Derek Jeter's house of cards rapidly comes tumbling down
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Derek Jeter’s persona off the playing field has always been more fluff than stuff. But he was allowed to get away with it because of what he did on the field. Now, the chickens are coming home to roost.

Presumably, most of us felt pretty good when we first learned that Derek Jeter’s dream of owning a major league team was coming true. In the beginning, the accolades pointed to the first black owner as a breath of fresh air among what is mostly a staid and conservative group who own teams these days.

Everything since then, however, shows Jeter in mostly a negative light. And when you think about it, that development shouldn’t surprise us at all.

Derek Jeter could afford to be aloof as a player. His incessant non-answers to questions could be overlooked because he had just gone 2-for-4 with a clutch double. The media played along for two decades, many with the hope they might be anointed as the one chosen for an exclusive interview with Jeter as long as they didn’t rock the boat. I would imagine they’re still waiting for that interview.

The trouble is, of course, that owners, general managers, managers, and the like cannot live in a bubble. They have to be “out there” selling the team and tickets. But most all they need to have a coherent plan that is communicated to their fan base, explaining what they are doing and why they are doing it.

In that regard, Jeter is tearing down the Marlins from top to bottom. He’s doing it because he has to. He’s doing it because, as USA Today and others have reported, the Marlins are currently holding a $400 million debt and part of the money to pay back the debt will come from Jeter’s bank account.

He’s also doing it because Miami is not and never has been a baseball town, in which a crowd of 25,000 is the norm. And unless something is done to turn that around, the debt will only continue to increase.

Clark Spencer, a beat writer for the Miami Herald, proves once again that a picture is worth a thousand words.

But here’s the awful news. Derek Jeter had two years to prepare himself to be a team owner and principal baseball executive. He used a portion of that time to take care of some personal items on his agenda following retirement, like getting married and having a child. But from all appearances, he did not prepare himself very well to make the transition to ownership.

Instead, he took the same aloofness, which now is being seen more as arrogance, and came in like a bull in a china shop, firing Marlins employees left and right, some of whom like Jeff Conine, Andre Dawson, Jack McKeon, and Tony Perez had been associated with the team for more than ten years.

To make matters worse, Jeter delegated the actual firings to underlings rather than do the nasty himself. But wait, there’s more. Reports like this one circulated that Derek Jeter also fired a longtime scout who has cancer and needs a kidney.

Meanwhile, Jeter is unloading Giancarlo Stanton, Dee Gordon, and Marcell Ozuna, arguably the core of the Marlins in a blitz of trades, and still, there is no attempt by Jeter to communicate the need to do this to Marlins fans.

Presumably, his arrogance assumes that any fan would know what he’s doing. What are they, stupid? Realizing his miscalculation, Jeter is now attempting to put the toothpaste back in the tube, and it’s not going so well.

A couple of nights ago, for instance, Derek Jeter invited season ticket holders to attend what was billed as a Town Hall Meeting. It was well covered locally and here’s a little snippet from a Miami TV station:

Too little, too late. See, it would have been one thing if Jeter had done the same thing two months ago, explaining in detail, “why for instance, I (Jeter) need to trade the best power hitter on the planet, even though I don’t want to. And why you can expect there will other trades coming. And why, okay, I’ll even use the word, rebuilding is the only viable means of bringing a winning team to Miami, given the financial pressures I’ve inherited. And if there’s one thing you should know about me from my playing days, it’s that I’m all about winning. So, in that spirit, I ask you to join me in supporting a new core of young and talented players I’ll be bringing in over the next year or two. It’s the only way to bring you the team you deserve as fans of the Marlins, along with the need to maintain the financial stability of the franchise.”

Case closed. Not everyone goes home happy. But at least the fan base has been forewarned – this is coming, so get ready for it.

Derek Jeter, the man who we all thought could leap tall buildings in a single bound, is stumbling and bumbling so far in his brief tenure as an owner. It’s embarrassing and unexpected, but it’s real.

There’s nowhere to hide now for Derek Jeter. The shield put up for him by the Yankees is gone. He’s on his own. Jeter wants to follow in the footsteps of Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. But, he’s an infant in the process of doing so.

The game he is playing now is light years away from the one he played for two decades as the shortstop for the New York Yankees. And it’s looking like his new career is setting him back to 1995 when all the scouts were saying, “He’s got a lot of potential, but he sure has a lot to learn.”

A fan of the Yankees for more than a half-century, the sport of baseball and writing about it is my passion. Formerly a staff writer for Empire Writes Back, Call To The Pen, and Yanks Go Yard, this opportunity with Elite Sports NY is what I have been looking for. I also have my own website titled Reflections On New York Baseball. My day job is teaching inmates at a New York State prison. Happily married with five grandchildren. Living in Catskill, New York.