There aren’t too many people who get to live two dreams in one lifetime. And there’s only one black man in America who lived phase one as the shortstop for the New York Yankees for two decades, and then set out on a journey to fulfill stage two as a husband and father before crashing the scene as an owner of a major league team. How does it feel to be Derek Jeter these days?
Maybe it’s pure jealousy and envy that’s behind the rocky start to the latest dream of Derek Jeter to own a successful (read winning) franchise in major league baseball. Or maybe it all stems from Jeter’s locked in make it happen charge to buy a disheveled Miami Marlins team from one of baseball’s greediest men, Jeffrey Loria. Or it could be just a simple learning curve required of any new owner with high expectations. Or, maybe it’s all of the above.
But whatever it is, Derek Jeter has been mum on the situation he finds himself in, except for one brief appearance about a month ago when he met face to face with season ticket holders. And even then, the reports surrounding that meeting came back with, “There he goes, he’s “Jeter’d” everyone again.” Meaning, he answered every asked of him at length and politely – with a non-answer.
Seemingly though, all it took for Jeter to open up was to sit down with a veteran and respected sportswriter in the person of Tom Verducci, whose compelling narrative of his time spent with Jeter appears in Sports Illustrated. Expansive as the interview and resulting story is (13 pages to print), here are a few of the enlightening points that emerged.
The first is that Derek Jeter does not waste time on things that are out of his control. As an example, you may recall this report which surfaced in the twilight of his career. From Verducci’s account:
Smug, arrogant, aloof? All the adjectives might fit, except that Jeter is probably correct when he argues (essentially and paraphrasing), “Why bother, I’m not going to change anything, am I? So let them write what they want to write. My job is to play baseball and help win games and championships for the Yankees”. And that’s precisely what he did.
Closer to home and the present though, Derek Jeter comes across in the interview with Verducci as a man with a clear and present plan to revitalize baseball in Miami. And without saying it directly since he doesn’t need to because everyone knows it to be true, Derek Jeter begs the question (paraphrasing again), “What the hell would you do if you inherited this mess? I’m not stupid. You think I don’t know Giancarlo Stanton‘s value to the Miami franchise? And the rest of them I traded away to get the ship back on course?” Jeter himself puts it a little more delicately:
The Jordan being Sir Michael. You don’t change horses midstream; you ride through the storm. For now, Derek Jeter’s primary challenge is to fill a 25 and 40 man roster that will not embarrass themselves or the organization in the upcoming season. Locally, some Mets fans are already boasting they will take 15 of 19 games between the two teams. And they could be right. Partnered with that, however, is the question of how many fans will attend (read the major source of revenue) Marlin games this year, or next year and the year after that?
While Jeter remains adamant the city of Miami will respond over time, other factors remain as obstacles Jeter also needs to overcome. He’s working on all of them, but nothing is destined to occur overnight, and once again they are problems he inherited with the team.
For instance, Jeffrey Loria (right) jumped at what was a far-reaching local television contract worth what is now mere pennies ($46 million) compared to what other teams (who waited) have snagged. According to Verducci, Derek Jeter is trying to “un-negotiate” the deal. It’s a stretch to believe he can accomplish the feat, but it’s an effort he knows he needs to make.
More obtrusively though, is the new Marlins ballpark Loria insisted on being built in its current location. Following last year’s All-Star Game hosted by the Marlins, reports indicated it took more than two hours to empty the parking lots and get people on the nearest Interstate. And by the way, how could this game not have been a sellout, which it wasn’t?
Moreover, there is no infrastructure surrounding the venue that would make it convenient for fans to attend a game. No bars, restaurants, hotels, etc. Jeter’s answer to that, at least for the near future is to offer the ballpark as a full entertainment venue, available for lease by events such as concerts, rodeos, and the like as a means of generating revenue.
The irony of all this, though, is that Derek Jeter has never had to wait for anything. Almost as soon as he became the Yankees regular shortstop, the team jettisoned to what became known as “The Run” with four championships in five years under the direction of Joe Torre and Captain Jeter. And from there came the big contract and the hits that didn’t stop coming, just kept piling up until a first-ballot Hall of Fame reservation is in Jeter’s name in a couple of years.
Nevertheless, Tom Verducci did sports journalism a tremendous favor combining his insight with Derek Jeter’s own words to tell a story that needed to be said. And in case you missed it, I’ll give you the link again, here.