Frustrating Fish, or, Marlins Make Me Mad

Alliteration Adds Allure!

You know who is probably pretty happy about all the attention the current McCourt/Dodgers mess is getting? Fred Wilpon. He’s so shy he’s probably glad to have something to take attention (at least temporarily) off of the tremendous work he’s done with the Mets and the finances of Americans in general. But you know who should be happy for both of them? Former Montreal Expos and current Florida Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria. Sure, the Marlins have been very bad lately, and changed managers yet again. But hey, Jack McKeon is back and he’s even older, fun! Loria hasn’t severely damaged his franchise the way McCourt has (Congratulations! What high standards we have!), so McCourt is clearly worse at this point. But Loria is sort of like the Yankees of current bad baseball owners. The Yankees aren’t going to win every year, but they still have the most flags. (I’m just talking about baseball here. If we’re talking pro sports owners in general, yes, Donald Sterling, we see you pointing at the scoreboard.) But listing Loria’s many faults isn’t my primary purpose here today, but to point at why the Marlins’ situation irritates me so much: not only do they refuse to capitalize on talent, but in some ways they are a “model franchise” for Bud Selig’s MLB.

Do I really need to point out the extent to which the Marlins have not even tried? Yes, the Marlins have had a bad run in. Chris Coghlan‘s offense collapsed after a promising start last season, Hanely Ramirez is having a shockingly bad year, Josh Johnson is hurt, and so on. But in the offseason, things didn’t looks so bleak. Yes, the Dan Uggla trade was questionable, although if you squinted hard enough at the time it wasn’t a disaster, and, of course, now it seems prescient. But they had some good young talent that, Coghlan disaster and Johnson injury aside (neither of which the Marlins could have predicted, of course) has lived up to and in some cases exceed expectations: Gaby Sanchez has more than justified the decision to keep him at first, Anibal Sanchez is truly back and destroying opponents, and Mike Stanton, Logan Morrison, and Logan Morrison’s Twitter account are showing superstar potential.

This could all have been true and a team could still decide they weren’t going to “go for it” quite yet and it would be understandable. In the Marlins’ case, though, it’s the same old story. Yes, I realize that the Marlins won the World Series almost immediately after Loria was rewarded with the team for his tremendous work in Montreal. But that wasn’t exactly a team put together on his command. Since then, it’s been mostly trading players before they get too expensive and not signing anything to supplement the good young talent.

Yes, the Marlins have had good young talent. No one doubts that Larry Beinfest and Michael Hill now what they are doing. In many ways, the Marlins embody a “smart” franchise — focusing on cost-controlled young talent without overspending on mediocre veterans. But I always thought the point of being efficient with the payroll was to maximize the talent you could squeeze into a budget (short- or long-term) in order to win more games and contend, not to maximize profits every single season (which is why the union went after the Marlins and not the Pirates not long ago). No one is asking for a stupid spending spree a long the lines of Vince Naimoli’s Tampa Bay “Hit Show,” just a good faith effort to contend. When have the Marlins tried that recently? 2004, maybe? Even then? I’m not sure, but it hasn’t been recently. Would it necessarily have worked this season? I don’t know. They were probably only the third-best team in the division, but they weren’t far enough back that maybe, you know, having a decent third baseman to start the season might have been a good idea. And again, it’s the fact that they never try that is so maddening. Heck, they even managed to win 87 games not long ago… and nothing changed.

This is all well-known to most serious baseball fans, which is why I didn’t get into more particulars of the situation. What makes this so galling to me is that baseball just doesn’t care. Loria isn’t destroying the value of one the flagship franchises in the game, nor was he involved in a massive financial scandal that ripped off so many. Again, congratulations Jeffrey Loria! Put that D+ on the refrigerator! As we discussed on a recent podcast, that’s probably enough to keep Selig off Loria’s back. No major scandals, and while the team doesn’t win division, they’re always around .500, so no one notices. Naturally, Bud Selig has to be thrilled that despite the paucity of fans (and who wants to go in for that abuse?) Loria was able to scam the taxpayers for a public-funded stadium. Oh yeah, Loria’s a “model owner.” Don’t expect him to be called out by MLB anytime soon unless the union forces the issue again.

I don’t want to turn this into an anti-Selig rant. He’s doing the right thing with the Dodgers. I can honestly say that I think Bud Selig is the best commissioner in Major League Baseball today. As we discussed on the podcast, Selig realizes that with the exception of the Yankees and Red Sox, some teams can’t be expected to contend every year. However, it seems to me that it would be more in the spirit of the game (is that naive?) for the Marlins to at least try some year. But hey, they’re getting that new stadium. I’m sure that will change everything.

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Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.

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