Jeter’s involvement with the Marlins was messy even before it officially began. His initial partnership with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush fell apart last spring when, according to Bloomberg, the former shortstop demanded complete control over the team’s business and baseball operations. Undeterred, Jeter partnered with Sherman, and together the duo pushed toward a purchase.
But before the sale was finalized, Jeter found himself waist-deep in controversy. In September, the Herald reported that the Marlins’ prospective new owners planned to cut payroll from $115 million (21st highest in baseball) to as low as $55 million, a figure that would likely make them the cheapest team in baseball.The news stung bitterly for fans who had hoped Jeter and Sherman might offer a contrast to previous penny-pinching regimes and for taxpayers who had forked over $488 million in bonds to build the stadium that ownership stood to profit from. And then things got worse.
Later that month, the Marlins informed four high-profile and beloved employees —the Hall of Famers Tony Pérez and Andre Dawson, the World Series–winning manager Jack McKeon, and Jeff Conine, a former player nicknamed Mr. Marlin—that they would not have jobs under the new ownership. Instead of firing the franchise icons himself, Jeter reportedly delegated that awkward responsibility to the outgoing president David Samson. Then, after a public backlash, the neophyte CEO attempted to bring back Conine, Perez, and Dawson in diminished roles with reduced pay. All three declined. In what would quickly become a trend, Jeter had made a questionable decision and executed it clumsily.
MLB owners approved the Jeter-Sherman ownership group on September 27, and the sale became official days later. Almost immediately, Jeter began shopping Giancarlo Stanton, the reigning National League MVP and arguably the greatest player in franchise history. From a baseball perspective, trading Stanton was a defensible move. For a Marlins team that had floated aimlessly through baseball purgatory—not good enough to contend for the playoffs but not bad enough to embark on a rebuild without angering fans—trading Stanton for a package of top young players would at least mean committing to one course of action.
The problem was, the Marlins appeared interested less in restocking their farm system and more in scrubbing Stanton’s large (but deserved) contract from the franchise’s balance sheet. So when Stanton used his no-trade clause to block several potential trade destinations, Jeter and company, according to reporting from the Herald, threatened Stanton that if they couldn’t trade him, they’d deal away his most talented teammates, leaving him to waste away on a last-place team.
The Marlins wound up trading Stanton to Jeter’s former team, the Yankees, unloading most of the slugger’s contract but reaping only a modest haul of prospects. (Days later, they sent another All-Star, the outfielder Marcell Ozuna, to St. Louis for a similarly meager return.) As fans stewed, reporters prepared to grill Jeter at the Winter Meetings, baseball’s annual convention. Except Jeter never showed up. While his colleagues in other front offices haggled with free agents in Orlando, Jeter was back in Miami, watching Monday Night Football from a suite. (His absence from the Winter Meetings was partially explained by his presence at an event benefiting hurricane victims.) A week later, he caught an earful from fans, including the legendary Marlins Man, at a turbulent town hall–style meeting, where one team supporter reportedly cried while asking Jeter why he hadn’t pursued any free-agent pitchers.