Derek Jeter crossed the threshold to immortality in baseball last September with Induction into the Hall of Fame. Most people stop running at the finish line, but not the Jeter. Few have climbed to the podium while also holding a difficult executive position, putting off a comfortable retirement.
Kim Ng was there for the party that sunny day in Cooperstown, New York as the CEO of the Miami Marlins, Jeter had hired Naj, a former Yankees official, as the first female general manager in baseball history. Ing took a moment to explain why Jeter – who had amassed a fortune and finally settled down to raise a family – wanted to run a team.
“I think that’s just who he is,” said Ng. “He’s always challenging himself. He never said that to me, but I’m sure he wants to experience winning on a number of different levels. It’s different as an executive, knowing that you helped make the team — the executive team, the coaching staff, whatever — to get to the place. that you want to access.
Jeter didn’t get here with the Marlins. He quit Monday, ending an ambitious second career after four and a half years in one of baseball’s most troubling franchises.
In a statement, Jeter, 47, said he would not work as an investor or shareholder with Marlins. He owned a 4 percent stake as part of a group that paid $1.2 billion for the franchise in 2017, led by Bruce Sherman, a wealth management manager from New York.
“Five years ago we had a vision to transform the Marlins franchise, and as CEO, I was proud to put my name and reputation on the line to make our plan a reality,” Jeter’s statement said.
“Through hard work, trust and accountability, we have transformed every aspect of franchising, reshaping the workforce and creating a long-term strategic plan for success. However, the vision for the future of the franchise differs from the one I signed up to lead. Now is the time for me to step down with The start of a new season.”
In Jeter’s three full seasons, the team lost 98, 105, and 95 games, while continuing its pattern of meager salaries and poor attendance. The Marlins ranked 23rd in majors on the payroll in 2018, according to the Baseball Bulletin, and ranked 29th, 27th and 28th in subsequent seasons. Their attendance has ranked last in the National League each year with tickets sold out since 2013.
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“Marlins thanks Derek for his many contributions and we wish him well in his future endeavours,” Sherman said in a statement. “We have a deep talent base that will oversee business and baseball decisions as we work to identify a new CEO to lead our franchise. The Ownership Group is committed to continuing to invest in the future of the franchise – and we are determined to build a team that will bounce back post-season and get Marlins fans and the local community excited.”
Jeter’s resignation is another blow to Major League Baseball, which shut down players on December 2, resulting in the cancellation of its spring training games and Threatening the start of the regular season. Commissioner Rob Manfred, in a statement, praised Jeter as a “highly respected voice on our diversity and competition committees” and praised him for hiring women to senior positions.
“Derek is a pillar of our game and we look forward to his future contributions to baseball,” Manfred said.
Jeter has always been an odd fit for the Marlins. He’s spent his entire career with the Yankees, amplifying the organization’s mantra that everything but the championship is failure. Despite this, the Yankees usually ensure this spirit with one of the highest payrolls in the sport. Poor marlin.
Usually, anyway. Their original owner, Wayne Huizinga, spent a lot to win the 1997 title and then replaced nearly all of the team’s top players to save money. When a cheaper list won again in 2003—by defeating the Yankees for the World Championship—another Marlins owner, Jeffrey Luria, oversaw another sale within two years.
These teardowns had a devastating effect on fans in South Florida, instilling caution and suspicion that followed the team to its new stadium in 2012. The property signed expensive free agents that year, then wreaked havoc on the roster again when things went wrong.
Jeter’s group moved immediately The dynamic team trio traded on the field led by Giancarlo StantonChristian Welich and Marcel Ozuna. The new system also set a more serious tone on the field, removing the odd home run sculpture above left field and fish tank behind the main board.
But Jeter, who filled the field and front-office staff in Miami with former Yankees employees, also inherited a debilitating farming system that turned into one of baseball’s top players. Oversaw the introduction of the life skills component of player development – cooking, financial planning, and even Spanish lessons for English speakers – and putting diversity and inclusion into practice through hiring Ng and others.
The goal, Jeter said in a 2020 interview after the Marlins reached the playoffs, was to build something durable.
“It’s not like we’re trying to chase a win once,” he said. “We all know how hard it is to win. We want to have an organization that, throughout the year, has a chance to compete for a championship.”
A publicist said Jeter was unavailable to answer questions on Monday to explain his reasons for leaving. But while the Marlins signed quarterback Avicel Garcia for four years and $53 million in November, they have resisted the kinds of costly free agents who can fast-track a team to compete.
Jeter is notorious for his impatience, and changing the franchise’s culture can be very rewarding. He is also very careful about who he trusts, and if he feels he has been misled, he will never forget him. With his brand, brain, and bank account, Jeter has plenty of options to live the good life. If the Marlins no longer share his vision – whatever exactly that means – there is no point in wasting his time as their leader.
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