It’s Foolish to Blame Jeter For Problems with Marlins

How many people would have guessed that Jeter would become the most scrutinized man in baseball concurrently with Alex Rodriguez becoming a well-respected television personality? Not very many.

Marlins fans have endured one tantalizing season after another (with 1997 and 2003 being exceptions, as they won the World Series those seasons), and the 12 fans that remain may have prepared themselves for what could very well be a terrible season.

Media pundits and fans have constantly pointed their fingers at Derek Jeter, with some even speculating the future Hall of Fame shortstop colluded with Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner to facilitate the Giancarlo Stanton trade that took place back on December 9th. Conspiracy theories aside, such conjecture is downright laughable.

For one thing, the 29 owners approved the sale of the Marlins to the Bruce Sherman-Jeter group was done out of avariciousness, and nothing more. They sold for $1.2 billion, which now stands as the third-most expensive purchase of a sports team ever.

Again, a team that has been dead last in attendance five of the last six years that has posted losses of over $70 million annually since former owner Jeffrey Loria bought the team in 2002 for $158 million dollars. Never mind the fact that Marlins Park currently has no naming rights deal (hence the name) and a broadcasting deal with Fox Sports Florida that expires in three years.

That broadcast deal pays out $20 million annually to the Marlins, which is well below average for small-market MLB teams. Loria did nothing to market his product instead, he simply passed it on to the next group of owners, which is even more evident inside the ballpark since the stadium has a nearly nonexistent corporate presence and minimal signage.

Another component of Jeter’s stewardship is the debt situation with the Marlins, another problem that he and his partners inherited that was out of his control at the time. Keep in mind that Jeter alone has a four percent stake in his new team. When the deal was mad public in late September of last year, the Marlins were $400 million in debt.

Oh, and what about those stars who were traded away? Listen, I’m aware of how good Dee Gordon, Marcell Ozuna, and Christian Yelich are. Giancarlo Stanton just won the NL MVP and had one of the greatest offensive seasons this millennium. One could argue that the Marlins had the most talented outfield in the majors prior to the departure of Stanton and Company.

The fact remains that the Marlins, for all the talent they once had, have not even sniffed the playoffs since they won the World Series in 2003. They’ve finished better than third in the NL East just twice since then,  finishing second in 2009 and 2017, six and 20 games behind first place, respectively.

Even with their aforementioned corps of former players, the Marlins didn’t come close to the playoffs.

Honestly, what did people expect when Loria sold the Marlins? I’m sure that whenever he’s asked, Loria will point to the 2003 championship team, but won’t talk about the products he’s out on the field since then. When Marlins Park was in the preliminary stages of construction, an SEC investigation took place.

He, like many owners, collected gargantuan piles of money from taxpayers when the stadium was built. In fact, the city of Miami and county of Miami-Dade subsidized over 80% of the finances. Extrapolated to 2049 (40 years after breaking ground), and the total stadium expenses for the city and county will surpass $2.6 billion after adjusting for interest.

Make no mistake about it, Jeter is off to a slow start, to say the least. But why is he the main target for criticism when he shouldn’t be? None of this is his fault, nor should any blame be put on the shoulders of his constituents.

The past formula for Loria was not sustainable at all, and that tends to happen to parsimonious owners who fail to market and create revenue streams. I believe Jeter will be able to change that.

Of course, I could just as easily end up being wrong. But let’s refrain from judging his legacy as Marlins CEO less than six months into the job. After all, he knows a thing or two about winning.

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