Derek Jeter doesn’t even own the Marlins yet, but he already has informed the team that he plans to fire two special assistants who are in Baseball’s Hall of Fame (Andre Dawson and Tony Perez), the manager who led them to the 2003 World Series championship (Jack McKeon) and the player known as Mr. Marlin (Jeff Conine), according to two MLB sources.
And here’s the twist: Jeter asked Marlins president David Samson to fire those four Marlins luminaries for him, because Jeter didn’t want to do it.
Even more strange, Jeter made the request after telling Samson what he already knew: that Samson would not be returning as team president.
Dawson, Perez, McKeon and Conine all have been serving as special assistants to Samson or owner Jeffrey Loria.
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MLB has scheduled a conference call during the first week of October for owners to vote on the Marlins sale, with three-quarters needed for approval. But Jeter and co-owner Bruce Sherman are so confident that they will be approved that Jeter called Samson on Wednesday to initiate several firings.
Jeter also is expected to fire some people on the baseball side of the operation, though it’s believed president/baseball operations Michael Hill will be retained, at least indefinitely if not permanently.
“Sure, I’m sad,” McKeon said by phone Friday night after Samson informed him Friday of Jeter’s orders to fire him. “No question you’re sad. I’m disappointed, but you understand. A new regime is coming in, and they want their new people in there. You can’t fault them with that.”
In 2003, McKeon replaced Jeff Torborg as Marlins manager on May 11 when the team was 16-26. McKeon went on to guide them to a 75-49 record and a World Series title, which marked the team’s second championship but also represents their most recent playoff appearance — the second-longest postseason drought in baseball behind the Seattle Mariners.
McKeon then managed the team to an 83-79 record each of the next two seasons before Loria made him a special assistant to the owner after the 2005 season.
McKeon returned to the field for 90 games in 2011, taking over for ousted Edwin Rodriguez and managing the team to a 40-50 record.
Since then, McKeon’s duties have included scouting several of the Marlins’ minor league teams, among other assignments.
McKeon had an agreement with Loria to manage one game next September, which would have allowed him to become the oldest manager in MLB history, surpassing Connie Mack, who managed a game when he was 87 and nine months. That would have been a day or so older for McKeon. But that opportunity now seems unlikely to happen.
“It was a great relationship — 13 years,” McKeon said. “At least I can say one thing: I got [Loria’s] only World Series championship…
“I enjoyed my relationship down in Florida. In all my years in baseball, 67, 68 years in baseball, I probably enjoyed it more in Florida than I did anywhere. No question. The people were great. The fans were super. I’m going to miss all those fans. That’s the thing that made it so enjoyable — and makes this so disappointing — the fans treated you with such respect.”
Conine, Dawson and Perez have been serving as a special assistant to Samson, Dawson since 2000 and Conine since 2008. Perez initially joined the Marlins in July of 1993, the team’s first season, and first served as a special assistant to the general manager before becoming a special assistant to the president.
Conine, Dawson and Perez all served as community ambassadors, helping players with coaching tips, among other assignments.
“It’s a new owner, and it’s business for them,” Dawson said by phone after learning of his dismissal. “Different direction, and I completely understand that. Like I told David, I’m thankful and expressed my gratitude. They gave me an opportunity post-career. I guess that’s what ownership does, and they have the right to do that. I didn’t know what was going to happen going forward. Nothing really surprises me. Life goes on.”
No player is more synonymous with the Marlins than Conine, who played for the team during the franchise’s first five seasons (1993-1997) and later returned as a late-season trade acquisition from Baltimore in 2003, helping the Marlins win the World Series that year.
Conine also played the 2004 and 2005 seasons with the Marlins. He ended up playing eight of his 17 seasons for the Marlins and hit .290 with 120 home runs and 553 RBI in 1,014 games in a Marlins uniform. Conine also does some broadcasting work for the team, but it’s unclear whether that will be affected by Jeter’s decision.
Dawson, who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010, played his final two seasons for the Marlins in 1995 and 1996, hitting .251 with 10 homers and 51 RBI in 121 games.
“I’m going to enjoy life,” Dawson said. “It really gives me an opportunity to do more personal stuff. I’ll definitely be in the gym a lot more.”
Perez, who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000, retired seven years before the Marlins began play. Perez managed the team at the end of the 2001 season after John Boles was fired and went 54-60.
Conine and Perez could not immediately be reached for comment Friday night, while Samson declined to comment.