Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred may have lied when he said he had no idea the Miami Marlins planned to cut payroll under new ownership. Manfred gave his side of the story to Dan Le Batard in an extremely awkward radio interview. Once that interview was over, some of Manfred’s comments were disputed by Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.
There’s a lot to unpack there, so let’s start with the interview. Manfred appeared on Le Batard’s ESPN program. The tone for that conversation was set almost immediately, as Le Batard introduced Manfred by saying “I don’t believe baseball deserves a single customer in South Florida.”
Manfred was, obviously, not happy with that, but Le Batard refused to let up. His second question focused on whether Manfred knew about Derek Jeter’s ownership group’s plan to cut team payroll. At first, Manfred did not give a “yes or no” answer. After being pressed relentlessly by Le Batard, Manfred said no.
Here’s the entire combative and cringe-worthy interview if you’re interested. It’s a tough listen.
A fair amount of the discussion is about whether Manfred knew the Marlins were determined to tear things down, though there are other highlights.
Manfred’s knowledge of the Marlins’ intentions, however, have become the focus after the Miami Herald immediately contradicted Manfred following the interview. Barry Jackson spoke to two people directly involved in the process who said Manfred knew Jeter intended to slash payroll.
A source directly involved in the Marlins sales process, after hearing the Le Batard interview, said, via text: “Commissioner said was not aware of [Jeter] plan to slash payroll. Absolutely not true. They request and receive the operating plan from all bidders.
“Project Wolverine [the name for Jeter’s plan] called on his group to reduce payroll to $85 million. This was vetted and approved by MLB prior to approval by MLB. Every [Jeter] investor and non investor has the Wolverine financial plan of slashing payroll to $85 million. Widely circulated.”
From the sound of that, every owner knew Jeter’s group planned to immediately dismantle the team. If that’s true, Manfred knew as well.
The Marlins and their fans have a tough history with rebuilds. Sure, the team has won two World Series titles, but both were followed with massive sell-offs once those players got expensive. Things were supposed to change with the new ownership group. Right now, it doesn’t look like that’s the case.
Sometimes, rebuilds are necessary, but the Marlins did have a fair amount of promising players on the team. Three of them were traded away recently — Giancarlo Stanton, Dee Gordon and Marcell Ozuna. At least two remain in Christian Yelich and J.T. Realmuto, though maybe not for long.
With a few free-agent signings, the Marlins could have positioned themselves as contenders. Instead, they decided to cut payroll again.
None of that is going over well in Miami. Jeter met with Marlins season ticket holders Tuesday night. It was a complete disaster.
The entire ordeal has become so surreal that we haven’t even mentioned Jeter’s plan to slash payroll was called “Project Wolverine.” Possibly named for the member of the X-Men who uses his claws to “slash” enemies.
After everything that’s been done to the Marlins in recent weeks, it’s too kind to refer to anyone involved in this saga as a superhero. Joker and Dr. Doom wouldn’t be too far off, though.
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