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Derek Jeter group buys the Miami Marlins

After decades of embarrassment, the Miami Marlins have new ownership. Jeffrey Loria, the enigma synonymous with turmoil, has agreed to sell his team for $1.2 billion. Derek Jeter, earthly prince of New York Yankees lore, will spearhead a consortium seeking to transform the fortunes of a bedraggled ballclub and restore pride to Florida sports.

This is a tricky proposition for Yankees fans, who have only ever known Jeter in pinstripes. The thought of him running another organisation, actively competing with the only team he ever loved, is difficult to comprehend. Nevertheless, Yankee fans should be proud of their prodigal son, who will now look to add another aspect to his Hall of Fame resume.

Why was Jeffrey Loria so controversial? 

A childhood Yankees fan from Manhattan, Loria earned a fortune in art, wheeling and dealing with the rich and famous. Baseball always held a place in his heart, however, and Loria tried to buy the Baltimore Orioles before successful investing in the Montreal Expos.

When things turned sour in Canada, Loria bought the Marlins from John Henry for $158 million in 2002. Henry, once a minority partner of George Steinbrenner with the Yankees, later took charge of the Boston Red Sox, leading them to unprecedented success. Meanwhile, Loria delivered a World Series championship to the Marlins in 2003 before presiding over repeated fire sales, destroying any momentum that threatened to emerge.

Miami lurched from irrelevance to contention more than any franchise in sports. The same team that traded Derrek Lee, Josh Beckett and Gary Sheffield, waving a white flag, built a new $600 million stadium, seeking to attract fans. The same team that dealt Dontrelle Willis, Miguel Cabrera and Hanley Ramirez, tanking indiscriminately, signed Giancarlo Stanton to the most lucrative contract in sports history, hoping to compete.

Under the aegis of Loria, the Marlins were in a constant state of identity crisis, literally and figuratively. Known initially as the Florida Marlins, Loria changed the team name just as he changed its logo, uniforms and stadium sponsors habitually. Quite remarkably, he departs Miami with a 659% profit on his original investment. Major League Baseball is a crazy world, folks.

Derek Jeter always wanted to own a baseball team

The face of his sport for a generation, Jeter has long held ambitions to own a baseball team. Deep down, way off in fantasyland, some Yankee fans hoped Derek would front a group that wrested control from the Steinbrenner family. However, daydreams of a Core Four revolution in the corridors of power were exactly that: daydreams

“Owning the Yankees is like owning the Mona Lisa,” George Steinbrenner once said. And while Hal Steinbrenner is altogether more circumspect in his strategic approach, he remains unlikely to sell the franchise anytime soon. Yes, even if Forbes does value the Yankees at $4.6 billion, second only to the Dallas Cowboys in global sporting estimates.

Alas, Jeter is stuck with the Marlins, perhaps the most dysfunctional franchise in baseball. Derek owns just 4% of the ballclub, but has been appointed CEO, wielding ultimate power over day-to-day operations. In addition to hiring and firing, Jeter will also represent the Marlins at baseball’s annual owners meetings, acting as the team’s public face.

Why did Derek Jeter buy the Marlins?

To some sports fans, this may seem a little random. Why would Derek Jeter, a serial winner, take control of the Miami Marlins, a chronic loser? Well, The Captain did not just throw a dart at the map and decide to join a consortium. He actually has strong roots in Florida, having lived in Tampa for a number of years. Derek has a 30,000-square foot mansion in the area dubbed St Jetersburg, and he has launched many outreach ventures in the local community.

However, in his entire 20-year career, Jeter only played one game in which the Yankees were out of postseason contention. One game. Out of 2,747. By contrast, the Marlins have never won their division and have only made the playoffs twice in their history.

Jeter played 158 playoff games in his career, while Miami has only managed 33 such contests in 24 years. The transition from champion to underdog will certainly be strange.

Nevertheless, the Marlins have an interesting young core around which Jeter can build. Stanton is a genuine superstar, even if his exorbitant contract is something of a millstone around the team’s neck. Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, Dee Gordon and JT Realmuto orbit the mighty slugger, providing hope for long-term success.

The link between Derek Jeter and Don Mattingly

In Don Mattingly, Jeter inherits a manager he knows really well. Mattingly was the face of the Yankees during their prolonged drought in the 1980s. As Jeter progressed through the organisation, a prized prospect with a glowing reputation, Mattingly kept him honest and taught him valuable lessons about representing the team with staid professionalism.

Between 1991 and 1995, Mattingly was the Yankees' captain, a fine honour bestowed upon a select few immortals. He took great pride in the role, mentoring a young core of players as they matriculated. Jeter debuted in 1995, Mattingly’s final year, and the wily veteran passed the flame to his silky shortstop.

During spring training one year, back when Jeter was a farmhand and Mattingly was the game’s most personable star, they were paired together for a drill. When the session finished, Mattingly ran off the field, all heart and hustle. Jeter walked, betraying the faintest hint of overconfidence.

Donnie Baseball took Derek to one side and taught him the importance of running on and off the field. “You never know who is watching,” Mattingly said, and Jeter never walked off a field again.

When asked about the greatest influences on his career, Jeter often cited Mattingly as a sagacious elder. Derek always held Don aloft, speaking of him in reverential tones. Now, almost two decades later, Jeter is Mattingly’s boss, and that could get a little awkward. Some feel that Mattingly has struggled to coax as much development from the Marlins core as desired, while his wider managerial record is rather underwhelming.

Final thoughts on Jeter and the Marlins

At first glance, by taking control of the Marlins, Derek Jeter has little to gain and potentially a lot to lose. The guy is synonymous with winning, class and effortless dignity. For the vast majority of their existence, the Miami Marlins have been antonymous with those qualities.

Jeter fronts a group led by New York businessman Bruce Sherman, who has made a fortune in private capital management. Accordingly, Jeter has little to fear in a financial sense, but the potential damage to his pristine reputation could be considerable.

In short, he did not need to get involved in this project, but he wanted to. Often the recipient of revisionist ridicule, Derek Jeter now has the ultimate chance to illustrate his difference-making powers. Winning with the Yankees was expected and an altogether easier proposition. Winning with the Marlins? Well, that would cement his legacy as one of the greatest achievers in baseball history.

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Ryan Ferguson is the author of Conflict: The Yankees, the Red Sox and the War for My Heart, available now in paperback and Kindle formats through Amazon. Click the link below to get your copy now!

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