Aaron Leibowitz | The Fan
A matter of trust
Published: Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 08:11
Yesterday, baseball commissioner Bud Selig officially approved the Miami Marlins’ latest fire sale, a monster deal which sent Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and three others to the Toronto Blue Jays.
The people of Miami are officially pissed.
In the largest trade in team history, the Marlins shed $160 million in salary commitments and got rid of every superstar on their team except outfielder Giancarlo Stanton.
Even Stanton himself is angry. After the trade was first reported last week, he tweeted: “Alright, I’m pissed off!!! Plain & Simple.”
Miami’s flaming hot ball of fury is headed squarely toward team owner — and, in the minds of Miami residents, quite possibly the devil incarnate — Jeffrey Loria.
Last year, the Marlins moved to Miami and built a new, extravagant stadium, 80 percent of which is being funded by taxpayers. For years, the Marlins insisted that a new ballpark was exactly what they needed, and once they got it they spent $191 million on big−name players last offseason.
But now, faster than a Jose Reyes triple, all of those players are gone.After two straight last−place finishes in the NL East, the Marlins stand to be downright awful for at least the next year.
The most disturbing part is that, thanks to revenue sharing and money from TV deals, this won’t hurt Loria’s pocketbook one bit. In fact, he might still make a profit.
Understandably, Miami hates Loria’s guts. This is a man who bought the Marlins with money MLB paid him to purchase the Expos, a franchise Loria had singlehandedly destroyed. Yes, there’s something wrong with that picture.
And yet, what’s strange is that, from a baseball standpoint, this trade can actually be justified.
The “spend big, win, then blow up the team” strategy has helped the Marlins capture two World Series titles in their first 11 years of existence. After a 69−win season, perhaps management decided they simply needed a fresh start. Besides, it couldn’t hurt to beef up a sub−par farm system.
It’s not out of the question that, by 2014, the Marlins could be competitive again. So why is all of Miami ready to burn Loria at the stake?
In the words of Billy Joel, it’s a matter of trust. (Side note: Joel also sings “Miami 2017,” which I’ll go ahead and predict is the next time the Marlins will win a championship.) The fans gave Loria their money for a new ballpark. In return, Loria promised to build a winner. Instead, he decided to go back to square one; he decided that winning can wait.
By making this trade, Loria conned Miami.
Marlins fans have been down this road before. Sure, they can sit around and wait for a World Series appearance every five or ten years. But when the entire roster turns over each time the team fails — and even when it succeeds — it’s tough to stay loyal.
And it’s not just the fans whose trust the Marlins have betrayed. Reyes and pitcher Mark Buehrle, another victim of the fire sale, reportedly were told by the Marlins that they would not be traded. Of course, it was naive of them to trust a front office that refuses to grant no−trade clauses, but the damage has been done. Miami is no longer an attractive destination for big−name free agents.
Marlins fans have every reason to feel like Jeffrey Loria doesn’t give a crap about them. It’s because he doesn’t.
As he sinks the Marlins’ ship, Loria is standing on the beach, smiling and sipping margaritas.
Aaron Leibowitz is a junior who is majoring in American studies. He can be reached at Aaron.Leibowitz@tufts.edu.