Derek Jeter’s new peers expect greatness to transcend to the Marlins owners box


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A group of investors that includes Yankees legend Derek Jeter has reached an agreement to purchase the Marlins for $1.2 billion.
USA TODAY Sports

CHICAGO — Derek Jeter is not here at the Major League Baseball owners’ meetings, rather home with his pregnant wife, but in many ways, he is here.

You walk through the revolving doors at the downtown hotel, take the elevator seven floors to the lobby, and all you hear is Jeter. Drop into the restaurant, and the talk is Jeter. Stroll into the lobby, and no matter if the conversation starts with the playoff races, or even politics, the conversation always turns to Jeter.

There may not be a baseball owner recognizable outside their own cities, but once Jeter and Bruce Sherman become approved as the new owners of the Miami Marlins — which should be finalized by the first week of October, Marlins president David Samson says — baseball’s ownership circle will have star power.

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“Derek Jeter is iconic,’’ Samson says. “I think there’s a lot of people around the country who view him as a hero, but they view him as a hero at shortstop. His goal has always been to be viewed as a hero as an executive, in addition.

“I met a lot of athletes in my time, he’s a remarkable guy. He’s incredibly focused and equipped to do this. It’s something many people say they want to do, but don’t have the tools to do it. He’s the type of guy who only wants something that he knows he has the tools to do.

“He exhibited that through the negotiations of the deal.’’

We’re talking about one of the greatest players in the history of the game, a player who should be a unanimous Hall of Famer in three years, with an image impeccable as anyone who ever put on a baseball uniform.

“This is so great for baseball,’’ Kansas City Royals owner David Glass said, “to have a player like this, who’s so respected in the game, wanting to join our ownership circle.’’

Certainly, the Marlins need him more than ever. This is a franchise that’s in at least $400 million in debt, and is expected to lose $90 million this year, according to several owners. Their attendance stinks. They have the worst TV contract. And their reputation is even worse.

The Marlins have not produced a winning season since 2010, haven’t reached the postseason since 2003, and have $300 million tied up alone in one player in Giancarlo Stanton.

Still, there was not a soul at the owners’ meetings Wednesday, or an executive in the MLB offices, who have a doubt that Jeter will bring success to this downtrodden franchise.

“He’s not the kind of guy,’’ says Hall of Fame manager Joe Torre, who has known Jeter for 21 years, “who’s just going to add his name and say, ‘Yeah I’m the owner of the team.’ He’s going to roll up his sleeves. I know he didn’t want to be just be a token owner. It’s more than somebody investing money. It’s somebody who’s in it for the long haul.’’

Jeter, 43, never had any interest in putting on the uniform again, Torre says. He never talked about being a manager or coach. His vision always focused on becoming an owner, directly involved in running the operations, no matter the obstacles that lay ahead in Miami.

“I don’t think he’s going into this thing blind,’’ Torre says. “He’s pretty observant. He came up in a tough organization in the city of New York. He’s been tested pretty much as far as consistently having to be responsible.”

The strangest part, of course, will be seeing Jeter in an organization other than the Yankees, the only organization he has known.

“It’ll be surreal,’’ Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner said. “It’s going to be a surreal experience in not a totally positive way to see him in different colors. I think my dad (George) would feel the same way.’’

Certainly, it would be a lot more uncomfortable to the Yankees if Jeter was joining the Boston Red Sox, or even another team in the American League East. But he’ll be far away in Miami, in a different league.

But make no mistake about it, Steinbrenner says, times are about to change. The Marlins won’t be losers for long, Steinbrenner predicts. They will win. It’s all that Jeter knows, winning five World Series titles.

“That’s all he’s done in his career,’’ Steinbrenner says. “That organization has some challenges, but he’s been through a lot. As far as baseball operations, I think he’ll get the job done.”

Jeter, who will head the baseball and business operations, has tremendous business acumen, but has no experience running a baseball franchise. The key to Jeter’s success, his future peers say, will be surrounding himself with strong, competent executives to lead him through the transition from the playing field to the owners’ box.

“I’m sure he learned a lot through the years from the business side,’’ Houston Astros owner Jim Crane said, “and his record is impeccable the way he played and handled himself. But when you’re walking into a deal, playing on one side is one thing, and it’s different on the other side because you don’t see all the other stuff. And from what I understand, he’ll have a lot of responsibilities.

“So it will take him awhile to adapt, but he’s so approachable and likeable, I think he’ll pick it up quickly.’’

Really, in many ways, Jeter will be the baseball version of Michael Jordan, who became owners of the Charlotte Hornets after winning six NBA titles in Chicago. Jordan, in fact, will also will be a limited partner in Jeter’s group.

“I think it’s great that Jeter will be involved with Miami, just like Michael with Charlotte,’’ says Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the Chicago White Sox and Bulls. “There will be some growing pains. Michael has gone through those.

“I remember I was talking to a couple of (NBA) owners at a meeting a few years ago. Michael walked up and said, ‘I owe you a lot of apologies.’ I said, ‘What for?’ He said, ‘It’s a lot harder to run a team than I thought.’

“Eventually, Michael will get there.

“I hope Derek does, too.’’

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