In his first apparent course-reversal in his new high-profile role, new Miami Marlins CEO/part-owner Derek Jeter personally has reached out to the four esteemed Marlins front office members he reportedly ordered fired – Hall of Famers Andre Dawson and Tony Perez, Mr. Marlin Jeff Conine and the Marlins’ octogenarian, World Series-winning manager Jack McKeon – and informed them he didn’t really intend to fire them and that he’d be interested in retaining all four with the team in some unidentified role.
Sources say Jeter personally called the four men this time and told them he wants to keep them with the club, and someone familiar with the situation suggested Jeter provided no explanation why they’d been told they were being let go, or more specifically, why the second message was the opposite of the first.
One person familiar with the talks said Jeter, in his calls to them, told them that of course he wanted them back, explaining he had a deep interest and appreciation for history.
Others involved said that Jeter clearly had originally told outgoing club president David Samson that, since the four Marlins luminaries were consultants to the previous ownership, they would no longer be needed, and Samson and Jeter were said to have agreed at the time that Samson would be the one to pass that message along, which he did. It’s hard to imagine that Samson, who has a law degree and has been president of the team for 15 years, could have mixed up the original message, and anyway, someone with the Marlins said he did not.
(A Jeter associate called Wednesday morning and suggested it was never Jeter’s intention to fire the four.)
Jeter also has not called Samson since the stories of the firings first appeared, so it’s pretty clear there was no misunderstanding; Jeter simply just changed his mind sometime after the stories came to light.
Jeter reached out to the four men Friday or over the weekend, explaining to them that he didn’t believe he could call them until the sale closed (it did so on Friday), and was now giving them a message that was much more positive, and in fact the opposite of what they heard previously.
The four men, who now could all be back with the team (depending on the role offered, of course), either declined comment or could not be reached. Jeter told them that he’d discuss their new roles at a later date.
Jeter received bad publicity not only for firing Hall of Famers Dawson and Perez and Marlins legends Conine and McKeon, but also for either asking or allowing Samson to give them the bad news. The news of the dismissals of Perez and Dawson, two wonderful men in addition to being Hall of Famers, didn’t sit well with many, but the new owner, who received almost uniformly positive press for his legendary Yankees career, was hit just as hard for Conine and McKeon, who are recalled fondly in Miami for their links to past glory and contributing to a championship.
McKeon, now 86, managed the upstart 2003 Marlins team to an upset victory over Jeter’s Yankees in the 2003 World Series, and Conine was a key member of both Marlins World Series-winning teams, in 1997 as well as ’03.
Jeter hasn’t said anything publicly about the believed-to-be firings, or the apparent reversal, either. He answered several questions at his first press conference Tuesday, but while many other topics were covered, that subject didn’t come up.
But, as it turns out, the news isn’t so bad, after all – or at least it looks much better for now. People close to the situation suggest Jeter hasn’t defined the potential roles for the four men, who have been a positive presence around the team, providing cache and aiding either team members with tips or the front office with suggestions. Conine, who also serves as a Marlins broadcaster, has had a particularly active role in the latter duty. The four of them were constant presences in spring training, and the three younger men could be seen frequently around the batting cage at Marlins Park, helping out.
Samson also declined comment on the situation. But other Marlins people who heard of the story recall that Jeter did tell Samson the four men would no longer be needed. Jeter also has taken some heat for letting Samson give the news, though one person’s recollection of the story was that Samson offered to break the news, whereupon Jeter accepted. It’s possible that Jeter didn’t feel it was his place to call them before he officially owned the team, or felt they’d prefer to hear from Samson, who is close to the four men.
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