Last September, a group including former Yankees superstar Derek Jeter purchased the Miami Marlins for 1.2 billion dollars. While Jeter only owns a 4% stake in the team, controlling owner Bruce Sherman made him Chief Executive Officer of the team as well, tasking him with management of all baseball operations. During his 20 year tenure, Jeter was the ideal baseball player. So when word first broke last summer that Jeter would be returning to the baseball world, fans around the country were jumping for joy. Then…not so much.
He got busy at his new desk job right away. Within his first week as CEO, Jeter fired special assistants, Jeff Conine, Jack McKeon, Andre Dawson and Tony Perez. These moves were highly questionable, as all of the above personnel have unparalleled experience in the baseball industry. Conine, whose nickname is Mr. Marlin, won two World Series with the team. McKeon managed Conine’s second championship team in 2003. And the latter two are Hall of Famers who both spent a short tenure with the Fish. While these firings may have seemed harsh, they were practical. All four of these baseball vets acted as special assistants to either the former president of the Marlins, David Samson, or the former owner, Jeff Loria. Now that both are gone, it makes perfect sense that Jeter is letting them go, and in reality, special assistants are just figurehead roles. The title is mostly given to retired players and managers with connections to the team. They hang around practices and give their two cents here and there, but their influence is usually minimal. Bidding the front office four farewell will save the Marlins a lot of money, while having little to no negative effect on the organization.
Then went the players. Some of the backlash towards Jeter is understandable, but none in relation to Giancarlo Stanton. Marlins fans are highly critical of the trade that sent Stanton to Jeter’s old stomping grounds. But why? Stanton had a 13 year, $325 million contract. This is a cycle in baseball. MLB teams overpay their star players in fear that they will leave the team, and that player’s contract inhibits the team from signing any other significant talent. So they dump them. It happened with A-Rod and the Rangers in 2003, and it happened this winter with Stanton and the Marlins. In both of these cases, the Yankees picked up the contract. Why? Because they can. Not every team has the funds to do so, but the Yankees always do. There shouldn’t be a problem. Stanton put up Hall of Fame numbers last season, but he was preventing the Marlins from making the playoffs. If anything, Marlins fans should be thanking Jeter and the Yankees.
Other players traded away by Jeter and Co. were Dee Gordon, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich, all of who came off some of their best seasons. The Gordon situation was similar to the Stanton contract dump: he became too expensive to hold on to. The Ozuna and Yelich trades, however, were all about rebuilding. For Ozuna, the Fish received 4 prospects, including the Cardinals’ #6 minor leaguer, Magneuris Sierra, and their #9 prospect, Sandy Alcantara. For Yelich, they also received four prospects, this time from the Brewers. The highlights of this trade were the transfer of Lewis Brinson and Monte Harrison to the Marlins. Both players are ranked in the top 100 MLB prospects.
Between the millions of dollars leftover and the exciting new prospects, Marlins fans have a lot to be happy about. It makes sense that they’re upset, as Jeter and Sherman acted harshly in their firings. But at the end of the day, baseball is a business. Maybe Jeter’s reputation as the “good guy of baseball” is ruined, but his reputation as a businessman is still up in the air. Fans should give him a fighting chance. After all, the Marlins haven’t had a winning season since 2009, and haven’t won a World Series since their ‘03 bid. It’s clear that Loria, rated the second worst sports owner ever by Rolling Stone Magazine, was not doing anything right. So Jeter undoing most of his efforts should be seen as a good sign. In addition, contract dumping and rebuilding years are an essential part of developing a successful franchise. Just ask the Chicago Cubs. In 2010, the Cubbies had big name stars like Alfonso Soriano, Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, and Aramis Ramirez. By 2013, they were all gone. This was all the work of curse reversal expert, Theo Epstein, who was hired as the Cubs President of Baseball Operations in 2011. While fans were initially upset with the parting of their beloved stars, Epstein focused his efforts on developing new stars like, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, and Kris Bryant. After a few years of longing, something Cubs fans are used to by now, the new guy in town proved himself. The Cubs won the World Series in 2016. Looking at this example, is it really that hard to imagine Jeter doing the same thing?