What could possibly make “Mr. Marlin” Jeff Conine walk away from the Miami Marlins? A crappy job offer from new team owner Derek Jeter.
A month after Conine and three other special assistants (Tony Perez, Jack McKeon, and Andre Dawson) were unceremoniously fired, Clark Spencer and Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reported on Thursday that Conine (along with Dawson and Perez) was offered another job with the Marlins. But it’s far from the position he had before, and in more ways than one.
But Conine, Perez and Dawson were each offered new positions with the Marlins, though they carried less responsibility and for lower pay. The three were reportedly making $100,000 annually. Sources said they were offered half that to remain with the team.
Conine refused. He said he was told he would be involved in spring training and alumni gatherings – “community service type things” – but that was about it.
Before he was fired, Conine’s job as special assistant involved a wide range of responsibilities. He’d get into uniform and join the team for batting practice, and give his opinions on trades and free agent signings. The new position that Jeter offered Conine is a huge step down from what he used to do, and it came with a major pay cut to boot.
Conine flatly turned it down, and didn’t pull any punches when he talked to Spencer and Jackson at the Herald.
“It was diminished everything across the board,” Conine said of the reduced role. “I didn’t feel it was worth my time and I’m going to explore other opportunities.”
Nothing in this situation has gone right for Jeter, and he looks a lot worse for it. This whole thing started in late September with the Herald reporting that Jeter “ordered” the firing of Conine, Perez, McKeon, and Dawson, and then didn’t do it himself. Instead, he made outgoing team president David Samson do it. And Samson was the outgoing team president because Jeter had essentially fired him as well.
Jeter got absolutely roasted for this, and rightfully so. A few weeks later he backtracked, but managed to look pretty bad doing that as well. Jeter reportedly reached out personally to the four guys he fired and told them that he didn’t actually intend to fire them, and that he wanted them to stay with the team in other roles. But apparently Jeter didn’t tell them why there were fired in the first place, and how the supposed misunderstanding occurred.
And now we know how Jeter wanted some of those guys to remain with the club, and it’s also not great. A 50% pay cut and a drastic reduction in duties is in no way a serious job offer to make to a guy like Jeff Conine, who has a lot to offer a major league team. It’s Jeter’s loss. Conine, who told the Herald “That’s who I am. I’m a Marlin,” will look for opportunities with other teams.
Watching how Jeter has treated several Marlins franchise greats has been interesting to say the least. The only team Jeter had ever known was the New York Yankees, a franchise that is steeped in tradition to the extreme. History is important to every MLB team, but the Yankees have so much of it that you can’t avoid it.
The Marlins, by contrast, have only existed since 1993. They have precious few franchise stalwarts, but Conine is among them. He was a Marlin for the team’s only two World Series championships, and his nickname is Mr. Marlin! And one of the first things Jeter did when he became the owner was fire Conine, along with the guy who managed the Marlins to one of those World Series championships, and two other Hall of Famers. That’s not a great way to treat important figures in your team’s short past.
The quibble here isn’t with the payroll cuts. The Marlins are struggling both as a team and as a business, and changes have to be made. But the way Jeter has handled this is beyond inept. There’s definitely a steep learning curve for first time owners and executives, and Jeter has let it smack him square in the face. Hopefully he’ll learn from it, and quickly, because the World Series will be over in less than a week and there are a lot more public decisions for him to make in the coming months.
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