Jeter deserves time to forge new era in Miami

Astros, Royals also underwent difficult rebuilds before finding success

December 14th, 2017

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Derek Jeter deserves a chance to show he can do this thing the way he thinks it should be done. Does anyone believe he's enjoying this part of the process?

These past few days may be the toughest Jeter will ever have as the Marlins' CEO. That's because he understands the importance of talent and how difficult it is to acquire it.

To trade to the Yankees and to the Cardinals (as has been reported) in a span of a few days is the start of a new reality for rebuilding a baseball team in South Florida.

Here's the point: Jeter has credibility in this game, maybe as much as anyone who has ever played. He's smart and driven to be successful at this second chapter of his professional life.

By the time Jeter and New York businessman Bruce Sherman closed on the $1.2 billion purchase of the Marlins, they had a blueprint. To build something lasting and to gain some payroll relief, they would have to take a step or two back to position themselves for better days.

Jeter is hoping against hope that this is the last time South Florida baseball fans have to go through this kind of thing. And so, this is where the new era of Marlins baseball begins.

To criticize Jeter at this point is not entirely fair. But that's what agent Scott Boras did Wednesday morning at the Winter Meetings, taking issue with the choice to move Stanton rather than fortifying the roster around him.

"You have a community down there that has a tremendous outfield, a new ballpark," Boras said. "They have an excitement that they grew to know. They suffered tremendous tragedy and loss with Jose [Fernandez, who died in a boating accident in September 2016].

"As a community, they bonded around that team. And it was really wonderful to see the reaction after the loss of Jose, the connection the community had with that team.

"You heard the players on that team say, 'If we could add pitching … '"

Boras said these kinds of trades are bad for the game. He said that if Jeter and Sherman didn't have enough money to run their franchise, they shouldn't have been approved to own the club.

OK, slow down.

The Marlins are not the first club to undertake a stark reconstruction. The Astros just won the World Series after spending three years doing the very same thing.

The Royals went to the World Series in back-to-back seasons (2014-15) after a long, tough rebuilding process. Neither Astros owner Jim Crane nor Royals owner David Glass enjoyed the tough times.

When their teams had turned a corner, they understood that they had done the right thing. When Houston lost 111 games in 2013 -- general manager Jeff Luhnow's second season on the job -- he got a license plate that read: GM 111.

"I wanted to be reminded of those 111 losses every morning when I got in the car," Luhnow said this week.

When the Astros won Game 7 of the World Series last month, it was their 112th victory of the season.

"I'm getting a new license plate," Luhnow said.

In fact, Jeter himself has firsthand experience with this kind of process. He was part of a massive rebuild that Yankees underwent in the early 1990s, drafted with the No. 6 overall pick in 1992 after the club finished 71-91 the year before. Around that same time, the Yanks signed and developed the likes of Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera, and a dynasty was born. Like many clubs, the Marlins are simply hoping to build a sustainable winner based on consistent acquisition of talented amateurs and Minor Leaguers. The trades of Stanton and Ozuna are just part of that, and Boras knows that as well as anyone.

Marlins general manager Mike Hill was asked Wednesday afternoon about Boras' comments, and he took the high road.

"[Boras] has the right to speak his mind," Hill said. "I have more important things I want to try to accomplish. We have an organization that we have to build, and that is what we're charged to do while we're here at the Winter Meetings. No need to comment on rumors or comment on anything that doesn't really pertain to us trying to make ourselves better and do the job we need to do."

Here's the thing about that: Nothing is guaranteed. Rebuilding is painful. But to paint an overly rosy picture of where the Marlins were overlooks that they've had eight straight losing seasons and haven't been to the postseason since 2003.

Boras isn't necessarily wrong, but if this truly is the last time the Marlins are rebuilt, if Jeter uses these trades to build a great foundation, then it will have been worth it. The agent's near view and the club's long view won't always match up.