Former New York Yankee Derek Jeter Becomes Minority Owner Of Miami Marlins

Aug 18, 2017
Originally published on August 18, 2017 6:03 pm
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Derek Jeter had a spectacular career playing shortstop for the New York Yankees. Over 20 years, he was on five World Series-winning teams. He was an All Star 14 times. And despite being the toast of the town in New York City, he managed to avoid scandal and embarrassment and kept his private life tastefully private.

So what might all that brilliance as a player mean for him as he now becomes an owner - a minority owner but still part of the group that's buying the Miami Marlins of baseball's National League? Have superstar athletes typically translated their superpowers to the front office?

We've called up sportswriter Jonah Keri of CBS Sports and Sports Illustrated to hear what he has to say. Jonah, welcome back to the program.

JONAH KERI: Thank you, Robert.

SIEGEL: And do we know what Derek Jeter's actual job is going to be in Miami? And does the fact that he made more than 3,000 hits in the Major Leagues mean that he's likely to be any good at it?

KERI: Well, he might become the most hardworking man in America, frankly, if the titles match what he might end up doing. What Jeter has expressed an interest in doing and what the reports are is that he plans to run both the business operations side and the baseball operations side. That does not happen anywhere in sports. You never, ever see that.

To run either of those departments would be a gigantic task. And obviously, in the case of Jeter, he doesn't really have any experience in doing either one. So 3,000 hits are great. He has terrific baseball instincts. He has experience in the business world. But to run an entire franchise on both sides - that is a daunting task for anybody.

SIEGEL: Does he have any role models, great athletes who've gone on to ownership and big management positions and done exceptionally well? Or are there some who've done exceptionally poorly?

KERI: Well, it's kind of a mixed bag. Mario Lemieux probably stands out as the best example of this. He owns a small share of the Pittsburgh Penguins and also does an excellent job of overseeing the hockey operations side of the Penguins, of course one of the most successful franchises in the NHL. But on the downside, Michael Jordan has not fared particularly well. And then the one maybe that we're waiting on to see how it goes is Magic Johnson.

Magic Johnson has owned a small piece of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Los Angeles Dodgers are a great team. But all reports from the baseball world are that his role is basically ceremonial. And now he's getting more involved with the Los Angeles Lakers, and he certainly has experience in the basketball world. If the Lakers were to turn it around, you could go ahead and credit Johnson with that success, at least to some extent.

SIEGEL: Do you think that a great player who's a leader of his team on the court or on the field or wherever - on the ice - are there some talents at work there, some skills of character that are just well-suited to making executive decisions?

KERI: It's certainly possible. You know, you see that. You'll see Fortune 500 companies bring in superstar athletes to come speak and to motivate and so on. But to me, what it comes down to is largely a credibility issue. The Marlins are about to be not owned by a gentleman named Jeffrey Loria, who is nobody's favorite person. He has done all kinds of unsavory things during his time as a baseball owner.

Here comes Jeter, who has, as you said, pretty much an immaculate reputation. This is the kind of thing where maybe the Marlins just get taken more seriously as a franchise. I think the best-case scenario for the Marlins here is that Jeter kind of does no harm in his actual roles and that maybe the benefit here is that he's Derek Jeter and people react to that.

SIEGEL: If Lemieux is a role model, can you see something that he did in Pittsburgh that another former star like Jeter might be able to do in Miami?

KERI: Well, Lemieux has this way of getting involved but only to a certain extent. He's certainly in on it when it comes to hockey decisions. But he also has a staff that is empowered to make decisions on their own. So he can weigh in, but he's not necessarily the absolute final word. He's not necessarily the guy who's doing everything on the micro. The best thing Jeter can do, if you're thinking about the Lemieux book, is OK, you're involved. You apply your expertise. But you hire really smart people, which is the lesson for a sports franchise and the lesson for literally any other company.

SIEGEL: You remind me of what John Elway, the great quarterback for the Denver Broncos, said when he signed on as being president of the club - not general manager, not head coach - said, I'm not interested in being a head coach or general manager. I don't have that kind of experience to be able to pick those players day in, day out and such. He helped lead the Broncos to a Super Bowl victory.

KERI: Self-awareness is something that all of us could stand to have more of, and (laughter) kudos to John Elway for having some of it.

SIEGEL: Thank you very much. I've been talking with sportswriter Jonah Keri.

KERI: Thanks, Robert.

(SOUNDBITE OF J.S.T.A.R.S.' "TRIPPING THE LIGHT FANTASTIC") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.