Jeter hears complaints of Marlins fans at town hall
By STEVEN WINE
MIAMI (AP) Derek Jeter sat Tuesday night in the left field plaza at Marlins Park, facing the music with the downtown skyline behind him.
The former New York Yankees shortstop fielded questions from season-ticket holders, many upset about the direction of the team under a new ownership group led by Jeter.
He told them the Marlins traded major league home run champion Giancarlo Stanton, stolen base champ Dee Gordon and All-Star left fielder Marcell Ozuna for prospects because an affordable payroll and stronger farm system is the only path to sustained success.
Jeter calmly answered questions until there were no more, and after the 90-minute session, he said he appreciated the fans' feedback - positive and negative.
"They're passionate," Jeter said. "That's the thing that is most important, and that's the thing that stood out. I would much rather have a situation where we're answering questions from fans who are passionate, as opposed to everyone sitting there saying all positives. It shows me they care about the performance on the field and this team, and obviously they've been through a lot."
Some 200 ticket-holders attended the town hall, the first in a series, and the seats arranged in the outfield plaza were nearly full - a refreshing change for the attendance-challenged franchise. Jeter opened his charm offensive by addressing the recent payroll purge.
"You've seen the Marlins make moves like this time and time again," he said. "This is not the same old same old. We have a plan. This is not a project to break the team down and build it up just to break it down again. We have a path to be sustainable over time."
The Marlins haven't had a winning season since 2009 and went 77-85 this year, but several fans argued the team was only a couple of starting pitchers shy of contending, and Jeter's group should have added talent instead of dismantling.
More spending wasn't a long-term solution, Jeter responded. He said the franchise lost too many games and too much money under previous owner Jeffrey Loria, who left the farm system decimated.
"You can't throw money at a problem and dig a bigger and bigger hole and not have any depth in the organization," Jeter said. "You have to build from the bottom up.
"I hear your pain. I know you've been through a lot. But we're trying to build something that is sustainable, and this is the only way to do it."
Jeter's plan had better work, one fan said.
"We have been the laughing stock of baseball for years," she said. "If you have a shot at not killing baseball for good in Miami, this is it."
Another fan fought back tears while discussing the departures of Stanton and Ichiro Suzuki.
"I appreciate your passion," Jeter responded. "You are the true definition of a true die-hard baseball fan."
Several fans said they may not renew their season-ticket package, with one noting the town hall was being held on the plaza where many of Stanton's tape-measure homers landed.
"I don't expect to see any more of that," he said.
Many fans offered suggestions, from free tickets to Jeter replacing Stanton in right field.
"I've played my last game," Jeter said.
Updated December 19, 2017