MIAMI — Derek Jeter acknowledged he has made unpopular decisions in the offseason since taking over the Miami Marlins as a part owner.
“I understand the frustration of a fan,” Jeter said. “The bottom line the way I looked at it was it’s been a challenge for us getting people to the stadium for years. And from everything I have heard, the challenge is because there has not been a winning product on the field. So if there is not a winning product on the field, you have to make a change. It’s a team that has not been to the postseason since 2003 and hasn’t had a winning record in years. And in my mind that’s unacceptable and it should be unacceptable for the fans. The only way for us to fix that is to make some changes. Like I said, I know it’s unpopular.”
Jeter made the remarks during a 30-minute question-and-answer session with guests at the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce Trustee Luncheon on Wednesday afternoon with a few hundred in attendance.
A guest asked Jeter why players have been dealt and what the plan is moving forward.
“We have a long-term strategic plan to make this organization sustainable over time,” Jeter said. “The only way to do that is to invest in our minor league system, player development and scouting. The only way you can be sustainable is you have to have a pipeline of players that are coming up through the organization. From my initial press conference, I mentioned that there were going to be some unpopular decisions that are going to be made, but just know that every decision that we make is for the betterment of this organization. I played for 20-plus years and, trust me, when I was a player I didn’t have a lot of patience. It was pretty simple. You either win or you lose. And it’s the same thing now in an ownership position, is you win or you lose.
“And even though there have been some unpopular decisions, every decision we make is to make the Miami Marlins organization the best organization, a first-class organization from the players to the front office to our fans. This is an organization that will be in envy of other major league franchises over time. I’m learning that you have to have some patience because nobody wants it to happen sooner than I do, but we will have to have some patience. And what I mean by patience, that does not mean we will not be competitive. We will be competitive. Every single person that takes the field for this organization is going to be playing like they’re playing to keep their job. That’s the attitude I had when I played and that’s the attitude everyone will have to have in the organization.”
Center fielder Lewis Brinson, a 23-year old from nearby Fort Lauderdale, is the Marlins’ prized prospect acquired in the recent deals as the Marlins look to stockpile a depleted minor league system.
“We have acquired a lot of talent and I say patience, but it is going to happen sooner rather than later,” Jeter said. “You’re going to be proud of the players we got on the field.”
Assuming Brinson and the young prospects pan out, there will be the question of whether or not the Marlins will be able to afford to retain their players, which has been an issue in the past with the franchise.
The key, Jeter says, is: “It’s obvious we have to bring the fans back into the stadium. We need support from our corporate partners, which we have gotten contrary to popular belief. I know there is a lot of negativity that’s been out there, especially from the media, but we have gotten a lot of support from our corporate partners. We need people to come along this journey with us. I don’t use the word rebuild because it’s sort of a negative word. I use the word build. We’re building something and in order for us to build something sustainable we need partners, whether it’s corporate partners or season-ticket holders or our entire fan base.”
There has been uncertainty on whether or not the Jeter-led Marlins will remove the home run sculpture in left-center field, but he was non-committal on a decision.
“That’s a topic of passion when it comes to Marlins’ fans whether they like it or don’t like it,” Jeter said. “We are always looking to make our fan experience better and we are listening to what you are saying. I didn’t answer [the question], but we are listening.”
A guest asked Jeter if he would be willing to have a gentleman’s bet with David Beckham, who was recently awarded an MLS franchise in Miami, on who would deliver a championship first.
“We are starting from a deeper hole than he is,” Jeter responded. “He is starting from scratch. We had some things that we need to fix.”