The Miami Marlins were one of the teams most affected by COVID-19 this season, having had 18 players test positive in late July and early August.
Heading into the playoffs for the first time since 2003, they’re not in great economic shape, either. Without being specific about numbers, Marlins chief executive Derek Jeter said that just like every other Major League Baseball organization, his club’s finances have been affected by the 60-game season with no fans in the stands.
“Hey, we’re very optimistic things are going to return to normal,” the Hall of Fame shortstop said. “It may take a little bit of time. Everyone’s optimistic that things are going to return, but for us as an organization, it has affected the finances.”
Be that as it may, the Marlins open their best-of-three-game Wild Card Series Wednesday against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. The last time the Marlins went to the playoffs, they came from behind to defeat the Cubs after the infamous Steve Bartman interference play in 2003 and then went on to beat the New York Yankees in a six-game World Series.
Jeter was the in the midst of his 20-year Yankees career back then and joked Monday during a conference call he had hoped no one would bring up the second of his two World Series losses against five victories.
He also said he didn’t think “a lot people want to hear about” his club’s finances.
“Every team in baseball has been affected by this,” he said. “But one thing with our ownership group is we’re invested in this organization for the future, and we’re in this for the long haul. I think every baseball team, everyone in this industry and industries around the globe have struggled a little bit this year.”
The Marlins may have suffered the least of any franchise with no fans in the stands at Marlins Park. Frankly, they’re sort of used to it. Last year they were the only team to draw fewer than a million spectators—811,302—averaging 10,016 in attendance for 81 home games. Both of those figures easily rank the worst among MLB’s 30 teams.
In Jeter’s first two seasons the club lost a combined $75 million—$22 million in 2019—but those losses were offset somewhat by baseball’s sharing of local revenues, which benefits smaller revenue teams. This year there has been negligible local revenue and will be no top-to-bottom revenue sharing.
Like the San Diego Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks and Texas Rangers, the Marlins will probably lose in the $100 million range.
Fortunately, they are owned by Bruce Sherman, a venture capitalist worth $500 million, who bought the team from Jeffrey Loria for $1.2 billion in 2017. Jeter has a 4% stake in the franchise.
He took over the team and had to rebuild the front office and player development system, keeping in place manager Don Mattingly and Michael Hill, the club’s president of baseball operations.
The coronavirus then broke out, delaying his own Hall of Fame induction until next summer at the earliest, while hitting his own team on the field hard.
After a 105-loss 2019, there were no expectations. Still the Marlins finished this season at 31-29, good for second place in the NL East, four games behind the Atlanta Braves.
It shocked most experts, including old No. 2. The Marlins have now made the playoffs three times in the club’s 27-year history, winning the World Series in 1997 and 2003 as Wild Card teams. The oddity is, they still haven’t won their own division title.
“You see what our group has gone through this year, and you were pulling for them so hard,” Jeter said. “I take a great deal of pride with not only how our guys have performed, but how they’ve dealt with adversity. We knew we had a lot of depth in our system, but you didn’t know you’d have to replace 18 guys at once.
“Personally, I’m a little biased,” he said. “Other teams deserved [success this season], but I don’t think there’s a team in baseball that deserves it more.”