MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Derek Jeter was calm, cool and collected during his first appearance as a Major League Baseball owner.
Jeter and ownership partner Bruce Sherman sat in front of a mass of media members at Marlins Park Tuesday, expressing excitement over their new positions atop the hierarchy of the Miami franchise.
“I always wanted to be a baseball owner,” Jeter said. “I’ve had my mind set on this for years and I’ve been focused on Miami for years.”
Now the big question circles around what will happen to the Marlins current stable of major league players.
Miami has a strong core of young, talented hitters that quietly led the ballclub to a solid offensive season.
This season the Marlins finished 11th in the majors in runs scored (778), 10th in RBIs (743) and 3rd in batting average (.267).
Miami’s outfield of Giancarlo Stanton (27), Marcell Ozuna (26) and Christian Yelich (25) is one of the best young groups in the majors both at the plate and in the field.
J.T. Realmuto is widely viewed as one of the top all-around catchers in baseball, and he’s only 26.
First baseman Justin Bour has emerged one of the underrated power hitters in the NL. He’s the elder one of bunch at 29 years young.
Here’s where things get interesting. Stanton’s salary jumps from $14.5 million in 2017 to $25 million next season.
Yelich will make $7 million in 2018 after pulling in $3.5 million last season while Ozuna has two years left of arbitration eligibility before he becomes a free agent.
Realmuto and Bour are both entering their first offseason of arbitration eligibility, meaning neither will hit free agency until 2021.
It an interesting situation to ponder but until the new owners indicate what their plans will be regarding team payroll and the current roster, it’s anyone’s guess what will happen.
In an article posted on The Players’ Tribune, Jeter made a few promises to Marlins fans.
He said the new owners would “develop a winning culture” and “celebrate the culture and diversity of this community.”
Jeter called the Marlins “Miami’s team” which they are, in a literal sense.
The Marlins play in Miami so yes, they are Miami’s team.
But the way Jeter means it, for the city to embrace the team…that will take some work.
A large fracture has developed between the region of South Florida and the Marlins, with nobody having more of a reason to be upset than the residents of Miami-Dade County who are stuck paying for a stadium they largely didn’t want in the first place thanks to the team’s now-former owner Jeffrey Loria.
Despite the past negativity, Jeter and Sherman believe there is hope for baseball in South Florida and understand that the fans should be the number one priority.
“We believe in this market,” Jeter said. “We feel as though there’s huge upside and that starts with community engagement. We need to bring the fans back.”
Marlins fans have been scorned over the years, there is no debating that, but that doesn’t mean all hope is lost.
“Very excited, very excited,” said Mitch Dauerman, a Marlins season ticket holder. “I think they’re great leaders. Obviously Derek Jeter has a huge history out there so I think it’s going to be a great improvement down the road. I’m looking forward to many more games and some championships.”
Over the years local fans have traditionally followed the market’s more successful teams the closest, but beyond winners they also gravitate towards the biggest stars.
For the Marlins, that basically means Stanton and to a lesser degree Ozuna, Yelich, Bour and Dee Gordon.
“When you look at some of the popular players in the market whether it’s a Marcell Ozuna or a Stanton, or you look historically at Jose Fernandez, Jeff Conine, or Mike Lowell there’s been a lot of really great players,” said season ticket holder Peter Milian. “I hope that legacy continues. It’s important to connect the right players with the fan base.”
Jeter says he plans to sit down with President of Baseball Operations Michel Hill and evaluate the franchise from top to bottom, but the former Yankees star stressed patience and assured fans he’ll make decisions with the Marlins best interest in mind.
“It starts with player development, scouting; we have to be strong in those areas because if you’re going to have a sustainable organization over time you need that pipeline of young players that can come in,” Jeter said. “We’re going to focus on everything. We’re going to build it from the top down, bottom up, however you want to say it, but we’re going to pay attention to detail.”
For a fan base that has been through the ringer with its baseball team, a good first step will be transparency.
“I don’t like the word teardown,” Jeter said. “Moving forward there are going to be at times unpopular decisions we make on behalf of the organization.”
Unpopular in the short term could be acceptable. Unpopular in the long term will be more of the same for Marlins fans.
Ultimately, Time will tell.