Since late September, it has been my privilege to be the editor of and occasional contributor to a group of baseball commentators we have taken to calling the Designated Columnists. As we wrap up our both our first quarter together and the 2012 season, I have asked each member of our quintet -- Cee Angi, Michael Bates, Cliff Corcoran, Marc Normandin, and Bill Parker -- to contribute a personal baseball "Best of" for 2012, not in the traditional categories, but in any that might be meaningful or memorable to them. These will appear here at Rob's house over the next half-dozen days of these holiday-fragmented weeks, a few blue-law proscripted moments excepted.
For me, the highest-ranking moments of a long, long 2012 would be working with the Designated Columnists themselves. However, as that would be too inside baseball a best-of, far too personal and sentimental for the uninvolved, let me leave you with this far more cynical best-of instead:
The Best Moment of 2012 That Proved That Everything You Knew Was Right: The Florida Marlins Drop the Ruse, November 19.
November 19 was the date of the big swap with the Blue Jays, but you could pick any of a number other dates, including the July 25 date of the Hanley Ramirez trade or any time David Samson has opened his mouth in his entire public existence -- as any credible writer can tell you, there is only so far you can push the audience's willing suspension of disbelief until it snaps. We finally got there with the Marlins in 2012.
We can hardly blame Jeff Loria, Samson, and pals for taking advantage of a debauched political culture to get their gift ballpark -- that is on all of us. Actually, it's not on all of us, it's on Miamians; I'm not taking the blame for the fecklessness and cupidity of their elected leaders -- I didn't vote for them. What we can blame them for the pathetic pantomime of signing Jose Reyes, Heath Bell, and Mark Buehrle and pretending that they were going to be the core of a new-style Marlins franchise, one in which ownership showed loyalty to the fans long enough for the ballclub to earn the loyalty of the fans. One of the reasons that many clubs can run up the odd white flag and take a year to retrench without having to rebuild their bond with the community from scratch is because they have put an entertaining product on the field for years at a time, allowed the fans to bond with the starting shortstop and the third starter and the utility infielder, all of whom have remained with the team for more than a year at a time, and made more than sporadic efforts to win a few games. Fans know that management is committed to making a buck, sure -- anyone who mistakes these teams for public trusts is naïve at best -- but they also know that they are at least reasonably interested in supplying some return for the fan's dollar.
For the Marlins, the relationship is purely that of blackmailer and victim -- pay up now or else we shoot this ball club. It's a wonder that anyone still cares, and by all evidence very few actually do beyond confirmed masochists. When it comes to the Marlins, there are no answered prayers in Miami. They did the recalcitrant romantics in us a huge favor by showing us that sometimes if you build it they do not come, especially if you don't deserve it, and by deaccessioning all of the acquisitions they swore would be the pillars of their ballclub, they made transparent the exploitative and spiteful relationship they had with the very people who helped pay for their deservedly half-empty stadium.
Being an election year, 2012 gave a confirmed cynic so many moments to choose from. This one has to be the favorite, because it proved that everything we knew was right, and there is nothing a cynic enjoys more, if he can enjoy anything at all, than knowing that his darkest judgments are justified.
And happy holidays to you too.