Back in the ballgame, Derek Jeter says he’ll learn on the job as he tries to lead the Miami Marlins out of the wilderness.
How Jeter expects to get there remains a secret, even after his first public comments about the Marlins since beginning his pursuit of the team nearly a year ago. The rookie owner declined to discuss his plans, and whether they include Giancarlo Stanton, Don Mattingly or even the home run sculpture at Marlins Park.
“You’re trying to get me to tell you what I’m going to do?” Jeter said. “Some things you keep private. But yeah, we do have to rebuild.”
Jeter and new principal owner Bruce Sherman held a 30-minute news conference Tuesday to discuss their investment group’s $1.2 billion purchase of the Marlins. Jeter shed no light on an anticipated roster shake-up following the team’s eighth consecutive losing season, the longest streak in the majors, but said he’ll rely heavily this offseason on president of baseball operations Michael Hill.
“I’m not coming in here thinking I know everything about team ownership. I do not. One thing I’m good at is knowing what I do not know. I surround myself with people who are much smarter than I am. We have some wonderful people who are working in this organization now. We are going to add some quality people as well to help us turn this organization around.”
The former New York Yankees captain attended Miami’s season finale Sunday — the first time he sat in the stands since high school. Yet another Miami loss didn’t change his mind, and the next day Jeter and Sherman closed on the purchase of the team from Jeffrey Loria.
Jeter said he hasn’t met with any players, and wouldn’t address the future of Stanton, the major league home run and RBI champion. Stanton’s salary will nearly double next year to $25 million, which could make him unaffordable for the revenue-challenged franchise.
Loria became widely unpopular because his frugality led to constant roster turnover and lots of losing. Jeter acknowledged speculation that another payroll purge looms.
“I don’t like the word teardown,” Jeter said. “Moving forward, there are going to at times be unpopular decisions we make. We have a plan, but at the same time we have to have patience.”
Jeter said he met Monday with Mattingly, his former Yankees teammate, who has two years to go on a four-year contract as manager.
“It has been a long season,” Jeter said. “I told him to get out of here and go enjoy himself and get back to his family. We’ll sit down when the time is right and evaluate everyone.”
Jeter and Sherman also wouldn’t discuss plans for the garish home run sculpture — loved by some, hated by many.
“I read I was getting rid of it,” said Jeter, who added that’s not necessarily true.
“Every one of our partners has an opinion,” Sherman said with a smile.
There are at least eight other investors. Jeter took exception to speculation that his group struggled to raise the needed money.
“It upset a lot of our investors. They have plenty of money,” he said, before smiling and adding a clarification. “They might not have plenty of money now, but they had plenty of money.”
The investment group bought a team in debt after finishing last in the NL in attendance 12 of the past 13 years.
“We have to engage the community,” said Sherman, a venture capitalist who has a home in Naples, Florida. “With Derek’s leadership, it’s going to be a great opportunity to do that. It is going to be a long-term process.”
Sherman has the highest equity stake at about 46 percent. Jeter has about a 4 percent stake, and he’ll lead baseball and business operations as chief executive officer.
Jeter, who lives in Tampa, Florida, said he’ll be a hands-on owner.
“The vast majority of my time will be working for the Marlins,” he said. “You have to be present. You have to be involved.”
He spent 20 years with the Yankees and won five World Series rings before retiring in 2014, and often talked of wanting to own a ballclub. Now he does.
“I like competing,” Jeter said. “I don’t miss playing the game, but I miss being part of a team.”