Make the Marlins a winner? Don't ever doubt Derek Jeter

Derek Jeter won the auction for the Miami Marlins, but you already knew that. In fact, the moment you heard Jeter was involved in a group pursuing the purchase of the Marlins, you probably figured muscle memory would rule the day and that No. 2 would finish No. 1.

Jeter wins. It's what he does -- in baseball, in business, in life, in love. How many people on the face of the earth are better at something than Derek Jeter is at winning?

Jeter is even dragging his partner, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, toward the finish line. The group, which is led by Bush, won exclusive negotiating rights with a $1.3 billion bid, according to multiple media reports, but there is still no contract, and the sale would need approval from Major League Baseball.

Jeb Bush couldn't win the White House as brother George W. Bush did. But with Jeter at his side, he has a chance to win the World Series title his brother couldn't as owner of the Texas Rangers.

Of course, this surprises absolutely nobody. Derek Jeter told his grade school teachers he would become a big league ballplayer, and those teachers told his parents their son needed more realistic goals. Jeter became a big league ballplayer.

Derek Jeter told his youth baseball and basketball teammates in Kalamazoo, Michigan, that he would become a New York Yankee, and they thought those were wild, big-city dreams. Jeter became a Yankee as the sixth pick in the 1992 draft after the Cincinnati Reds decided, at the last second, that Chad Mottola was the better call as the fifth pick.

Derek Jeter told his minor league teammate and friend, R.D. Long, that he would never allow the Yankees to use his dizzying number of errors as a reason to move him from shortstop to the outfield. Jeter became a lifer at shortstop.

Derek Jeter told reporters and fans and everyone else who asked that his primary post-playing mission was to become an owner. And voila, a little more than two seasons after he delivered his final Yankee Stadium hit as a 40-year-old -- a miraculous game-winner, you'll recall -- he stands on the doorstep of MLB ownership. His first manager could be Don Mattingly, of all people.

Mattingly was the Yankee captain who one spring training day famously advised the novice Jeter, busy walking off an empty back field, to always run on or off a ball field, "because you never know who's watching you." Jeter ran out everything for the rest of his baseball life, building his iconic career around a relentless drive that ultimately wore out his opponents. He developed into a first-ballot Hall of Famer on grit and resourcefulness more than he did on talent, and that will serve him well as an executive trying for the first time to win like a Yankee without the benefit of a Yankee payroll.

Jeter's teams won 22 postseason series -- 22 -- including five World Series titles. He had a lot of help in the form of Mariano Rivera, Joe Torre, the Pettittes and Bernies and Tinos and Paulies and Posadas. And every last one of those Yankees will tell you their championship seasons revolved around the shortstop and his willingness to grind through injuries, through everything, in the ultimate grinders' sport. Jeter was to the Yankees' dynasty almost what Tom Brady is to the New England Patriots'.

So you should go ahead and bet that "Captain Intangibles" will make a tangible difference if he ends up in an executive suite in Miami, where the Marlins are trying to break a streak of seven consecutive losing seasons. The franchise has managed 18 losing seasons out of 24 but has won two championships along the way, including the 2003 World Series at Jeter's expense. It has been a bizarre run defined by bizarre and destructive ownership choices. Jeter was pretty good at cleaning up George Steinbrenner's messes, and the experience will surely help him clean up Jeffrey Loria's.

This much is certain: If his Marlins ever win the World Series, Jeter won't race onto the field and make an amateur-hour dash around the bases like Loria did in the old Yankee Stadium in 2003, right after Josh Beckett made the home team look like a junior high squad from the Bronx. Jeter will act like he's been there before, because, you know, he has.

When MLB owners get around to approving this sale -- and who among them wouldn't want to trade Jeffrey Loria for Derek Jeter? -- Loria will walk away with $1.3 billion, a pretty good return on his $158 million investment in 2002. But baseball is the big winner here. Commissioner Rob Manfred didn't want his most marketable retired player spending the rest of his second career managing a website for athletes. If the Steinbrenners weren't going to give him a piece of the family business, baseball wanted Jeter to do what was once unthinkable: trade the pinstripes for a new uniform.

Sure, Jeb Bush is officially the rich guy lording over a circle of rich-guy investors. But when he isn't asking Jeter about some of his 3,465 hits, or about the instinct and artistry that shaped his forever 2001 flip play, he should be smart enough to sit back and let a born winner tell him how to build a winning campaign.

In the end, expect Jeter to be the one to finally land Jeb in the White House -- to celebrate his championship with this president or the next one.

