Derek Jeter the Owner Is the Villain MLB Deserves

When I was a kid, I could not stand Derek Jeter. I thought he was a jerk. It is also worth mentioning that he was really good, was leading the Yankees to the World Series every year, and I was (and still am) a Red Sox fan. It took me years longer than it probably should have to come around on the whole “Derek Jeter is a good guy” narrative.

I remember in the summer of 1998 or 1999 (I was eight or nine), Skippy Peanut Butter did a promotional campaign with Jeter where you had to call in (I think the number was 1-800-GO DEREK or something, which felt dirty to dial) and enter the number on the peanut butter to win a bunch of money. I deliberately chose not to research this promotional campaign for this story because I remember it being an enormous amount of money, like upwards of a million, and I want to keep it that way for the purposes of my Jeter hating memory. My mom and I had collected a bunch of empty jars, but when the first one was not the winner, we tried calling again, but got a recorded message that only one entry per phone number was allowed. As a kid, I was convinced Jeter was personally responsible for that policy and I held that against him.

As I grew up, my stance on Jeter softened a bit. Part of it was that the Red Sox won three World Series titles before he retired, part of it was that Alex Rodriguez was so much easier to hate, and most of all, I respected his game. I was able to look past the laundry and appreciate that if he were on the Red Sox, we would love him the way Yankees fans did. A few months ago, I caught the episode of Saturday Night Live that he hosted in reruns. He was genuinely funny, I thoroughly enjoyed the “Point/Counterpoint” bit he did with a young Seth Meyers on Weekend Update, and it made me nostalgic for that era in my baseball fandom when the Red Sox and Yankees were the most important rivalry in baseball.

In 2017, Derek Jeter bought the Miami Marlins. It made sense that he would be interested in something like that, following in the footsteps of Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan as an iconic athlete-turned-owner. But unlike Magic, who runs the Lakers and owns the Dodgers in the city where he played his entire NBA career, or unlike Jordan, who owns the Charlotte Hornets in his home state of North Carolina, Jeter does not have that kind of connection to that fan base. He played his entire MLB career in New York, and he was born in New Jersey and grew up in Michigan. And while the Marlins were hardly an example of a well-run baseball club that does right by its fans and players when Jeffrey Loria owned the team, Jeter has not done himself any favors in implementing his new regime.

In September, Jeter made headlines by cleaning house in the front office and firing fan favorite Jeff Conine, World Series-winning manager Jack McKeon, and Hall of Famers Andre Dawson and Tony Perez. The thing that really made Jeter look bad, though, was the fact that he asked Marlins president David Samson to fire them for him, and also fired Samson. Then this week, it came out that the Marlins let go a scout who was recovering from cancer surgery. While I doubt Jeter personally wanted to fire a guy in a situation like this, it is also a bad look for a new ownership group that could have taken advantage of the bad will built up against the Loria Administration, and in theory, should still be in the honeymoon stage with Marlins fans. But the troubles continue with Miami’s on-field product, as well.

The Marlins have been bad for a decade now, and the signs of improvement in recent years just keep vanishing. Jose Fernandez’ death was a tragedy, and the Marlins lost a true franchise building block when their young and exciting ace pitcher died last fall, but they should have had more than just Fernandez on the roster or in the farm system to compliment the greatness that has been Giancarlo Stanton.

It has been a rough several years for the Marlins, but when healthy, Giancarlo Stanton has been one of the joys of watching baseball in the 2010s. This season, he became the first player to give the pre-Steroid Era home run milestones set by Babe Ruth and Roger Maris a significant challenge in the Steroid Testing Era. He came up short, but in the process, he put together an MVP season on a non-contending baseball club, which is no easy task the way BBWAA voters currently evaluate that award. Just ask Mike Trout.

The Marlins are now actively trying to trade Stanton, because they think it will be easier to rebuild with Stanton’s contract off the books than it would be to properly invest in a team to surround an elite power hitter in the prime of his career. Things have not been good for the Marlins for a while, and it will be another few years before things turn around, it seems. Of course, not all of this can be pinned on Jeter. The Marlins have been struggling since before Jeter signed his last contract with the Yankees, but he is not handling this situation in the best way possible.

Jeter the owner is not uniquely bad. Many, if not most, owners are bad. Look at the NFL. Look at the NHL. Most people do not get to the position of being able to own a professional sports team by being good people. Maybe Jeter will be the one to provide the voice these owners need to properly tell their side of the story through ghostwritten articles. Maybe his next move is to launch The Owners’ Tribune to give Jerry Jones and Daniel Snyder and Jeremy Jacobs and Hal Steinbrenner the platform they need to get their message out there and bypass traditional sports media. It’s about time underdogs like them had a voice!

At any rate, the rest of baseball fans are shocked that Derek Jeter is being so callous in firing Marlins employees as they try and trade away their best player, but nine year old Dave would be screaming “I TOLD YOU SO!!!” if he could see it.

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