We’ll get this out of the way off the bat: I am far from a Derek Jeter apologist. During the ownership bidding period I was an open advocate for Jorge Mas, because I was concerned that the Jeter group wouldn’t have the funding to adequately support a quality product on the field. Less than two months into Jeter’s ownership, the group is already seeking additional outside financial involvement, which...is not comforting.
There have been missteps. The handling of the Marlins legends’ dismissals. Rich Waltz’s firing (yes, you can also lay that at the feet at Fox Sports Florida, but let’s not pretend that the team didn’t have input here). The leaks that have laid bare the team’s plans ranging from payroll slashing to wooing investors via “Project Citrus.”
None of it looks good, and, coming off the heels of a notoriously bad ownership group, is apt to draw unfavorable comparisons.
Fuel was only added to the fire recently when it came out that the team had issued a dire warning to Stanton in order to coerce him to accept a trade:
Marlins warn Stanton: Accept a trade or you’ll be only star on stripped-down team https://t.co/4OLOTGp9Yw— clarkspencer (@clarkspencer) November 28, 2017
The baseball world is eager and willing to rip Derek Jeter, novice decision-maker, a new one, and they have taken to the task with aplomb. But is this one of those things that deserves a hot pile of scorn dished upon Jeter’s plate, or might there be a bit of overreacting going on?
The imagery conjured up by the wordplay being tossed around is important here: One envisions Giancarlo Stanton sitting uncomfortably at a table in a darkened room with a lone lamp shining brightly from above, surrounded by mafioso-looking types and Derek Jeter, the latter brusquely demanding that he accept the team’s generous offer...or else.
Let’s try and look at this story rationally. Divorcing your emotion from the situation, is this the right call for the franchise?
“There are some financial things we have to get in order,” Jeter said. “It’s an organization that’s been losing money for quite some time, so we have to turn that around.”
Given that the team has ranked near the bottom of the league in attendance for years, the weak tv contract that runs through 2020 and, of course, a previous ownership group that alienated the fan base time and again, I don’t find it so difficult to believe that the team is currently not all that profitable.
Now, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to question the wisdom of major league baseball to approve the sale of the team to a group who is already seeking additional investors. Would Jorge Mas be shopping Giancarlo Stanton around this off-season? I don’t know the answer to that question but I also think it’s easy to ask someone else to swallow millions of dollars in losses so you can keep watching your favorite players play for the home team.
So, if you find yourself accepting the premise that the team needs to reduce payroll given all the factors involved, is asking Giancarlo Stanton to accept a trade and informing him of what will end up happening if he doesn’t a high crime or simply utilizing what leverage they have in a no-trade clause situation?
Does this suck for the fans in the short term? Hell yeah it does. Marlins fans do not deserve this. Do I want to see the reigning-MVP traded to an already good team? Not really, no. But you can’t argue with the notion that the best way to reduce payroll is to shed Stanton’s contract, and if he were to reject a trade (or any trade, period), can you really then fault Jeter for seeking alternative methods to reach their financial targets?
Maybe none of that matters to you. Maybe you just want them to throw down the money regardless. Let’s look at it, then, from a team-building perspective. On at least a partially rebuilding team, does allocating a quarter of the payroll to one player make competitive sense?
A lot of this will ultimately depend upon the return for Stanton’s services, the money saved and the money ultimately reinvested into the roster. We don’t know any of that yet.
What we do know is that the team wants to trade Stanton, and that Stanton has at least resigned himself to the idea of being moved. That they have discussed what the rejection of a trade and the resulting composition of the team would look like is simply a matter of course.
My hope is that we look back upon this time, some years down the road, as a rough transitional period, but one that was necessary to put the franchise back on the contention map. One has to think that Derek Jeter feels that way as well. There will undoubtedly be more missteps ahead; knowing that, we should save our venom for when they truly deserve it.