When it comes to the Miami Marlins, the nails-on-chalkboard irritation of clichés unavoidably follows, whether they are positive or (overwhelmingly) negative. However, this year, following their big trades and free agent signings, let’s go in a different direction and use songs rather than the tried and true formula to prove a point about this organization.
“Won’t Get Fooled Again” by the Who
“Don’t Believe the Hype” by Public Enemy
Sounds about right for a franchise that treats its fans, city, and Major League Baseball as dupes and unwitting suckers. For nearly twenty years, the Marlins franchise has pulled the old bait-and-switch with their roster and organization, even nefariously leveraging Miami-Dade county to get into a brand new stadium.
For years, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has manipulated MLB’s financial structure and operated his franchise on a shoe-string budget while reaping the benefits of the revenue sharing system implemented by MLB. He has sporadically splurged cash to the on-field product before eliminating high contracts through trades. Basically, they win just enough to keep their meager fan base interested while sustaining profitability.
In the 1990’s (before Loria became owner), we saw Moises Alou, Gary Sheffield, Kevin Brown, Mr. Marlin Jeff Conine, Bobby Bonilla, and Al Leiter assembled to win a World Series, and they did. The next year all were gone but Sheffield, Bonilla and Charles Johnson, but they too were traded after little over a month. The team was stripped to a young core that was individually talented, but needed time to gel as a cohesive unit.
In 2003, the gelling occurred and was abetted by the free agent acquisition on Ivan Rodriguez, who helped guide a young pitching staff that included Carl Pavano, Josh Beckett, Brad Penny, and Dontrelle Willis, as well as the mid-season replacement of manager Jeff Torberg with the old-school veteran Jack McKeon. In the playoffs, with exuberant youthful energy and the hunger that is inherent in many young teams, they overcame the defending NL champion San Francisco Giants, the infamous Bartman NLCS against the Cubs, and defeated the fading Yankees dynasty in Yankee Stadium to capture the title. It was a magnificent moment for baseball as David conquered Goliath; yet only a two full seasons later (2006), the pitching staff only retained Willis, and the starting line-up, which was filled with talented and young players, was completely overhauled. Only Miguel Cabrera (who was 19 during their 2003 World Series run) remained. The average age of the forty man roster leveled off around 25.5 years of age. It was a young team, much like the late-90’s and early-2000’s version of the Marlins, and the results were no different than those from that era.
Fast forward to 2012, as the Marlins open up the eponymous Marlins Park and attempt to fill it up by adding star power in the form of shortstop Jose Reyes, young players Hanley Ramirez and Giancarlo Stanton, starting pitchers Mark Buehrle and Carlos Zambrano, closer Heath Bell and World Series-winning manager Ozzie Guillen. The plan almost immediately backfired, which led to the firing of Guillen, the trading of Reyes, Buehrle, Bell and Ramirez, and the eventual retirement of Zambrano.
Today, only 2 years after that catastrophe, the Marlins are at it again. This off-season they have traded for infielder Dee Gordon and starting pitchers Dan Haren and Mat Latos, as well as inking a deal with prospective first baseman Michael Morse (a very suspicious looking two-year contract). However, the biggest splash the Marlins have made this off-season is the gargantuan contract that they have given to outfield Giancarlo Stanton for 13 years and $325 million. The problem, though, is in the structure of that deal.
The Marlins, essentially, are only on the hook for a little over $100 million of the deal through the first 6 years, and that is when Stanton’s opt-out clause goes into effect. If the Marlins pull their usual ruse of competitiveness for a short period and begin to flail again, it is not difficult to see Stanton jump ship and try to go elsewhere while still in his prime. A more likely scenario, judging by the history of the Miami franchise, is that Stanton is wearing another uniform in 3-4 seasons and the Marlins roster once again resembles a Triple-A ball club.
Owner Jeffrey Loria is almost universally reviled by sports fans, as well as those within the industry, for his blatant disregard for people—players, fans, taxpayers, other owners—and it is very disheartening that, once again, the general public and baseball fans are taking a puff from the exploding cigar he has given to them. Just as in the cartoons, we know how this one is going to end, and there is no reason for us to give Loria or the Marlins the benefit of the doubt until shown otherwise.