There have been more twists in the sale of the Marlins than in a season of "Game of Thrones," with plenty of perceived villains and heroes. So, until the financing of the proposed sale of the franchise is fully examined and approved by Major League Baseball, Derek Jeter and the money men who aspire to own the Marlins will have to wait.
But if the deal is completed -- if -- Jeter will assume the role of chief executive officer, in charge of business and baseball operations, despite having had no practical experience or formal training for that position.
He has been a success at pretty much everything he has done in his life, from playing shortstop to performing in the World Series to hosting "Saturday Night Live" to serving as a pitchman for some of the country’s largest companies. But trying to pump life into a dormant franchise in Miami might be the greatest challenge he has ever faced -- so great, rival executives say, that there’s a real chance that nobody can overcome all of the Marlins’ problems.
With that in mind, some advice for Jeter, based on some input from officials and evaluators involved in baseball.
1. Jeter must rebrand the franchise entirely and work to distinguish it from the Marlins’ toxic past. The bottom line is that some fans in Miami have stayed away from the Marlins because of the actions of Jeffrey Loria, who stripped down the team repeatedly to minimum payrolls, even after the team moved into a taxpayer-funded ballpark.
Jeter and the owners he will work for need to do everything they can to separate the new Marlins from the old Marlins -- different colors, a different logo, the construction of relationships in the community, even the deconstruction of the home run sculpture in left-center field, which has become a symbol of Loria’s ownership.
“The more that I think about it,” said one marketing type, “blowing up that home run display might be a cathartic thing for the fan base. It’s got to go, and quickly.”
Here’s the other part of this: Jeter needs to execute this shift quickly, from the first day he takes over. The longer he waits to build a wall between the old Marlins and the new Marlins is lost opportunity, because after Jeter’s group takes over, he will gradually lose the attention of fans. He has a finite amount of time to reset the image of the Marlins in Miami.
2. Jeter should keep Giancarlo Stanton. Squeezing Stanton’s rising salary will be extremely difficult over the next decade, because he’s owed $295 million. There is a reasonable argument to be made that, for the incoming owners, it would be better if the outgoing owners dumped Stanton early in the offseason, to clear the payroll (and debt).
The problem is that from this day forward, any move will be seen in the public’s eye as the responsibility of Jeter and the new owners, and the trade of Stanton, the team’s monster slugger and face of the franchise, will be perceived as business as usual for the franchise. As Jeter works to rebrand the team, he can’t unload Stanton.
3. Jeter needs to seek out the advice of former star players who have gone on to run teams -- Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, John Elway, etc. Initially, Jordan was very hands-on in basketball decisions, and he demonstrated he wasn’t very good at it. Johnson doesn’t have a lot of experience yet to draw on, but he has run other businesses. Elway built a Super Bowl winner. If Jeter makes these calls, he’ll get a lot of thoughts.
4. Jeter should hire really talented front-office types and then get out of the way. It used to be that a lot of general managers were former players, and some had success. But in this analytics-driven era, almost all of the vice presidents and general managers of baseball operations have years of training in negotiations and assessing players and their value. Jeter will know far more about playing shortstop and getting hits than his front-office peers, but he will be out of his element in building organizational talent, weighing player data and assigning appropriate meaning.
And besides, Jeter’s greatest potential value to the Marlins isn’t about seeing games in Class A and identifying a trade target; he can hire people who are really good at that.
No, Jeter will be worth most to the Marlins in being Derek Jeter -- welcoming possible advertisers in meetings, wooing potential season-ticket holders, making appearances and leading conversations for the club’s broadcasters.
John Executive could walk into a room of Miami residents and discuss the turnaround of the franchise, and after three minutes, a lot of eyes will be glazing over. But if Jeter does it -- posing for selfies and signing autographs along the way -- he could be turn out to be as big of a draw as any player.
5. Jeter will need to manage up. Jeter would be the most prominent and recognizable face of the Marlins, but the fact is that the real power belongs to the guys who write the biggest checks. While Jeter will be happily embraced by MLB as its only African-American owner, he will have to answer to others in a way that he hasn’t for most of his adult life.
From the time Jeter reached the big leagues, his managers -- Joe Torre, Joe Girardi -- catered to him, because of his talent as a player. The Yankees sometimes deferred to him because of his star power. When Jeter started The Players' Tribune, he was held up as The Boss because, well, he is Derek Jeter.
But now, Jeter will work for owners who might be asking hard questions in a few years if the community doesn’t respond and the team continues to hemorrhage millions of dollars. This is not something to which he’s necessarily accustomed. It’s one thing to go in an 0-for-18 slump and answer reporters’ questions about your swing, but it’s a whole other dynamic if situations arise in which your bosses are wondering about your strategy.
If the Marlins’ business goes really badly, then being Derek Jeter won’t necessarily be regarded as a weapon; rather, it might be viewed as a potential liability, because he hasn’t run a franchise before. If the Marlins’ business goes badly, he may not get the benefit of the doubt.
