It only took a few hours after the surprise news that Derek Jeter was leaving the Miami Marlins for the television speculation to begin.
This is the age we’re in, and considering the amount of money in broadcasting and the fact that so many networks carry MLB games nationally (much less the local markets), there was always going to be a report like this one from Michael McCarthy at Front Office Sports noting ESPN would be very interested in bringing Jeter on board.
ESPN is interested in Derek Jeter — if Derek Jeter is interested in TV.
Jeter stepped down as CEO of the Miami Marlins on Monday. The 47-year-old didn’t elaborate on his future plans beyond the Marlins front office.
But ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro just happens to be a huge New York Yankees fan and the Worldwide Leader in Sports would love to get into business with the former Yankees captain, according to sources inside ESPN who declined to be named.
That report is almost certainly accurate in the sense that of course ESPN would welcome the chance to work with Derek Jeter. In many ways Jeter was one of the last true mainstream baseball stars; when Mike Trout retires as one of the most talented players to ever play the game, he’s still not going to have Jeter’s Q-rating. There are probably kids today who never saw Jeter play, or at least never saw him near his peak, who could still name him before they could name some stars of the current era.
He also spent his entire playing career in New York, which obviously helped his name recognition, especially among national media outlets. So, yes, any network that broadcasts baseball would presumably find a way to put Jeter on the air if they can.
The question, then, is what does Derek Jeter want to do? He may have walked away from a chief executive role (and accompanying salary), but he probably doesn’t need the money. And, yes, a lot of people who don’t need the money work anyway, but Jeter has spent his entire life in baseball cultivating a brand that is much, much less public-facing. Whether by design or not, Jeter has never seemed like the kind of athlete who would want to talk into a microphone for three hours about a baseball game.
This is a far cry from, say, Alex Rodriguez, who has spent his career on the field and in the booth clearly trying to find a way to be liked. It’s even different than Peyton Manning, who Jeter will inevitably be compared to by any network considering making a pitch. Manning and Jeter are both legacy crossover stars, of course, but Manning has always been an entertainer off the field, from his commercials to his SNL hosting to his ESPY hosting.
Jeter, meanwhile, did host SNL, but that was back in 2001. Even taking the Marlins position signaled that Jeter had much more interest either staying on the competitive side of the sport or working in a more behind-the-scenes role or both.
In that sense, Peyton Manning’s deal with ESPN could be the framework for a network bringing Jeter on board. Providing a landing spot for future content production, whether Jeter is on camera or just a producer, would seem more likely than getting him to hop into a broadcast booth or studio in the near future. And as we saw with ESPN’s deal to produce “Peyton’s Places” and other Omaha Productions content for ESPN+, eventually it led to Peyton and Eli doing an alternate Monday Night Football broadcast.
It’s a creative approach, and if forced to take bets on a Derek Jeter broadcasting entry point, that feels like the most likely one going forward.