Manfred backs Jeter moves in heated interview

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MLB commissioner Rob Manfred on Wednesday defended Derek Jeter and the new ownership group of the Miami Marlins, saying they have a long-term commitment to winning in South Florida.

Manfred, in a contentious interview with The Dan Le Batard Show on ESPN Radio, said Major League Baseball “did not have player-specific plans” from the new ownership group, which has slashed payroll and traded away the team’s biggest stars — including Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon.

“We do not get involved in operating-level decisions in the ownership approval process,” Manfred said. “Clubs make those local decisions.

“We did not have player-specific plans from the Miami Marlins or any other team that has been in the ownership process. Those are decisions that the individual owners make, and they do not have to be cleared by us or approved by us. … Those are local decisions that really are not part of the approval process.”

Jeter fielded some angry questions from the approximately 200 season-ticket holders during a 90-minute town hall on Tuesday night.

Asked if the team got enough in return for Stanton, Jeter pointed out that they got $265 million of relief that will give them the flexibility to do what they want to do.

“We gave a gift, right?” Jeter said. “I hope every gift I give returns $265 million.”

Manfred told The Dan Le Batard Show that he only first received the ownership group’s payroll plan two days ago.

“This is really simple,” Manfred told ESPN Radio. “We approved a very well-funded group that made numerous presentations to us about their commitment to provide winning baseball in South Florida over the long haul. That’s generally what we look for in the approval process.

“We don’t get into, are you going to trade ‘Player X’ or ‘Player Y’ at a particular point in time, nor do we ask them to make a commitment to people before they even got in and made an evaluation of their talent level, their ability to win with the people that they have. That’s just not how the ownership process works.”

Manfred said he was “fully aware” of the angry reaction of the fan base in South Florida but also urged patience.

“I said this before,” Manfred said. “This group deserves a fair opportunity to demonstrate that they have a long-term commitment to winning.”

He pointed to the past five seasons as an example of baseball’s “cyclical” nature. In 2013, the teams that had the first five picks in the draft — Houston, Chicago Cubs, Colorado, Minnesota and Cleveland — all were in the playoffs last season, while the teams that were in the 2012 World Series — San Francisco and Detroit — have the top two picks in this year’s draft.

The Astros, coming off their first World Series title in franchise history, had three consecutive seasons from 2011 to 2013 where they lost 106,107 and 111 games, respectively.

“The strategy that, apparently, the Marlins have adopted is one that is tried and true in baseball,” Manfred told ESPN Radio. “I’m not saying it’s without pain. As a matter of fact, I think the fans in Houston endured some bad seasons. But it was a process that ultimately produced a winner, and that process is really dominant in terms of the thinking in our game right now, in terms, particularly, of smaller markets’ ability to win.”

Manfred also pointed to the Marlins’ past successes after similar overhauls in the past.

“I understand the concerns that have been expressed in South Florida,” Manfred told ESPN Radio. “… There have been two World Series champions in South Florida. Whether people like everything that’s happened in between, after or not, there are a lot of markets that would make that trade in terms of having those two World Series champions.”

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