SBJ/August 21-27, 2017/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Club owners upbeat about the possibility of Jeter joining their ranks

FROM THE MLB OWNERS MEETINGS IN CHICAGO

The proposed Bruce Sherman-Derek Jeter $1.2 billion purchase of the Miami Marlins presents arguably the ultimate collision between one of the sport’s greatest winners and one of its thorniest problems.

Jeter was not present at the MLB owners meeting, due in part to the late-stage pregnancy of his wife, Hannah. But the spirit of the former New York Yankees shortstop, future Hall of Famer and five-time World Series champion was impossible to miss, as owners and executives across the game raved about the possibility of Jeter joining baseball’s ownership ranks. Even MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, while refusing to handicap the chances of the purchase being approved, still heaped praise on Jeter.

“Derek’s been absolutely dogged and committed in this process,” Manfred said. “He’s also been successful in everything he’s ever tried to do. And I know he will do whatever’s necessary to be successful in Miami.”

Finding any sort of lasting success in Miami, however, is something that has escaped each of the club’s previous three owners. The Marlins are swimming in debt with tens of millions of annual operating losses, have baseball’s third-worst attendance this year along with one of the game’s worst local TV deals, and have been unable to spark meaningful development activity around the five-year-old Marlins Park.

In recent years, many of the supposed fixes to the long-running franchise issues, such as getting a domed stadium, signing core players such as outfielder Giancarlo Stanton to mulityear deals, and adopting a more Miami-centric logo and color scheme, have been attempted and not proven to be panaceas.

It also cannot be ignored that Jeter has no experience operating a pro sports team, and the bid calls for him to run both baseball and business operations on a day-to-day basis. So what exactly makes Jeter more likely to succeed where many others have failed in South Florida?

Jeter’s prospective ownership colleagues repeatedly pointed to his ability to stay focused on long-term initiatives and not caught up emotionally on more fleeting issues. And Marlins President David Samson, who worked extensively with Jeter for months during the protracted bidding process, credited his quick intellect, something that has aided the rapid development of The Players’ Tribune.

“He was very understanding of all the complexities of a transaction like this. … He is very keen on learning and then acting,” Samson said of Jeter. “During the negotiations, he’d hear an issue and he’d be able to wrap his arms around it very quickly, having never heard of such an issue before — things that players would never concern themselves with. So we witnessed firsthand the transition from player into executive. It was a fascinating thing to see.”

One senior team executive, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the pending nature of the Jeter-Sherman bid, said the Chicago Cubs’ successful and sweeping on- and off-field multiyear rebuild provides a potential template that feeds into Jeter’s patience and doggedness.

“There is a big opportunity to reshape the franchise and reactivate the market,” the executive said. “It’s going to be a tough, long slog, and require a lot of money and patience. But the opportunity is definitely there.”

MLB owners are expected to vote on the Marlins sale in September, with the deal to close in early October.


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