What if the Miami Marlins know what they are doing? What if Derek Jeter, Bruce Sherman and the newly designed front office knows exactly what it has in terms of players on its current 40-man roster and the invitees to Spring Training down in Jupiter, Florida? What if this Marlins team could be the surprise of the National League and win more games than expected and challenge for a wild card spot in the 2018 playoffs?
All these scenarios are highly improbable, but they are fodder than cannot be ignored. As much as the fan base in south Florida and MLB writers have torched Jeter for his decision making, maybe the man who holds five World Series rings knows what he is talking about?
The Jeter who fans loved as a player and the man who runs the day-to-day operations of the Marlins aren’t one in the same. He has rubbed the locals the wrong way with letting icons like Jeff Conine, Andre Dawson, Tony Perez and Jack McKeon go. He fired the man who wore the Billy the Marlin costume. He traded away the star power on this roster in an effort to rebuild an organization that hasn’t had a winning season since 2009 and made the playoffs since 2003.
Something has to give. This isn’t a Hollywood screen play, but Jeter and his staff, which includes manager Don Mattingly, could play the spoiler on so many levels.
“This is a teaching camp and a development camp, and it has actually been really exciting for me,” Mattingly said. “So far, this has been one of the most exciting years I’ve ever had. This is about being part of something that we’re building. We had a good group of core players, but we didn’t have any sustainable pitching. We were putting band-aids on it for a few years. It was time for a transition.
“It just feels really good what we’re doing. I think it will be sustainable long-term for the Marlins, and I hope I’m here to see it all the way through.”
The offseason the Marlins endured could only be titled as a soap opera. Differing opinions on a revamped roster. Players unhappy with decisions my management. Stripping down a talented lineup for younger players who are being groomed based on potential rather than on-the-field success. It’s also possible Jeter isn’t done with the Miami Marlins makeover.
There is still a chance catcher J.T. Realmuto, second baseman Starlin Castro and starting pitcher Dan Straily could be shipped off before the MLB trade deadline in July. For those keeping score, this is already happened.
Giancarlo Stanton is in New York.
Marcell Ozuna is in St. Louis
Dee Gordon is in Seattle
Christian Yelich is in Milwaukee
If this is a teaching experience, then Mattingly must prove to be a Harvard law professor – one who has all the answers before the students ask the questions. The third-year Marlins’ skipper sees what Jeter envisions and is excited about what the future holds.
“Even the organizations that can go for it in a big way, like the Dodgers and Yankees, they are intent on building great systems,” he explained. “I think everyone would rather do it that way because you build a base. We’re not going to be able to go get every big free agent, but hopefully we’re going to have nicely developed players coming to us every year.”
The Miami Marlins for now are a team with too many question marks to decide if they are on the right path. Jeter has made his best sales pitch and the players seem to have bought into the system. The Houston Astros followed the same kind of rebuilding program and the team claimed the 2017 World Series title. This appears to be a five-year plan. Fans are asking to be patient, something they have been for far too long.
Mattingly is hoping the turn around will have fans cheering for a winner. He knows it is the players who must turn this around. The chess pieces have been moved to make that happen.
“The biggest thing as a manager is you’ve got a group of people you’re responsible for and a group of guys you want going in the right direction,” he said. “You’re overseeing all of that. I’m excited by what I’m seeing so far from our young guys. I think they’re going to grow into something special.”