Derek Jeter was asked about his vision for the Marlins when he turned to look behind him at the cranes and workers in hard hats making renovations to the ballpark.
“Under construction,” Jeter answered.
His description applies to more than just hammers and nails.
As Jeter begins his second year as CEO of the Marlins, a franchise that has gone 10 years without a winner on the field and ranked dead last in attendance in 2018, the immediate prospects are bleak.
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Everyone is picking the Marlins to finish last again in 2019 as they continue to build up their farm system by trading veterans.
Jeter on Monday refused to put a timeline on how long the process might take, how long it will take the Marlins’ bounty of prospects to become big-leaguers and turn the franchise into a winner.
“You never put a timeframe on it,” Jeter said. “If you come out and say it’s going to take us five years, 10 years, 15 years — you’re saying it’s okay to lose. But that’s not the case. I have no patience. I have zero patience. I’ve been preaching it. But I don’t have it.”
Still, Jeter acknowledged it won’t happen instantly.
“We understand that some things take time,” he said.
Since Jeffrey Loria sold the Marlins for $1.2 billion in October, 2018, to principal owner Bruce Sherman and other investors, Jeter — as CEO — has gone about distancing the franchise from its not-so-successful recent past.
They traded Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, Dee Gordon and, just last week, All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto. They dismantled the Home Run Sculpture inside Marlins Park. They introduced a new logo and colors. They even gave their mascot, Billy the Marlin, a new look.
“There’s a lot of things to fix,” Jeter said. “We were taking over an organization that hadn’t had much success at all for the last 15 or 16 years. So in order to change that, you have to make changes. There’s a lot of things to fix.”
But as the Marlins prepare for the start of spring training in Jupiter on Wednesday, the one thing Jeter can’t do with the snap of a finger is make the team an immediate winner.
While the Marlins’ four National League East rivals — the Braves, Mets, Phillies and Nationals — have spent the offseason strengthening their teams in bids to win now, the Marlins have continued the methodical process of building for the future by acquiring young prospects.
They signed Cuban outfielder Victor Victor Mesa.
The acquired hot pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez in the Realmuto trade.
They have added 38 prospects to their farm system in Jeter’s first year.
What remains on the Marlins’ major-league roster, though, are a collection of players who provides little reason for hope in 2019. Vegas oddsmakers predict the Marlins to win no more than 65 games. Most analytical formulas come up with about the same projection.
It causes Jeter to bristle.
“I would take it as a slap in the face if I was a player and someone told me how bad we were supposed to be,” Jeter said. “You have to go out there and try to prove people wrong.”
The Marlins will likely have a tough time doing that this season.
Jeter spent much of his first year observing. He said he will take a more visible role this season.
“I watched from a distance,” Jeter said of his first season as a team executive. “I kept a distance, so to speak because I wanted to learn about the players last year, the ones who were in the organization that I didn’t know. I used last year as sort of a learning experience. And, now, you might see me a little bit more down in the clubhouse.”
Jeter’s name will be on the Hall of Fame ballot this year for the first time, and there’s a strong chance he will enter Cooperstown in his first year of eligibility. The problem with the Marlins as they are now constructed as that they have no Jeters on their roster.
Not at the moment.
“I’ve got a lot of other things to think about, so I have not thought about it,” Jeter said of his Hall of Fame candidacy.
For now, he has construction to think about.
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