On Tuesday, Derek Jeter won, which is to say the rest of us lost. His longtime foe—the bonkers, animatronic home run sculpture that sits in the Miami Marlins’ centerfield—will be removed from the park, following approval from Miami-Dade County. It will be moved someplace outside, where team brass insist it will continue to activate for Marlins home runs and victories. The removal, we are told, will be done in the name of the youths: The Marlins will build a new section of standing-room-only space where the sculpture once stood, which the Marlins’ president of business operations insists will attract the “millennial market.”
The Marlins’ home run sculpture was built in 2012, when previous owner Jeffrey Loria was in the latter stages of turning Florida baseball fandom into profits, this time via the construction of a new team stadium. Artist Red Grooms was brought in and given $2.5 million in public arts funding, and ever since, his creation has launched into a 29-second spectacle of festooned seabirds, marlins, and waterworks every time a Miami player hits a home run. The sculpture has a name, Homer, because it is not a thing built for subtlety. It sprays water and it is seven stories tall—taller, it may or may not be worth noting, than the Great Sphinx of Giza. Homer is garish. It is pink and it is green and it is neon and it is loud and silly and perfect.
Is defenestrating the home run sculpture, as pure a monument to joy as there is in modern baseball, worse than the other bad things Jeter has done in his year and change at the Miami helm—namely pawning off the 2017 and (likely) 2018 league MVPs in the same offseason in exchange for [squints] some middling prospects and Starlin Castro? Giancarlo Stanton to the New York Yankees and Christian Yelich to the Milwaukee Brewers are the sorts of deals that look bad now and will only look worse as time goes on. Marcell Ozuna, the third piece of Miami’s once-fearsome outfield, and Dee Gordon were sent packing too, not so much for a rebuild as some kind of grandiose and masochistic demo day.
It is true, as my colleague Ben Lindbergh pointed out Tuesday, that Jeter had already effectively killed the sculpture: by concocting a 2018 team that hit the fewest home runs in baseball, 128. Days and weeks went by with nary a marlin swoop; atop Homer, not one somersault was to be had. Compare this to 2017, before Jeter took Miami’s reins, when the team logged 194 home runs, good for 19th in the league. Under Jeter’s watch, Homer withered.
And now the sculpture, like Miami’s dreams, will be dragged out into the parking lot and left to the elements. Would the coveted millennial market not rather watch a team that was, you know, actually good? Or that had—novel idea here—some recognizable faces? I don’t know; it’s hard to say. At our monthly millennial meetings we do talk a lot about Dan Straily.
May a pit in the ground forever lay beneath the place where Homer once stood tall. May those who excavate the sculpture suffer as enduringly as those who excavated Tutankhamun. May Jeter one day, someday, look into the mirror and finally recognize someone who took something beautiful and fun and weird and maybe even promising and made it instead into something pitiable and boring and grim.