Around the league
When reporters circled around Dustin Pedroia on Saturday, he deflected questions about the condition of his knee and his availability for the rest of the season. When he was specifically asked whether he is coping with cartilage damage, Pedroia paused momentarily and responded, “I’ve got a lot of things going on.”
Asked about when he would return, he said -- over and over -- “I’ll be out there as fast as I can.”
Asked about whether doctors had assured him he could return sometime this season, Pedroia said, “I don’t think they can look into the future, either.”
With so much uncertainty about the second baseman, the Red Sox might be wise to look for a second baseman, such as Neil Walker of the Mets.
• There was a lot of ridiculousness in the Mets’ officials sniping at the Yankees after the two teams failed to agree to a deal for Jay Bruce. But perhaps the most mind-boggling turn was the published revelation from an anonymous Mets executive that their crosstown rival had discussed a possible deal for Walker, only to back away because of injury concerns about the oft-injured infielder. The collateral damage from this was to diminish Walker as a possible trade asset for the rest of August, and, of course, potentially fuel questions about Walker’s health from inquiring teams when the he becomes a free agent this fall. Walker might have grounds for a grievance.
• Justin Verlander cleared waivers and, theoretically, the Tigers could talk to other teams about a deal involving the right-hander, who is owed about $8 million for the rest of this season and $28 million for each of the next two years. Theoretically, Detroit could arrange a swap.
But what has been overlooked in this situation is that Verlander has a full no-trade clause, and no deal will happen unless he agrees -- and he has extraordinary leverage, should he choose to use it. Verlander could ask for a contract extension in return for his approval of a trade, and in fact, it would make a lot of sense for him to do that. Verlander is 34 years old and has been pitching well: In his last 14 starts, dating back to May 30, he has a 3.32 ERA, while holding opponents to a .676 OPS. Over his last seven starts, he has a 1.91 ERA, with just 32 hits allowed and 50 strikeouts in 47 innings.
If the Astros or Cubs or some other team arranged a deal for Verlander, he has the option of rubber-stamping the trade and moving on without asking for anything. But he won’t be a free agent until after the 2019 season, when he’ll be closing in on his 37th birthday. He stands to make more money if he exerts his leverage when the Tigers work to trade him, whether that happens this month or in the offseason.
• The other day in St. Petersburg, Boston right-hander Rick Porcello threw the eighth immaculate inning of the 2017 season -- nine pitches, nine strikes, three strikeouts. At the end of the half-inning, Red Sox catcher Sandy Leon walked off the field and, not realizing the significance of what Porcello had just done, flipped the ball into the stands.
Porcello didn’t recognize the unusual nature of his feat until he retreated into the clubhouse after the half-inning and saw a text from his brother. A minute or so later, Leon poked his head out of the visitors’ dugout and looked into the stands, trying to identify who had gotten the baseball -- a boy wearing a Rays cap, of about 10 or 11 years old.
Leon dispatched a liaison, armed with another baseball, in an effort to get the immaculate-inning ball, but the boy declined the simple swap of ball for ball. Leon and Blaine Boyer than spoke with a security guard, who went to the boy to explain the situation, and with some of the adults around him encouraging him to ask for cash, the youngster named his terms: He asked for an autographed ball from Dustin Pedroia. The security guard agreed, and with the talks concluded, he got congratulatory handshakes from the grown-ups around him. Boyer, who monitored the negotiations from the edge of the dugout, went off in search of Pedroia.
When the security guard approached the boy with the newly signed Pedroia ball, the young man carefully examined it, and once satisfied, he reached into the right pocket of his shorts -- in which he had stuffed the immaculate-inning ball -- and made the trade. Once Boyer had the desired ball in hand, he looked into the stands and gave a hearty thumbs up at the kid. Mission accomplished.
Baseball Tonight podcast
• A special "Call To the Legends" podcast: Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez tells stories from his career, from catching Nolan Ryan when Pudge was 19 years old, to the Robin Ventura fight, to what Johnny Bench told him on the porch at the Otesaga Hotel after Rodriguez was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
• Friday: Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen on his unusual path from intern to vice president; Indians play-by-play man Tom Hamilton on the Jay Bruce trade, the condition of Andrew Miller and the curveball of Corey Kluber; and the Fireball Express of Karl Ravech and Paul Hembekides on the Mets’ sniping at the Yankees, the AL wild-card race and the early excellence of Yu Darvish with the Dodgers.
• Thursday: A conversation with Rays All-Star Corey Dickerson; Jerry Crasnick on the Jay Bruce trade to the Indians; Jessica Mendoza on the challenge that players from Venezuela face with their homeland in disarray.
• Wednesday: Bob Nightengale of USA Today on the suspension of umpire Joe West, and the potential weaknesses for the Dodgers and Astros; Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on the midseason makeover of the surging Cardinals; and John Fisher digs into the struggles of Aaron Judge and assesses the impact on the AL MVP race.
• Tuesday: Rays VP Chaim Bloom on the additions Tampa Bay made before the deadline; The Legend Boog Sciambi on Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, the Orioles’ playoff chances; Sarah Langs plays The Numbers Game; a conversation with Dodgers phenom Cody Bellinger.
And today will be better than yesterday.