The beginning of Derek Jeter’s tenure as the face of the new Miami Marlins ownership is off to a rocky start. Per a report from Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald, special assistant Jeff Conine, who was also a popular outfielder for the team for years, is leaving his position after Jeter and his group offered him a lesser role at a significant pay decrease.
Conine did not mince words when announcing his decision to leave the franchise he helped win World Series titles in 1997 and 2003.
“To say I’m disappointed that I won’t have a role in this organization, yeah, I’m disappointed,” Conine told the Miami Herald on Thursday.
“I spent 7½ years as a player and the last nine years as someone working with the organization,” Conine said, according to the Herald. “I’ve always considered myself a Marlin. I’m a member of this community. I want to see them win again. I want to see them get back to the World Series and the playoffs.”
An icon disrespected
To say Conine is being disrespected would be an understatement. This is someone who had not one but two different stints with the team, each of which featured a run to the World Series against all odds. In fact, it was Conine’s sacrifice fly in the infamous Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS against the Chicago Cubs that gave the then-Florida Marlins a lead they would never relinquish en route to their stunning World Series victory over the favored New York Yankees.
And that’s just a small piece of what Jeff Conine did in a Marlins uniform. In the team’s inaugural season in 1993, as a 27-year-old rookie, he hit .292 with 12 home runs and 79 RBI and appeared in 162 games, finishing third in NL Rookie of the Year voting behind future Hall of Famer Mike Piazza and Atlanta Braves stud reliever Greg McMichael.
Conine would bat .319 the following year and make his first NL All-Star team. He would make the team again in 1995 and his solo home run in the eighth inning proved to be the game-winner in the National League's 3-2 victory.
Even though Conine fell victim to the Marlins' fire sale after the 1997 championship season and spent time with the Kansas City Royals and Baltimore Orioles, he still found his way back to the Sunshine State via a late-season trade and played a key role during the team's 2003 championship run.
Conine would leave the Marlins again following the 2005 season and bounce around for a few more years before signing a one-day deal to retire with the Marlins in 2008, so it's clear just how much the man loved the franchise. He gave his heart and soul to the team, so it's only natural he would remain with the Marlins as a special assistant.
Jeter's rocky start
The sad part is that Jeter's disrespect of Jeff Conine is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of his rocky start as a new MLB owner. It was reported back in September that Jeter wanted to fire not only Conine but also special assistants Tony Perez, Jack McKeon, and Andre Dawson, each of whom has special ties to the Marlins.
Perez is a Hall of Famer who managed the Marlins for most of the 2001 season, Dawson spent the last two years of his Hall of Fame career in a Marlins uniform, and McKeon was the skipper of the 2003 team that won the World Series. Yes, a new owner will want to clean house upon taking over, but the fact that Jeter backpedaled firing these three after news of his wanting to do so broke shows just how respected they are in the Marlins community.
Look, I get it. The title of "special assistant" in baseball is vague and often only serves for appearances' sake. Though Conine may have had a hand in developing players and weighed in on roster decisions along with Perez, McKeon, and Dawson, it's not as though the Marlins' performance on the field was largely due to their collective presence in the front office.
That said, the fact that Conine's departure is because of a disagreement with Jeter over role and money, particularly after the departure of notorious penny-pinching owner Jeffrey Loria, is despicable. This is an owner who spent his entire career playing for the New York Yankees, a franchise that annually recognizes both its legends and fan favorites with Old Timer's Day. It doesn't matter if a player was a Hall of Famer or just a scrappy role player; they get their due attention on this day as the fans watch and applaud them.
If the Marlins held such an event, Jeff Conine would definitely receive the grandest ovation of them all.
But that's all out the window right now, and the reason is named Derek Jeter.
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