Wake me up when Mar­lins are ready to com­pete again

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - Sports - Dave Hyde

You know the drill. “It takes time,’’ Mar­lins CEO Derek Jeter said.

And they’re build­ing and grow­ing.

“We con­tinue to build, we con­tinue to grow,” he said.

And there’s no time frame on win­ning.

“I don’t put a time frame on it, be­cause any time you put a time frame on it, it al­lows your team to ac­cept medi­ocrity,’’ he said.

Year 2 of the New Mar­lins, or Next Mar­lins, or what­ever you want to call who­ever they are now is about to start, ready or not. And for lovers of sym­bols, con­struc­tion equip­ment kept beep­ing and ham­mer­ing in Mar­lins Park as Jeter an­swered ques­tions for a few min­utes Mon­day morn­ing on the edge of spring train­ing.

Loud con­struc­tion, you see, is the theme of an­other year. And pa­tience, if you have the kind that al­lows you to watch them re­con­struct, brick-by-de­tailed-brick.

So far the ob­vi­ous change is to the home run sculp­ture (gone), the out­field fence (blue, not green), the team logo, uni­form col­ors and (oh, God, not this) Billy The Mar­lin be­ing put on a Pa­leo diet and in a trimmed cos­tume.

The run­ning theme is Jeter & Co. want to dis­tance them­selves as far as pos­si­ble from ev­ery­thing about pre­vi­ous owner, Jef­frey Lo­ria. The only thing left would be to take down the 2003 World Se­ries marker high up in left field. Can we get some­one on that?

Of course, by this point, no one cares about Lo­ria’s fin­ger­prints be­ing wiped clean as much as when Jeter’s team wins. If it does. Los­ing like Lo­ria is what Jeter re­ally needs to sep­a­rate him­self from, and no one knows when that will hap­pen.

The Mar­lins have added 38 play­ers in the past year. Maybe a few of the young play­ers take off this sea­son. Maybe not. The only good part of the Mar­lins com­pli­cated his­tory is hav­ing painful points of ref­er­ence. Year 2 of this re­build means it’s 1999 all over again.

Mark Kot­say was the fu­ture. Bruce Aven was a big hope. And ev­ery­one was ready to quit on Der­rek Lee for hit­ting .206. Who knew only Lee would be­come a fran­chise cor­ner­stone?

Who knows what any of these 2019 Mar­lins be­come, re­ally?

The is­sue is not many fans will even care un­til win­ning makes them care again. Who do you even fol­low? Even Jeter ad­mit­ted to sit­ting back and ob­serv­ing last year rather than get­ting to know his play­ers. Who knew who would sur­vive?

“Look, I’d love for ev­ery­thing to be fixed overnight,’’ he said. “But there’s a lot of things we need to im­prove upon in this or­ga­ni­za­tion. Re­pair­ing our re­la­tion­ship with the com­mu­nity is one of the big­gest ones we had to work on.

“I think we’ve made progress in that di­rec­tion, but we have to con­tinue. Ball­park ex­pe­ri­ence, I wish some of these im­prove­ments in place last year. They take time. We’re go­ing to con­tinue to make im­prove­ments to this park, con­tinue to make im­prove­ments for our over­all fan base.”

When you can’t talk about the team, talk about Mi­ami’s Best Pizza be­ing served. And I get it. I’m one of those who un­der­stood the path Jeter took.

Any­one who bought the team was trad­ing Gian­carlo Stan­ton’s con­tract. And, once he was gone, there was no way to win with the worst-rated mi­nor leagues in base­ball.

In the long run, it might work out. But Year 2 is the short run. We wait to see if they’re the worst team in base­ball or, like last year, achieve enough to be the sec­ond worst.

“I would take that like as a slap in the face, if I was a player,’’ Jeter said. “That’s the ap­proach we’ve got to have.”

Pa­tience is the only ap­proach this sea­son. And most fans are out of pa­tience. Jeter’s Mar­lins will only see them when they get a prod­uct worth watch­ing. Jeter is smart enough to un­der­stand what he in­her­ited and what is needed now.

“Im­prove­ment,’’ he said. “We need to see im­prove­ment. We need to see im­prove­ment from our younger guys who got an op­por­tu­nity to play last year. That’s how you get bet­ter. We can sit and talk about mi­nor league sys­tems all you want, but it gets to a point when you’re in Mi­ami you have to de­velop and have to im­prove year in and year out.”

Un­til then, en­joy the newer, slim­mer Billy The Mar­lin.

CO­RAL GABLES When Hur­ri­canes bas­ket­ball coach Katie Meier signed a con­tract ex­ten­sion in 2014, she do­nated $75,000 to Mi­ami’s women’s ath­letic pro­grams and chal­lenged fans to do what they could to help UM’s fe­male ath­letes.

Since, count­less fans have stepped up and an­swered the coach’s call, in­clud­ing long­time Golden Cane So­ci­ety mem­ber BJ Abolt, who has pledged a “seven-fig­ure es­tate gift” that will es­tab­lish a women’s bas­ket­ball schol­ar­ship en­dow­ment, Mi­ami an­nounced on Mon­day.

The gift com­mit­ment is the largest in the his­tory of the women’s bas­ket­ball pro­gram and it will en­dow a schol­ar­ship that will be named in Meier’s honor at Abolt’s re­quest. It fol­lows sev­eral sig­nif­i­cant do­na­tions to the pro­gram from fel­low long­time sup­port­ers War­ren and Mar­i­lyn Bate­man.

“For some­one to be think­ing about their en­tire life and their legacy, their foot­print, and they want to have an im­pact like that on the Univer­sity of Mi­ami women’s bas­ket­ball pro­gram is stun­ning,” Meier said Mon­day. “I’m at a loss for words. It’s truly stun­ning.”

Said Abolt, a reg­u­lar at UM women’s bas­ket­ball games both at home and on the road, “Katie Meier is the most dy­namic per­son I have ever met. It is a priv­i­lege to be a part of a young woman’s scholas­tic and ath­letic dreams and an honor to be as­so­ci­ated with Coach Meier’s pro­gram.”

The an­nounce­ment of Abolt’s gift comes less than a week af­ter the Hur­ri­canes notched one of their big­gest wins not only un­der Meier, but in pro­gram his­tory — Wed­nes­day’s 72-65 up­set of de­fend­ing na­tional cham­pion and then fourthranked Notre Dame.


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