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Are these the future owners of the Marlins? (via Nick Step and Michael Vadon)

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, a major league baseball team toiled away under truly, remarkably debilitating ownership.

For years, Jeffrey Loria, who turned a $12 million investment in the Montreal Expos into controlling interest in the Miami Marlins, changed managers seemingly at will, convinced the Miami-Dade County Commission and taxpayers into paying for most of the $515 million new stadium before decimating the roster a year later, and allegedly fired TV analyst Tommy Hutton for being too negative.

But Loria’s reign of terror appears to be coming to a close. A knight in shining armor has come to save the Marlins — two, in fact: Derek Jeter and Jeb! Bush. The Captain and the Governor are bringing #MarlinsTakeover3 to South Beach.

The unlikely duo are reportedly among the finalists to buy the Marlins, pending MLB approval. The price tag is hefty: $1.3 billion, a few 10-year contracts more than the $158 million Loria paid for the then-Florida Marlins in 2002.

Of course, there’s no sign that the men can actually afford the team; Bush is reportedly worth less than $30 million, while Jeter took home about $265 million over his playing career. A sales call to investors with Jeb! Bush and Derek Jeter on the other end is sure to empty some pockets, but there’s still a substantial sum to come up with for this deal to go through. That difference, too, raises another interesting question: with athletes, especially in major league baseball, taking home more cash with each new contract, Jeter surely won’t be the last ex-player to take over. Who doesn’t want to be the boss? But Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals owner/MVP, will wait for a later date. Today, we just have Jeb! and Jeets.

There’s no particular reason to think they’ll fail as owners. Jeter, as his teammates and managers and probably his mailman will tell you, knows how to win. Bush, well, he didn’t do so well his last time out, but eight years as governor of Florida isn’t nothing. Far more incompetent people have sat at the head of the table.

And anyway, it’ll all be worth it when the Jumbotron starts asking fans to “please clap” in the bottom of the ninth on a rainy Tuesday evening in September.

This fairy tale isn’t original, though: both Jeter and Bush have been around the block, and around the stadium before, even excluding the Yankees legend’s 20 years on the dirt. They’ve rehearsed this dance. Now it’s time to prove they know how to tango.

April 1989: George W. Bush, son of George H.W. Bush and brother of Jeb!, leads an investment group that bought the Texas Rangers from oil tycoon Eddie Chiles for $89 million; he contributed just $500,000 the first year, then an additional $100,000 the following year.

December 1994: George W. Bush resigns as managing general partner of the Rangers a month after being elected governor of Texas.

June 1998: Tom Hicks buys the Rangers for $250 million. George W. Bush’s share comes to $14.9 million.

February 2013: Jeb! Bush, along with a group of wealthy investors, makes a “large offer” to buy the Marlins from Loria, according to the Miami Herald. The then-74-year-old team owner declined the offer and insisted he wasn’t interested in selling. Loria’s friend told the Herald at the time that he was unlikely to sell “barring a health problem or change of heart…because he loves owning a team.”

October 2013: Bush offers Steve Bartman asylum in Florida.

February 2014: Derek Jeter wants to be just like the Boss. Even before his retirement, the Yankees legend was talking about owning a team and trying to replicate George Steinbrenner’s success. “That’s the next ultimate goal, to be an owner. I would love to call the shots,” he told YES. “I think I’ve learned a lot in my career, not only what goes on the field but I learned a lot from our late owner in how to run organization. I have a lot of things to learn but I would like to do that.”

Mike Trout, Statcast Darling
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June 2014: Jeter says his “next goal” is to own a team. “Calling the shots, not answering to someone, that’s what interests me,” he said at his 18th annual Turn 2 Foundation dinner. At that point, he’d already decided he wanted to be “a little bit more behind the scenes” than Steinbrenner.

February 2015: Jeter, just months after his retirement, talks about his next steps at a Players’ Tribune event. “I’ve always been vocal about that. Somebody said I was trying to buy the Buffalo Bills,” he told Sporting News. “They keep associating my name with a lot of different places. Ultimately, that’s the ultimate goal. But there’s a lot of stuff along the way before that ever happens.”

April 2015: A fundraising email from Jeb! Bush’s Right to Rise PAC offers a chance to win free airfare, hotel costs, and a lunch with the presidential candidate — plus two tickets to a Marlins game. No word on how much money the campaign raised.

March 2016: Buster Olney cites “buzz within the industry” that Jeter will “eventually but inevitably join the Tampa Bay Rays’ ownership group” based on his Tampa location and his MLB-sponsored trip to Cuba for the game against the Cuban national team.

May 2016: Derek Jeter says on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” that owning a major league team is his “ultimate goal.” “In my mind, this is the greatest sport in the world,” he said. “I think kids, nowadays they look at players playing in college and the next year they’re in the NFL or the NBA. Baseball, you sort of get lost, because you have to play in the minor leagues for a little bit. Kids in this generation are into instant gratification.”

April 5, 2017: Jeter and Bush’s names are first floated as possible buyers by Fox Business.

April 6, 2017: Don Mattingly tells ESPN that Jeter “always talked about” owning a team.

April 20, 2017: Rob Manfred addresses the speculation. “I’ve talked to Derek privately about his desire to be an owner,” Manfred said at the Associated Press Sports Editors’ meeting. “I think the idea of a former player being an owner is an appealing one for baseball, particularly a player like Derek. It would bring diversity to our ownership group. That would be a good thing.”

April 20, 2017: Tagg Romney, son of the former Massachusetts governor, and Tom Glavine team up for a bid to buy the Marlins, according to Bloomberg. Sarah Palin and Curt Schilling still haven’t realized their destiny.

April 25, 2017: Derek Jeter and Jeb! Bush, along with five investors, are tentative finalists to buy the Marlins from Loria for $1.3 billion, according to the Miami Herald. The former governor is expected to have primary control of the franchise, while Jeter will play an “active role.”

April 27, 2017: Rob Manfred insists there are “multiple bidders” for the Marlins and that he’ll have an answer within days. The ever elusive commissioner failed to provide any more details than that, but hedging on massive business deals like this isn’t suspicious. The financial issues still raise a few questions and there’s no reason for Manfred to be any more definitive than “kind of maybe” until there’s a signature on the dotted line.

Jeter and Bush haven’t stormed the castle yet; the deal isn’t finalized. The knights in shining armor are a few bags of gold short. We have no idea how these new lords of the realm will handle their power.

But hey, they can’t be worse than Loria.

Kate Feldman is the editor-in-chief at Baseball Prospectus Mets and a lifelong fan of baseball teams that only make her miserable. Follow her on Twitter @kateefeldman.
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Michael Bacon
Michael Bacon

Read the chapter about how Dubya came to own the team in Texas while ruining good people in, “Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill)” by David Cay Johnston.

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