Derek Jeter was nowhere to be found when Major League Baseball owners took up the franchise sale of the Marlins for the first time on Tuesday. It was lead investor and billionaire businessman Bruce Sherman who met with the ownership committee, one of the first official steps in the process.
“This was the first step of several more to come,” said Marlins president David Samson. “I think it’s a process that you take seriously, and Bruce Sherman is taking it very seriously.”
If there are no hitches going forward and league owners give their final approval, Sherman and Jeter could be in full control of the team by the start of the offseason in early October.
Although he was absent from the quarterly owners’ meetings, Jeter’s presence was unmistakable.
Two of Jeter’s former superiors during his playing days with the New York Yankees, Joe Torre and Hal Steinbrenner, offered high praise for Jeter, who will run baseball and business operations for the Marlins if the sale goes through.
“He’s not the kind of guy who’s just going to add his name and say, ‘I’m an owner of the team,’ ” Torre said of Jeter, who is contributing about $25 million of his own money to buy the Marlins. “He’s going to roll up his sleeves.”
Torre was Jeter’s manager for 12 of the shortstop’s 20 seasons in the Bronx.
“I don’t think he’s going into this thing blind,” Torre said.
Hal Steinbrenner, principal owner of the Yankees, said there’s no reason to think Jeter won’t succeed in Miami despite having no experience at the baseball’s executive level.
“Nobody knows baseball better than Derek,” Steinbrenner said. “The [Marlins] organization has some challenges. But he’s gone through a lot. As far as baseball operations, I think he’d get the job done.”
The Sherman-Jeter group of about 16 investors emerged as the winning bidder to buy the franchise from Jeffrey Loria. Samson said the group’s financing package is complete.
Asked to confirm reports that Sherman was still making calls to obtain additional money, Samson replied only that “every deal looks different, and that’s why there’s an ownership committee to look at it.”
“It’s obviously our hope, and Jeffrey’s hope, that this is a deal Major League Baseball would approve, as is,” Samson said.
Torre said Jeter has all the ingredients to be successful.
“He’s smart. He’s got great baseball knowledge. He’s got determination. All the things you want him to be,” said Torre, who now works in the commissioner’s office. “He’s not afraid to fail, which to me is the key. He’s not trying to live up to himself. He’s just trying to do the best job he can.”
Torre’s first season as Yankees manager in 1996 was Jeter’s first full season in the majors.
“I got him as a 21-year-old,” Torre said, “and just as a point of reference, by August or September of that first year, the veteran players were looking for him to do something. So he knows what responsibility is. He never shies away from it.”
Torre said he always knew that Jeter would leave the field once his playing days ended.
“I felt that he wasn’t going to put the uniform on again,” Torre said of Jeter, who last played in 2014. “I couldn’t see him as a hitting coach or manager. It just didn’t seem like his mind worked that way. He just stayed the course. He knew what he wanted.”
Samson said it became clear during negotiations that Jeter is a fast learner.
“He would hear an issue, and he would be able to wrap his arms around it very quickly, having never heard of such an issue before,” Samson said. “So we almost saw during the negotiation the transfer from player into executive, and it was a fascinating thing to see.”
Steinbrenner said it’s going to be strange seeing Jeter working with another organization after spending his entire career with the Yankees.
“I had a town hall meeting with 100 of our season-ticket holders in Yankee Stadium a couple of weeks ago,” Steinbrenner said. “They asked [about Jeter], and I said, ‘Look, it’s going to be a surreal experience, and not in a totally positive way, in seeing him in different colors.’”