Derek Jeter wishes baseball could change the subject.
The Miami Marlins CEO, who masterfully steered clear of controversy throughout his Hall of Fame playing career, has watched with dismay each new headline in the Houston Astros' sign-stealing scandal.
“It’s like a slow drip of responses coming out from everyone,” Jeter said Monday at the Marlins' spring training camp. “You hope at some point people can just move on. But look, it's unfortunate. It’s a black eye for the sport.”
Jeter spoke publicly for the first time since Commissioner Rob Manfred concluded the Astros violated rules by using a TV camera to steal catchers’ signs during their run to the 2017 World Series title and again in the 2018 season.
Manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were suspended for one season and then fired by the team. The commissioner's punishment has been widely criticized because players were not disciplined.
“When you talk about people trying to get an edge in baseball, I don’t think that’s anything new. People have been trying to do it for years,” Jeter said. "But, obviously, people took it way too far. And there are penalties for it. They're paying the price.
“Regardless of what the penalties are, others are going to have their opinions on what they think should happen. You hope that over time it passes. But I'm sure this is going to sting for a while.”
Last month, Jeter came within one vote of being a unanimous pick for the Hall of Fame. As the New York Yankees' shortstop he was all about winning, but in his two seasons with the Marlins they've gone 120-203.
Miami's farm system is much improved, however, and while Jeter declines to predict when the Marlins might become playoff contenders, he believes the depth of young talent will begin to pay dividends in 2020.
“This organization is in a lot better shape than when we took over,” he said. “We should be a lot better this year than we were last year. I’ve always preached competition. We have an organization that is layered with talent. Guys are going to start pushing, and that’s a good thing."
Miami went 57-105 in 2019, the poorest record in the National League. Many projections have the Marlins winning around 70 games this year.
Another challenge for Jeter is to put more fans in the seats. Last season the Marlins finished last in the NL in attendance for the 14th time in the past 15 years.
“From the interactions I’ve had, people are starting to get excited,” Jeter said. “We’re trying to earn the trust of the fan base. It takes a little time. We’re hoping more people are starting to trust us, and they come out and give us a chance.”