The Marlins don’t have much playoff experience. This year is just the third time the team has been in the postseason. But it’s a different story for Marlins CEO Derek Jeter, who played in 158 postseason games and won five World Series during his career with the Yankees. The experience gives him a lot of experience to draw from in motivating the team and giving the players advice as Miami tries to win its third World Series title.
It seems to be working as the team won the first game of its best-of-three wild card series against the Cubs.
The Marlins’ 2020 season
The Marlins last made the playoffs in 2003, and they weren’t supposed to be competitive this year, coming off a season in which they lost 105 games in 2019. But the Marlins defied expectations and made it to the postseason by going 31-29 and finishing second in the NL East in a most-unusual season.
Jeter told the New York Times that since taking over the team, he has wanted to “build a team with athletes … a team that’s aggressive, bunting, hit-and-run, stealing.” And that strategy paid off this year. The Marlins ranked second in the majors with 51 steals, improving over last year’s performance.
CEO Derek Jeter exercises patience with the Marlins players
In charge of building a team, Jeter realizes he must think differently than he did when he was a player. He told the Times, “When you’re playing, you’re competing for that particular year,” but that’s not the case when you’re in the front office. Jeter acknowledges that, in his position, “you’re playing for this year, next year, three years, five years down the road. So you’ve got to have a certain amount of patience.”
He admitted to not having much patience early in his career as an executive, but this has changed. Jeter says he has more patience with players because he understands “how difficult it is to play this game” and that all athletes struggle at some point. And he likes when a player struggles because he gets an idea of how they’ll bounce back.
Advice Jeter gave the Marlins this season
Jeter knew this would be a weird season with just 60 games and coronavirus pandemic-related restrictions, including no fans at games. So he gave his players advice about how to take the pressure off of themselves in a year when every game counts more than usual. He shared some of that advice in the interview with the Times.
The biggest thing Jeter told the players is that everything counts, no matter which part of the season it is. “Every single pitch, every at-bat, every inning, every single game counts — and if you take that approach, there’s no added pressure,” he stated. The postseason plays the same way as spring training or regular-season games. If players have this outlook, they won’t feel the pressure of the big stage of the playoffs.
One part of Jeter’s strategy as a team executive is knowing his limitations. He explained to the Times, “You have to understand what you’re good at and where you need help. I’ve always been very good at knowing what I don’t know.”
Along those lines, when the Marlins clinched their first playoff berth in 17 years, he spent the night calling scouts and baseball operations staffers — some of whom fill in the holes of knowledge Jeter lacks — to thank them for helping achieve the team’s goal.