They say hitting a baseball is the hardest thing to do in sports; Derek Jeter probably begs to differ.
The former New York Yankees shortstop is a mortal lock for Cooperstown after a decorated career that spanned two decades and saw him collect 3,465 hits, an MVP and five World Series titles along the way. Relative to his peers at the highest level, baseball came easy for No. 2.
Owning a baseball team, however, has proved to be an entirely different story for Jeter.
That was no more evident than Tuesday night when the Marlins hosted a town hall discussion with reportedly 200 season ticket holders in attendance.
Since taking over as CEO in early October, Jeter’s good days have been few and far between. It’s been a complete stripdown of the organization, as the new ownership group looks to shed the ballclub of its highest-priced players.
Of course, in the process, the Marlins have rid themselves of their best players like:
Dee Gordon (3.1 WAR in 2017; traded to Seattle)
Giancarlo Stanton (7.6 WAR, National League MVP; traded to the New York Yankees)
Marcell Ozuna (5.8 WAR; traded to St. Louis)
More moves might be on the way, as both Christian Yelich and J.T. Realmuto reportedly want out, too.
The tumultuous two months came to a head Tuesday night where Jeter played the unfamiliar role of whipping boy in front of rightfully pissed-off Marlins fans.
It didn’t go well!
And Jeter also crossed paths with Laurence Leavy, who’s better known as “Marlins Man” for his many, many on-screen appearances in the crowd at some of the biggest baseball games every season. He’s hard to miss: Marlins Man always wears the same bright orange jersey and visor.
He was impossible to miss Tuesday night, too, as he went to the microphone and had a cringe-worthy exchange with Jeter.
He had plenty to say.
The Marlins Man thing is an act, a tired one at that. But it’s wild to think someone like Jeter — who was placed on a world-champion pedestal during his playing days with the Yankees — now has to (at least give publicly) answer to Marlins Man. Think about that.
But that’s one of the things that comes with owning a baseball franchise. Jeter himself knows that. He knew the path the Marlins were going to take upon buying the club, and he knew things were going to have to get a whole lot worse before they got even remotely better. What really should frighten Marlins fans, however, are the baseball decisions thus far. Stanton had the club over a barrel with his no-trade clause and was able to force his way to the Bronx. That Jeter had to trade him to his former club did him no favor in terms of optics, either.
But the Ozuna trade? The Marlins had some leverage and probably should have done better with their return from the Cardinals. There’s nothing particularly shrewd about the moves Miami has made since the Jeter regime took over, and Miami fans — whatever’s left of them — have the right and the duty to be skeptical of Jeter’s ability to get the best players to South Beach and return a winning team to the field. That will take time, yes, but the skepticism is warranted, and Jeter’s put it all on his plate by publicly stating he has final word on personnel decisions.
Maybe things will get better over time. Maybe they won’t. The good news for Jeter is it doesn’t take much to give the illusion of improvement over the previous regime.
Jeter was the face of the franchise for 20 years in New York and experienced as much success as just about any player in the history of the sport. Being the face of the franchise from the owners’ box, he’s quickly learning, isn’t as easy.
Thumbnail photo via Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports Images