the stadium up Monday with a two-out pinch-hit appearance in the ninth inning. His game-ending fly ball to right field had everybody screaming, pro and con.
“I’ve gotta tell you,” A-Rod said without prompting before Monday’s game, “I think Jeff Loria is doing a great job with his franchise. Obviously, he built an incredible-looking stadium and Miami is an incredible market for baseball. It’s a beautiful park. It seems fair and I’m just so proud being a Floridian that we get this beautiful piece of art in the middle of our city.”
Never mind that Loria didn’t build the stadium alone in the public-private financing frenzy that made Marlins Park happen. Never mind that Miami is an incredible market for World Series play alone.
The details matter less than the dance if A-Rod and the Marlins are ever going to get together, next year or any year. He’s high-maintenance in every way, rarely plays in the field and, because the National League doesn’t have the DH, his value here might be in the all-or-nothing category of late-inning pinch-hitter. Yankees manager Joe Girardi did not start A-Rod Monday and likely won’t again today for the conclusion of the two-game series here.
Still, being back in Miami clearly makes A-Rod feel like a kid again, poking holes in the impossible.
“These milestones,” he said, “have made me kind of take a step back and think about my childhood when I grew up here in Miami, watching Darryl Strawberry and Keith Hernandez on TV and then running to my backyard and literally taking a hundred swings and then going to watch their other at-bats and then doing it again.
“I would do that over and over again nightly. Some people think it’s obsessive. Even my biggest haters would say, though, that I’m disciplined and a hard worker.”
He’s trying to soften the image by speaking of his baseball genesis, and not of Biogenesis. Missing an entire season will do that to you, and that’s what cheating did to A-Rod in 2014.
“This year has been an amazing experience for me,” Rodriguez said. “I know that a lot of people gave up on me. There were days that I gave up on myself. It’s been a long, long journey back .”
Derek Jeter didn’t do all this talking but was adored on the day of his retirement as Yankees captain. A-Rod could talk forever and never gain that level of respect, even though he has regained his importance as a Yankees run-producer. He’s lied too often to too many, and knows it.
“It’s good when we start kind of getting rid of the old, like me,” he said, “and start introducing some of these great new talents.”
He was speaking specifically of Stanton, who is nearly 500 homers behind Rodriguez but working on a fresh new kind of awesome.
Rodriguez, called by Miami manager Dan Jennings “the most talented player I ever scouted,” doesn’t sparkle like that now but still he burns.
Some day when the Yankees are done with him, that lingering heat, even if it’s just a low-grade A-Rod fever, could be useful to the Marlins.

[Strange but true, American football briefly was an Olympic sport]

[The Olympic gold medal sprinter who played for the Miami Dolphins]

[A fun look back at the Dolphins’ first training camp in 1966]

 

To entertain and honor our Veterans, here’s a story about Yogi Berra and D-Day

Heard from a reader the other day who knew Yogi Berra, a D-Day veteran, during their days together in the U.S. Navy.

101803 -- YANKEE STADIUM, NY -- WORLD SERIES game 1 FLORIDA MARLINS VS NY YANKEES - New York greats Yogi Berra, left, and Whitey Ford walk off the field after throwing the ceremonial first pitch Saturday. Staff photo by Allen Eyestone ORG XMIT: ORG XMIT: MER0708021028161388
New York greats Yogi Berra, left, and Whitey Ford walk off the field after throwing the ceremonial first pitch at the 2003 World Series between the Yankees and Marlins. (Palm Beach Post staff photo by Allen Eyestone)

Sam Wasson, 90, of Atlantis took the time to write me a long letter about Yogi, who died Sept. 22. It seemed to me that there was enough inspirational and entertaining content in there to make an excerpt of Sam’s letter something of a Veterans Day tribute to all those who risked or lost their lives in defending America, and to all who worked every day to make the best of a horrible situation.

Take it away, Sam.

“I was stationed in New London, Ct., and got to know Yogi Berra well. I served 10 years on five submarines from 1943-53 as a cook. I had busted an eardrum and had other head injuries in a training accident and was placed on light duty until I healed.

“In the summer of 1944, Yogi arrived at the base on the Seagoing Tugboat 151. They were returning from the Normandy invasion. Yogi had been on an open-mount 50 caliber machine gun for the whole day, with German fighters strafing the operation.

“I remember he said it was just like the Fourth of July in St. Louis, his hometown.

“During the years of planning the invasion the Navy had ordered several of those tugs that could tow the landing craft off the beaches after the troops had gone ashore so another could get in.

“Yogi had played Class D ball the previous season on the Yankees’ farm team in Norfolk, Va. When he arrived at the sub base, there were several major league players on the base team there managed by Jimmy Gleeson, Cubs and Reds outfielder.

“Being on light duty with nothing else to do, I became a full-time baseball groupie. I traveled with the team and sat in the dugout. My duties were to collect $2 from each player and take it up in the stands and get it ‘covered.’ Yes, they did bet on themselves. Most of them were just like the rest of us. They were working for between $50 and $100 per month. I would take the winnings and buy three cases of cold beer and have it ready in the dressing room for after the game. Gleeson demanded that.

“Gleeson rode Yogi hard. I was very pleased when Yogi was made manager of the Yankees several years later, the first coach that he hired was Jimmy Gleeson. They were cut from the same cloth. Smart baseball men.

“There were about 15 million men and women in the service during WWII. I read recently that by Veterans Day 2015, which is the 70th anniversary of th end of WWII, there will only be about a half million left alive. I hope that every American will take a few minutes to remember the 14,500,000 that won’t be with us anymore, including my two brothers.

Sincerely,
Sam Wasson

 

There are so many of you out there with so many stories of courage and strength but most of them are never told. On this Veterans Day, please know that you are appreciated and that your sacrifice was priceless.

And now a final word from Sam, an Atlantis resident for 38 years, just to leave you laughing.

I asked him what it’s like to work and live on a submarine and he said “After all the physical training we did, you had to go before three psychiatrists to determine who was fit for 90 days of duty in a submarine. We used to say that if all three of them agreed that you were absolutely nuts, you passed.”