MIAMI -- Reaching the playoffs was a huge step forward for a Marlins organization that finished in last place in the National League East the previous two seasons. The 2020 campaign showed that the directive by ownership to build a sturdy foundation from the Minor League system on up is working.
Still, there remains plenty of room for growth. The Marlins finished 31-29 and advanced to the NL Division Series, in which they were swept in three games by the Braves. The club is mindful that its success came in an unprecedented 60-game season, and questions remain on how Miami would hold up over a traditional 162-game campaign.
After the Thanksgiving break, the business of baseball promises to pick back up, especially after the Dec. 2 non-tender deadline. Chief executive officer Derek Jeter, who addressed the state of the Marlins on Monday during a turkey distribution at Marlins Park, noted the club remains committed to sticking to its building process with the goal of achieving sustainable long-term success.
The Marlins have stubbornly stayed with their building plan since the current ownership group took over after the 2017 season. They don’t plan on changing too much of that now.
“We want to continue to make progress, but at the same time, you have to keep in mind that we said we had a plan when we got here, and we're going to stick with the plan,” Jeter said. “We have a lot of young players that came up and got an opportunity probably a little bit earlier than anyone thought they would because of the situation and the circumstances that we were dealing with.
“We're going to continue to give those kids an opportunity to play. That's what we've said from Day 1. We built our Minor League system, and it gets to a point where you have to find out who's going to be here for the long run. We're going to stick to the plan we have in place, and that's having patience with our players.”
The Marlins made history by hiring Kim Ng as the first woman general manager in MLB history. As much attention as the news gained, Jeter notes that Ng right now is going through basically an orientation period as she learns the organization.
“I've known Kim for a long time,” Jeter said. “Her resume speaks for itself -- someone who has done everything in this game -- and she was the perfect fit for where we are as an organization. I couldn't be happier to have her. It's going to take her a little bit of time to get up to speed with the organization, the same way it took me some time to get up to speed with the organization when we took over.”
Jeter added that Ng was the first person he contacted for the position, and it was clear early on that she would be the choice.
“We had a couple of conversations, and I knew it was going to be a good fit for us,” Jeter said. “It was just a matter of if she wanted to get back into working for an organization. She hasn't been with an organization for a few years now, but she was excited at the opportunity, and we couldn't be more excited as an organization to have her.”
One of the tougher calls the front office will have to make is identifying which players and prospects best fit the long-term projection of the organization.
“We have a lot of players that are at the top levels of the Minor Leagues, and they're knocking on the door,” Jeter said. “Who knows when they're going to be ready? But one thing you don't want to do is, you don't want to block them and block their development and give them their opportunity to come play at the Major League level.
“Having said that, you do sit down and say, 'Look, how are we going to get better?' And we need to get better. I know we had a little success in 2020, but by no stretch of the imagination are we where we want to be.”
Much of the Marlins’ credit in 2020 goes to the level demeanor of Don Mattingly, who won the NL Manager of the Year Award this season.
“Even when Donnie's contract was up after last season, I had a conversation and told Donnie that I felt as though he was the right person to lead the team on the field,” Jeter said. “I think he has the perfect demeanor, especially for young players coming up, because you've got to have a lot of patience. You could probably see from watching Donnie during games he's got a pretty calm demeanor, and I think that rubs off on the team.
“Donnie is the right man for the job, and I couldn't be happier that he won that award. He's the right person to lead our team moving forward.”