Derek Jeter began his reign as Marlins CEO by subtracting: firing longtime front office staffers, trading the most productive major leaguers, trimming payroll. In a vaccum, no community would be on board with that.
However, what one segment of the fanbase recognized at the time, and what the vast majority see clearly now, is that the Marlins franchise had previously been dysfunctional and directionless. Imagine driving a car with shattered mirrors, no airbags and a bad transmission—it’s possible to get to your destination, but the journey would be irresponsible and unsafe. Oh yeah, and the driver was drunk.
In the best long-term interest of his passengers, Jeter intervened and had to stop the car immediately. He diagnosed all of its problems and started investing in the solutions.
Frustrating as it is to watch everybody else passing by in the meantime, Miami has come to appreciate the transparency. A year-and-a-half since the official ownership switch, it’s almost time to get back out on the road.
During his media availability leading up to Opening Day 2019, Jeter pushed a narrative of improved local relations and renewed faith in the organization.
Is there any truth to that? Two recent polls attempted to gauge how much “re2pect” the process has earned.
The Fish Stripes FanPulse series debuted this week with several questions for registered Marlins fans via email. One question’s results were especially lopsided:
Are you confident in the direction of the team?
An overwhelming majority of those polled endorsed new leadership.
With that being said, there is some ambiguity in the phrasing of the question. What does “direction” mean to fans? What if one fan is happy with the direction taking five years, but others are focused more so on two or three years in the future? Could these respondents be outliers in the fanbase because they took steps to register on a new platform specifically to provide Marlins feedback?
I attempted to address those concerns by modifying the question and asking it on my own via Twitter (@all_right_miami). I inquired about current level of excitement for the organization, without placing such an open-ended timetable on it:
True or False: this is the most excited you’ve been for the Marlins organization (as a whole) in a long time? #JuntosMiami— Danny (@all_right_Miami) March 27, 2019
Only 16% of respondents preferred the glory days of Jeffrey Loria. This leaves 84% of fans—more than 500 individuals—feeling either somewhat/entirely more excited for the current state of the Marlins. That is despite what’s shaping up to be another non-competitive summer at the major league level.
Dissenters still exist, no doubt, but don’t overestimate the loud minority just because they speak into a microphone.
The follow-up question then becomes…why? What does this angry and oft-betrayed fanbase see to fuel that optimism in the absence of positive on-field production? Is it the international free agency involvement, community outreach, #OurColores and #DímeloMiami campaigns?
Possibly. The stadium upgrades, lower ticket prices and better food choices inspired by fan requests likely aided the relationship.
Maybe they are just content having an ownership group that seems to care. Personally, that’s what I wanted.
I will leave you with the following quote from the CEO:
“Look, I get it, this is a complicated history with this organization—I understand that. This is a team that won a championship, got rid of all the players. Won a second one, got rid of all the players. Built this park, got rid of all the players.
“Has nothing to do with us. We took over the organization...it was something that was not working, so we came to make changes. But I understand that from a fan’s standpoint, it’s ‘here we go again!’”
This new front office gets it. There are no shortcuts to developing a sustainable and winning culture.
With a much-improved farm system and financial flexibility on the horizon, Jeter is preparing to drive the Marlins to success.