We’re a few short days away from 2018 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2017. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were more akin to tabloid drama. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.
Well, it wasn’t just Derek Jeter. In fact, he put up only about 2% of the purchase price. The big money behind the Marlins ownership group is venture capitalist Bruce Sherman. But even though Sherman will the “control person” of the team under MLB’s rules, Jeter is obviously the most famous member of that crew and is the defacto face of the organization. I mean, the guy named himself CEO of the team — overseeing both business and baseball operations — after the sale went through, so he’s the one in the spotlight.
While Jeter is a famous and popular all-time baseball great — and while the widely loathed Jeff Loria is no longer the team’s owner — the Jeter-Sherman regime has, thus far, not done much to make Marlins fans happy.
At the outset of his tenure Jeter alienated fans and those close to the team by firing special assistants Jeff Conine, Andre Dawson, Tony Perez and Jack McKeon, reportedly doing so over telephone. After the news of those firings broke there was some walkback on it all — Jeter says he merely wanted to do what most teams do, limiting such figures’ roles to purely ambassadorial duties — but the public relations damage had already been done.
The actual baseball decisions he and Sherman have made thus far are more troubling. In the past month they have traded away 2017 MVP Giancarlo Stanton, slugger Marcell Ozuna and second baseman Dee Gordon. As the year ends they are entertaining offers for the excellent Christian Yelich and catcher J.T. Realmuto. While such wholesale selloffs have, in the past, netted teams a ton of prospects, so far the Marlins returns on trades have been paltry at best. Jeter has talked a big game about rebuilding the team on a more sound baseball and financial footing, but these deals seem to be 100% motivated by Sherman and Jeter’s desire to cut payroll. Indeed, that was reportedly the plan since before their bid for the Marlins was even approved.
All of which makes sense when one realizes that the sale price of the team — a reported $1.2 billion — was financed by a large amount of debt. The Marlins, who lose a lot, draw poorly and don’t have a great TV deal, have never been a cash cow, but adding on a massive amount of debt service to finance the purchase is strapping them even more. Jeter will get a reported $5 million a year — a massive salary for someone in his position, especially considering he has no experience in the role whatsoever — and he and Sherman will, in all likelihood, one deal realize a hefty profit when the team is sold. In the meantime the baseball team itself is going to be terrible.
For his entire baseball career, Jeter — the five-time World Series champion — was praised. He was rarely if ever the subject of critical press coverage and rarely did he make a public relations mistake. He’s owned the Marlins for just a hair over three months and things have done a complete 180.
It’s almost as if winning is the most important thing in baseball and one’s reputation flows, primarily, from that.