Derek Jeter said goodbye to Yankee fans after his last game in the Bronx in 2014, but he may be returning to baseball as an owner. Credit Chang W. Lee/The New York Times



Derek Jeter and Jeb Bush Are Said to Move Closer to Purchase of Marlins

Derek Jeter has always said that his long-term ambition was to own a major league team. Now, less than three years into his retirement, he appears to be closing in on his chance.

A group including Jeter and Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor and presidential candidate, has reached a tentative agreement to buy the Miami Marlins, according to two people briefed on the situation who requested anonymity because the deal is not official.

While the group still must demonstrate it has the necessary financing and must win approval from the owners, Major League Baseball is enthusiastic about the prospect of adding Jeter, the popular and polished former Yankees captain, to its ownership ranks.

Bloomberg first reported that the Jeter-Bush group was within reach of buying the team. The Miami Herald reported that the sale price would be $1.3 billion. There are said to be multiple members of the ownership group, but Bush, who failed in his bid to win the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, would apparently be the control person.

If that turns out to the be case, he will follow a path forged by his brother George W. Bush, who was managing general partner of the Texas Rangers from 1989 to 1994 before embarking on a political career that eventually led to the White House.

Jeter’s precise role with the Marlins is not yet known, but he seems likely to want to be more than a figurehead. Jeter, who lives in Tampa, Fla., has been relatively active, both professionally and personally, since retiring after the 2014 season. He started a website for athletes and a publishing imprint, and he married the supermodel Hannah Davis. The couple are expecting their first child, a daughter, this year.

Jeter earned more than $265 million in salary over his 20-year career, spent entirely with the Yankees, with whom he won five World Series and lost two, including one to the Marlins in 2003. He is a revered Yankee, and it might be jarring to see him working with another club.

“I’m sure it would be,” said Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner, a former teammate. “But baseball organizations don’t come up for sale on an annual basis. It’s one of those things, if it’s something that he wants to be involved in, you can’t sit around and wait for the Yankees to come up for sale.”

Another former teammate, C. C. Sabathia, said he would never want to own a team because he would not want the blame when things went awry. But he said Jeter had long been eager for that kind of challenge — and if the sale goes through, Jeter would technically be a boss of another former Yankees captain, Don Mattingly, now the Marlins’ manager.

“He’s always talked about it,” Mattingly told The Sun-Sentinel this month, referring to Jeter’s ownership aspirations. “I asked him if he wanted to coach and he’s like, ‘Never.’ I’m sure he’ll be good. Jeets pretty much seems to be good at everything he tries to do.”

While some former superstars in other sports have been involved in team ownerships — examples include Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky and Michael Jordan — there is little precedent in baseball. The Los Angeles Dodgers’ ownership includes Magic Johnson, the former N.B.A. star and current president for basketball operations for the Los Angeles Lakers.

When the Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan was president of the Texas Rangers, he joined the ownership group that bought the team at a bankruptcy auction in 2010. Ryan was chief executive of the Rangers when they twice reached the World Series, and he retired from the team in 2013.

The Athletics franchise has also had former players among its ownership. Connie Mack, who played for 11 seasons in the late 1800s, later became the longtime manager and owner of the Philadelphia A’s. The former outfielder Billy Beane, who has gained fame as the head of the Oakland A’s baseball operations department, is a minority owner of the team.

The Marlins have been owned since 2002 by Jeffrey Loria, a New York art dealer with a fondness for former Yankees. Loria succeeded in getting a new ballpark built for the franchise in 2012, but the Marlins have been plagued by low attendance and distrust of the ownership by the team’s fans.

While sometimes giving out lavish contracts — including a record 13-year, $325 million deal to the slugger Giancarlo Stanton — Loria has also, at various times, reversed course and slashed payroll with little warning. The Marlins have not reached the postseason since their 2003 championship, and their current playoff drought is the longest in the National League.

Even so, Loria stands to turn an enormous profit if the sale to the Jeter-Bush group goes through. He bought the Marlins for $158 million after Major League Baseball had purchased his previous team, the Montreal Expos, for $120 million and lent him the rest to complete the deal for the Marlins.

Forbes recently valued the Marlins at $940 million, but the reported $1.3 billion price for this deal would be the second-highest ever paid for a baseball franchise, behind only the sale of the Dodgers for $2 billion in 2012.

According to a sports lawyer familiar with the Marlins’ situation, two of the attractive elements in purchasing the team would be the financial potential in arranging a new broadcast deal and a stadium naming-rights agreement. Jeter and Bush’s status as in-state owners should enhance the team’s brand, the lawyer said.

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