Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez have always been linked together, and likely always will be to some extent. So while I know that A-Rod was never in the running for an ownership stake in the Marlins, it was hard not to think about when he (briefly) flirted with an attempt to buy the Mets during the offseason. What if A-Rod had been at that stage a few years ago, and had competed with his former teammate/frenemy for the Marlins?
Thankfully we’ll never know. But spring training has barely begun, and this is the time of year to discuss strange hypotheticals. So just for fun I did some thinking about the alternate reality in which A-Rod is running the Marlins — and a few reasons why fans should be glad it’s Jeter instead.
1. Jeter did the business
The simplest reason why Jeter was the better outcome is that he actually knew how to do the work of securing a stake in the team in the first place. A-Rod seems to have been serious about buying the Mets, but as the New York Daily News put it, he and Jennifer Lopez relied more on a “hype machine” than a legitimate money plan in their bid for the team. Not only is this a ridiculous way to go about a multibillion-dollar business deal, but it sort of illustrates the difference between the two men. Jeter is calm, pragmatic, and effective; A-Rod is a huge deal, but sometimes more of a story than a success.
2. Jeter prioritizes development
Maybe Alex Rodriguez would be incredible at putting a team together and developing a playoff contender. I have no idea, and this point is not an indictment of any skills he may have in this department. But Derek Jeter, as was noted in the recent post titled “Three Questions Marlins Fans Want Answered After Spring Training”, has placed confidence in internal options and prospects. His philosophy seems to involve prioritizing gradual, strategic development, which is fitting for a guy who came up through the Yankees’ system and never left. It’s just a guess, but A-Rod—a generational talent who switched teams a few times to secure some of the biggest contracts in sports history—might have brought a less patient (and less strategic) approach.
3. A-Rod would be a steroid distraction
No, I’m not suggesting that A-Rod would have been caught juicing while running the Marlins — though I wouldn’t put it past him. What I am suggesting though is that any time a Marlins player hit with even slightly more power than usual under a hypothetical A-Rod regime, there would have been obnoxious, half-joking chatter about Rodriguez hooking the team up with PED connections. It wouldn’t have been a big deal, but it would have been annoying.
4. … And a potential poker distraction
What might have been a slightly more active concern is A-Rod’s poker habit. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not under the impression that Rodriguez is participating in any kind of game that would land him in serious trouble. But, in a piece on athletes who are enthusiastic about the game, Poker.org pointed out that A-Rod is actually known to have been among the regular participants at the high-stakes celebrity games the book and film Molly’s Game are about. Given that those games attracted FBI scrutiny, I’m not quite sure this is an ideal habit for a team owner or CEO. Given some of the bad luck the Marlins have suffered over the years, it’s hard not to have semi-serious nightmare visions of Rodriguez gambling away a draft pick at a shady poker table (ok I’m kidding…kind of).
5. A-Rod is a good commentator
I don’t want to spend the whole piece trashing A-Rod. I actually think he’s a decent guy and a phenomenal talent who made a few bad decisions and is terrible at PR. So, to throw in a positive note, I’ll also note that Rodriguez has become a really good commentator! He somehow fixed his reputation in about a month or two on the job, to the point that Business Insider suggested he was becoming the “voice of baseball.” I don’t know about that (for me it’s still Joe Buck for better or worse), but Rodriguez legitimately enhances games. If he’d taken over the Marlins instead of Jeter we’d have missed out on this little perk (and if the two swapped places, I don’t think Jeter would be terrific in the booth).
Has Jeter been perfect for the Marlins? No. He can come off a bit rigid in his retirement, and the team still faces a long road ahead (though he deserves some praise, as A-Rod himself suggests in the video up above). But I still feel that in a slow-but-sure fashion he’s going to build a winner, and if there’s a weird alternate universe in which we got A-Rod instead, I’m glad we are where we are.