Patience. That seemed to be Marlins CEO Derek Jeter’s go-to response as he was drilled with questions at Tuesday evening’s town hall at Marlins Park.
Before the madness began, Jeter opened up on the defense, addressing five stories that he felt painted an incorrect image of the ownership group.
Ownership cannot afford the team
Jeter seemed eager to clear the air about the ownership’s financial situation, citing that the group is full of “financially successful” individuals. I don't think anybody was disputing the fact that a group that mustered together over a billion dollars to purchase the Marlins was not full of financially successful individuals, however much was said of the group’s struggles to gather investors during the purchasing process.
The team has financial issues
Jeter acknowledged that the Marlins are a franchise that has been perpetually in debt, but hedged by adding that every business has operational costs and debt is expected from time to time. Jeter referenced the shortcomings of the previous ownership and assured fans that his group will right the ship financially.
The trades were uneven
The general consensus from the baseball world was that the Marlins may have gotten the short end of the stick in the trades of Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna. Jeter referenced Gary Denbo the Marlins newly hired Director of Player Development and Scouting when defending the prospects the team acquired in return for its’ two superstars voicing his supreme confidence in Denbo. It’s no secret that player development has been a major issue for the Marlins who entered the offseason near the basement in farm system rankings.
The ownership has not handled itself in a professional way
Jeter and Co. began their regime by letting go of multiple Marlins figures, including Jeff Conine and Jack McKeon; it goes without being said that firing a man whose nickname is “Mr. Marlin” would not be a favorable move among fans. Another story surfaced that the Marlins had fired a long tenured scout in the Marlins organization while he was in the hospital undergoing surgery for colon cancer. While Jeter did not address these stories specifically he reiterated that the ownership has operated professionally since day one, calling employees and fans of the Marlins “family”.
Actions have been inconsistent
Some feel that the ownership has acted sporadically in its decision making. Jeter responded to that narrative by explaining that they have a plan and that every move has that in mind.
After Jeter addressed the crowd of roughly 200 season ticket holders and a handful of media members, things got interesting.
The first fan to speak surprisingly offered his support for Jeter.
“I stand with you Derek! Burn it down!”
Jeter jumped and instantly grabbed for the microphone.
“This is not the same old same old, we are not tearing down a team to build it back up then tear it down again,” he responded.
The support for Jeter and the ownership among speakers ended there for the most part. Many fans hammered home the same point, asking why the ownership would dismantle such a talented core that was “two pitchers away from being competitive”. Jeter turned the question on the fans each time asking them which two pitchers they would acquire, to no answer each time.
The longest address of the night came from Marlins Man, who stood at the microphone for five minutes talking about anything and everything.
"Hey Derek, do you know who I am?" - Marlins man to Derek Jeter. Can't make this up.— Aram Leighton (@AramLeighton8) December 20, 2017
Much of the five minutes appeared to be an attempt at self-promotion as well as offering Jeter to ride in his “Marlins Mobile”. Judging by Jeter’s response, I don't think we will be seeing the two of them cruising down South Beach with the top down any time soon.
Marlins Man claims that he has been offered by 4 other MLB teams to sport their jersey. Claims the prior ownership was not grateful for his free advertising, but he continues to wear his Marlins jersey despite that.— Aram Leighton (@AramLeighton8) December 20, 2017
The night took a quick, awkward turn as a fan stood up at the microphone and could not hold back her tears as she asked why Jeter would trade her favorite players. “Why would you get [rid of] Ichiro, the fans loved him,” she said with a crack in her voice.
Perhaps the best fan interaction with Jeter came from a man who offered a great analogy.
“It’s like I signed a lease on a Camaro and come Monday they give me keys to a Volt, and the dealer says don’t worry it will run like a Camaro in 3 years.”
“The Camaro wasn't working,” Jeter responded
“The Camaro was a flat tire from contending,” the fan fired back to a resounding applause.
In a night that saw laughter, tears, anger, and everything in between, the one constant was Jeter’s desire to distinguish the new ownership from the old.
According to Jeter Tuesday night was the first of a “series” of town halls, which means the circus will be coming to Marlins Park several times this year.