It was no longer a question of “if” or “when” entering the 2017 MLB season: Jeffrey Loria was ready to sell the Marlins. The bidding process was wide open, with New York businessman Bruce Sherman ultimately propping up the group that paid $1.2 billion. Hall of Fame-bound former Yankees captain Derek Jeter seized the CEO role, heading up the baseball front office as well as collaborating on all other major initiatives. More than two-and-a-half years later, following a flurry of trades and a plunge deep into the NL East cellar, the franchise is steadily moving in the right direction from both a competitive and community relations standpoint.
But isn’t it tempting to imagine what leadership with a genuine South Florida connection would look like?
Alex Rodriguez has reportedly taken steps to assemble a wealthy, competitive group with eyes on the Mets. However, this isn’t his first taste of the process, as MLB Network insider Jon Heyman mentioned Tuesday that he previously made an “under the radar” bid for the Fish as well.
A-Rod spent his formative years in Miami, emerging as the best amateur baseball player in the country while at Westminster Christian School. He was selected No. 1 overall by the Mariners in the 1993 MLB Draft, but would’ve been content to stay home for three more years at the University of Miami if they didn’t meet his signing bonus demands. The toolsy shortstop surged through the minor league ranks, emerged as a perennial AL MVP candidate, negotiated the largest contract in professional sports history, negotiated the largest contract in professional sports history again seven years after that and put together one of the most productive individual careers of his generation or any other.
Due to a mixed postseason track record and multiple controversies regarding performance-enhancing drug use, A-Rod’s popularity as a player never rivaled Jeter’s. Yet he has far stronger credentials in the business world through his holding company, A-Rod Corp. And similar to Jeter, he was prepared to enter the fray with a deep-pocketed partner (Wayne Rothbaum of Quogue Capital).
We may never know how close A-Rod really came to owning the Marlins, but there are bread crumbs hinting at his seriousness. The 14-time All-Star attended Marlins Park in June 2017 as top picks from that year’s draft class were being introduced to the media, including his nephew, second-rounder Joe Dunand. He sat directly next to the Loria family for the press conference.
They conversed on the field during batting practice, too.
Keep in mind, the sale had not gone through at this time—the Sherman/Jeter group wouldn’t finalize their $1.2 billion bid until August.
There’s also the question of whether A-Rod would have received the necessary support from fellow MLB owners. His PED past raises issues of integrity. Also, he and agent Scott Boras single-handedly changed the industry by empowering players to expect more from their teams, which perhaps engendered some bitterness. They famously exercised A-Rod’s opt-out clause in order to re-up with the Yankees for 10 more years and $275 million plus hefty marketing bonuses related to all-time home run milestones. Owners would be even more profitable in the league today if not for the precedents he set.
As the sun set on Loria’s regime, the Marlins were drowning in debt, the fanbase was deflated by the tragic loss of José Fernández, and the farm system was bereft of high-ceiling talent to contribute to the mediocre major league roster. Like Sherman/Jeter did, most new owners entering that predicament would determine that a rebuild was painful but necessary. But if anybody would have explored outside-the-box alternatives, it’s Alex Rodriguez.
We’ll never find out for sure. Instead, the Marlins brace for the possibility of competing against him as division rivals.
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