Each Friday I’ll throw up an ed piece, likely having nothing to do with Hokies basketball but probably related to sports. These week, I turn an ugly fish eye towards the Miami Marlins.
I am not a Miami Marlins fan by any stretch. In fact, my favorite team, the Braves, is in their division as are my hometown Nats. But I do love baseball, probably more than any other sport. I played it, I watch it, and I coach it on the high school level. So what the Flayin’ Fish did this week, and really since July, made me sick. I had to say I’d ever stop rooting for a team, but honestly, if I was a Fish fan, I’d pull a Paulie in GoodFellas and turn my back to them until new ownership came in.
For those of you that don’t know what the Marlins did, here’s a timeline:
- 1997: After winning the World Series, the Marlins have a fire sale and trade all their star players
- 2005: See above (except they had won the World Series in 2003); lather, rinse, repeat
- 2009: Miami finally approves plans for a new stadium after serious threats to remove the team for South Florida due to poor attendance
- 2009: It is reported that the $409 million the county was to fund would actually cost $2.4 billion to repay the 40 year bonds with compounding interest
- Winter 2011: The Marlins, for the first time ever, go nuts on the free agent market, signing closer Heath Bell, SS Jose Reyes, and SP Mark Buehrle among others. They also made runs at Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson.
- 2012: The stadium is completed at a cost of $634 million, 80% would be publically funded (the county and the city), with the other 20% by the Marlins. It opens in April with a weird volcano looking thing that rotates fish on home runs.
- June 2012, Niemo, DuffHokie, and vt1fan attend a Fish/Blue Jays game (ironic) at the tail end of a bachelor party – the volcano is very confusing
- July 2012: Marlins fall into last place – Hanley Ramirez is traded to the Dodgers, and Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez to the Tigers
- October 2012: Heath Bell is traded to the Diamondbacks
- November 2012: A proposed trade with the Blue Jays would send Reyes, Buehrle, C John Buck, P Josh Johnson, and OF Emilio Bonafacio to the Blue Jays
There are so many things about this story that bother me. First, the stadium. How in the world can the Marlins ownership trade away their star players and start over after just one year? Easy, they aren’t paying for most of that new stadium. The fans are. The non-fans are (there’s a lot more in the latter category). People that have no interest in baseball are. The entire county and city are, and will be, for another 37 years. A spot that has provided so many great memories for people, including me (the stadium is on the site of the old Orange Bowl, which I frequented many times in Lil Havana for VT/miami football games), is now a place of great contention, and will be… for another 37 years.
The players. Put yourself in Jose Reyes’s shoes. Or Mark Buehrle’s. Every team in MLB wants you. You choose to buy into a new vision and move yourself and your family to Miami. You probably buy a house. And then, after one year, you are uprooted and shipped as far north from Miami as you can be, to Toronto. And for the players that are still Marlins like Gioncarlo Stanton, you are outraged (and he’s tweeted he’s pissed). How will the Marlins ever sign another big time free agent? There will be no trust from players that they’ll be treated right. Easy answer: the Marlins won’t even bother trying.
The fans. How do you expect to keep any fan base when you consistently do this to them, Mr. Loria? Simple – he makes profits. Cutting costs on players and reaping revenue sharing allow him to make money even as they rack up losses.
And finally, me. How did we not see this coming? Look at Jose Reyes’s contract. Look at Mark Buehrle’s contract. Both were back-loaded – meaning they were making less in the first two years of their contract and almost double in the final years. The Marlins were building in an escape route! The contracts tell me they were going to give this two years, they unload the guys if they didn’t work out, but Loria is so cowardly he just did it after not even one full season.
Shame on Mr. Loria for doing this to not just Miami fans, but baseball. And shame on us for thinking he’d changed.