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Derek Jeter may be stuck with Marlins’ home run sculpture

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MIAMI (AP) Season previews suggesting the Miami Marlins have an entirely new look in the outfield aren’t quite accurate.

Yes, major league home run king Giancarlo Stanton is gone. So are Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and even fourth outfielder Ichiro Suzuki.

But the Red Grooms home run sculpture remains.

While the Marlins have undergone a radical makeover under CEO Derek Jeter, he has yet to find a new home for the kitschy, colorful, carnivalesque sculpture nicknamed Homer. It stands beyond the center field wall at Marlins Park, the towering legacy of former owner Jeffrey Loria, and nearly as unpopular.

What’s Jeter’s opinion of the 73-foot-tall artwork?

“It’s big,” he said. “It’s big. It’s big.”

Does he like it?

“It’s unique,” he said.

Translation: He hates it. Ex-Yankees shortstops and other traditionalists tend to give the sculpture a thumbs-down.

Like the Marlins, however, Homer does have a few fans. They consider the pop art very Miami, and right at home in a ballpark with garish green walls, a nightclub in left field and fish tanks behind home plate.

“A lot of people hate it, but I don’t know why,” New York Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler said. “It’s a wild stadium, and that thing is pretty wild, so why not?”

Marlins reliever Brad Ziegler said his kids enjoy the sculpture, which springs into motion whenever the home team homers.

“They’re 2 and 3,” Ziegler said. “They always liked seeing the Marlin go flying when Mr. Giancarlo and Mr. Christian and Mr. Marcell would hit home runs.”

Jeter traded Mr. Giancarlo and Mr. Christian and Mr. Marcell. But who would be interested in acquiring Homer?

Jeter’s old team is out; it’s impossible to envision the sculpture at Yankee Stadium, although Babe Ruth probably would have loved it. Fenway Park and Wrigley Field don’t seem like good matches either.

A better option would be someplace like Houston, a modern city with a modern ballpark and more homers to celebrate lately. What would the World Series champions give up for Miami’s home run sculpture?

“A bag of sunflower seeds and a bucket of practice balls,” Astros catcher Evan Gattis said.

How about the San Francisco Giants? The sculpture looks like something from a Grateful Dead album cover.

“Hah! Gonna pass on that one,” Giants CEO Larry Baer said in a text message. “Cannot block views of the Bay.”

Washington, perhaps? The nation’s capital has a fondness for monuments.

But even the Nationals show no interest in Homer.

“There’s not really much I want to trade out of DC,” Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez said. “I wouldn’t trade anybody for that. I wouldn’t trade the cherry blossoms. And we wouldn’t even know where to put it.”

If there’s no trade to be made, Jeter would probably be happy to relocate Homer at the bottom of Biscayne Bay. But like Marlins Park, the sculpture is the property of Miami-Dade County. Grooms wants it to stay where it is.

Move the $2.5 million sculpture over Grooms’ objection, and it could lose almost all of its value, said Michael Spring, director of the county’s department of cultural affairs.

“There are no plans to move it at the moment,” Spring said. “Everyone would love for there to be more news, but it isn’t at the top of our agenda.”

Sending the sculpture to another ballpark might appease Grooms, and Spring laughed at the idea of a trade. But he declined to endorse even a straight-up deal for, say, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis or the Mets’ home run apple.

“We’re not interested in trading public art,” Spring said.

So wheeler-dealer Jeter might be stuck. He can trade away players who hit lots of homers, but Homer seems here to stay.

AP Sports Writers Mike Fitzpatrick in New York and Janie McCauley in San Francisco and AP freelance writer Chuck King in West Palm Beach, Florida, contributed to this report.

More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

Hinch, Luhnow, will be eligible in 2021 even if there are no games in 2020

A.J. Hinch (left) and Jeff Luhnow (right)
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You no doubt recall that former Houston Astros manager AJ Hinch and ex-Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow were given the one-year bans and were subsequently fired in January due to the Astros sign-stealing scandal. It’s possible, however, that each of them could be back in baseball without having missed a single game.

That’s the report from Buster Olney of ESPN, who has learned that Hinch and Luhnow will become eligible in 2021 even if there are no games played in the 2020 season. The reason: Hinch and Luhnow’s suspensions are tied to “the end of the 2020 postseason.” In contrast, players who are suspended for PED offenses for violations of the league’s domestic violence policies are suspended for a set number of games. Their suspensions will not begin until games begin and, if the number of games in the 2020 season ends up being fewer than the number of games in their suspension, it will carry over to 2021.

It would not shock me a bit if another team hired Hinch at some point down the road. And, despite the league’s finding that Luhnow fostered a “toxic” environment in the Astros’ front office, I would not be at all surprised if he were hired as some sort of advisor down the road and, potentially, found himself running a team again. His tenure in Houston was discovered to be objectively awful from an ethical perspective, but (a) he won; and (b) he cut costs, and those are the two biggest priorities for most teams. Not necessarily in that order.