The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
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Derek Jeter puts on different face as Marlins executive

During much of his playing career, New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter was the face of Major League Baseball.  Besides being a pretty darn good shortstop on some really good Yankees teams, he was the good-looking, likable guy who always represented the sport and himself well with fans and the media.  He always said the right things and never got in trouble off the field.  He was a great poster boy for Major League Baseball.

Jeter is now part (4%) of an ownership group that culminated its purchase of the Miami Marlins shortly after the regular season finished in September.  In additional to being a financial investor, is directly involved in running the organization as Chief Executive Officer.

Early impressions of Jeter from public interactions as an executive in the front office are that he is a different person than he was as the admirable player.

New Marlins ownership took over with a strategy that called for fielding a lean payroll team which requires replacing some of the higher-paid players with more cost-effective players and building the club from within their farm system.  This will likely require 3-5 years to accomplish, as the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs organizations have recently experienced.

Thus, Jeter’s first major decision from the front office could wind up being the most significant of his career in his new role—what to do with its highly-paid star player, Giancarlo Stanton, who represents a major financial strain on a franchise wanting to reduce its payroll dramatically.  Stanton currently saddles the club with $285 million left to be paid over the next ten years from a mega-contract executed by former Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria prior to the 2015 season.

Jeter let it be known early that he was willing to part with 27-year-old Giancarlo in order to shed payroll and pick up some top prospects.  For Miami fans, this wasn’t a popular stance.  After all, Stanton had just finished the 2017 season leading the National League with 59 home runs and was voted the league’s MVP.  On a team that has never had a winning record during his stint with the team, Stanton is undeniably the face of the Marlins.  Even with the popular Stanton, the Marlins were last in attendance among the National League teams.  Moving Stanton out will significantly challenge the new ownership with filling seats.  After all, Jeter won’t be suiting up there.

Jeter came under scrutiny when there were reports that Jeter had not even talked to Stanton before taking his position on the player’s future.  In fact, when some of Stanton’s teammates were questioned by reporters of their interactions with new management, they similarly indicated there had been no contact.

As further evidence of the Marlins’ cost-cutting movement, Jeter decided he didn’t need special assistant positions in the front office occupied by former Marlins players and managers in Jack McKeon, Andre Dawson, Tony Perez, and Jeff Conine, all of whom were part of the Marlins’ identity.

That decision could be expected since it’s not uncommon for new ownership and management to bring in its own selections for key staff and consulting positions.  But then it was reported Jeter asked the Marlins’ outgoing president, David Samson, to inform these individuals of his decision to terminate them, not taking on the task himself.  Jeter again drew criticism for his seemingly callous approach.  It later came out that Jeter had offered to retain some of these individuals, but at significantly reduced salaries.  Still, the reaction to Jeter by the public and the press wasn’t much different.

In another personnel move, it was reported that Marty Scott, a veteran scout for the Marlins for the past eight years, was fired by the Marlins as he lay in a hospital bed recovering from a surgery involving cancer.  Another heartless action.

Transitions like the one the Marlins are going through are always tough jobs.  There are surely unpopular decisions that must be made as the new Marlins ownership charts its course.  But it seems Jeter’s management style and relationship-building ability leave a lot to be desired.  Indeed, he is building his new persona with these initial decisions and actions.  But it appears he’s already tarnished his reputation somewhat.  His early image as an owner-executive will be hard to erase, especially when it’s likely the Marlins will suffer through more losing seasons in the early years of re-tooling the roster,  Jeter would likely wind up taking the brunt of the fans’ disillusionment.  This will be unchartered waters for Jeter.

Is Jeter just naïve in his role as CEO or is this the new Jeter we will be seeing, someone who will strictly look at the business aspect of the club and not worry too much about how he treats the staff, players, and the fans?  As a Yankees player whose team was never out of contention for a playoff berth, he’s not used to losing and dealing with unpopular situations.  How is he going to react when the Marlins finish in last place in the division?

We learned on Saturday that the Marlins have come to an agreement with the Yankees to trade Stanton for Starlin Castro and two Yankees prospects.  The deal is subject to Stanton’s agreement to waive the no-trade clause and his passing a physical with the Yankees.  Assuming the deal goes through, Jeter will then focus on the rest of the club.

He had already traded second baseman Dee Gordon to Seattle.  It’s reported he will do some additional roster slashing, including star outfielders Christian Yelich and Marcel Ozuna, in order to shed even more of the $110 million payroll they had in 2017.  The Miami market is among the worst in Major League Baseball to start with.  With his best players gone to other teams, Jeter’s going to have an even tougher time filling seats in the coming season.

For Jeter, who was largely the “golden boy” of baseball for his twenty years as a player, it’s going to be a whole different ballgame now as an executive.

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