The Miami Marlins were a thing to chuckle at for a bit. They had the gaudy home-run structure. There was a fish tank going in behind home plate. There were weird logos and fluorescent colors. The Marlins were something to fear.
The Miami Marlins were something to fear for a bit. They signed Jose Reyes away from the small-market Mets. They signed Mark Buehrle away from the White Sox. They were offering obscene amounts of money to C.J. Wilson and Albert Pujols. They were coming after your favorite player on your favorite team, like a predator in a seedy political attack ad.
But now, the Miami Marlins are the Florida Marlins again. The new Marlins lasted a couple of months. Regrets? They say they don't have a few, but they are full up with disappointment:
"We set ourselves up for it,’’ acknowledged Marlins president David Samson of a grand makeover that failed miserably. "We paraded around Dallas. We signed those guys. We opened a new ballpark. We said we’re ‘all in.’’’ Not only have the Marlins been a bust on the field, but attendance at their new ballpark has fallen short of expectations, creating an uncertain future on and off the field.
"I think it’s going to be an interesting October, a little different than the October we envisioned,’’ Samson said of the team’s annual post-mortem. "Jeffrey’s going to look at everything. I mean, he’s angry, and he should be. It’s hard to think you put a plan together and almost every part of the plan does not work out, either by injury or non-performance.’’
As late as June 3, the Marlins were tied for first place in the NL East. It took under two months for the carefully crafted plans of the offseason -- the plans that were supposed to get the Marlins far beyond 2012, mind you -- to collapse. The Miami Herald used the phrase "smolder like twisted wreckage." They were too kind.
"I wouldn’t change one thing,’’ Samson said. "What we did was exactly right, but it was wrong.’’
That's the takeaway quote from the article. Seems like Samson's arguing with himself, but the overall point isn't wrong: The Marlins looked to be a helluva lot better going into the season. The disappointment wasn't isolated to an overly optimistic intern in the front office. Everyone was giddy about the Marlins.
But there's something to be said about Samson fighting for that point. I'm not sure if the fire sale was made with a unanimous consensus, or if it came at the behest of Jeffrey Loria in a fit of regret and second-guessing. The problem wasn't that the Marlins didn't have talent. The problem is that so much of their talented players underperformed expectations.
Logan Morrison was supposed to provide OBP. He didn't. Giancarlo Stanton was supposed to say healthy. He couldn't. Jose Reyes was supposed to hit like he did last season, or at least come close. He didn't. You can do this with the entire roster -- Gaby Sanchez, Emilio Bonifacio, Heath Bell, Ricky Nolasco ... just four months ago, we thought about those players in very, very different ways. Even the minor players got caught up in it. John Buck isn't supposed to be a good hitter, but he's never been this bad.
Everyone on the Marlins has been this bad, just about. The idea was wrong. The players didn't live up to their expectations. Samson saw that.
But was the answer really a fire sale? I understand the baseball part of the deal. They got some interesting players and prospects for the players they swapped. The public-relations part, though, is the killer. It took three months for the Marlins to flush the excitement from the offseason. It was an offseason that they'd been planning for years. It took three months.
The Marlins say they don't have regrets. But they have regrets. Amidst those regrets, the question is this: If the idea was right, what was wrong with trying it for one more season? That would have prevented a lot of the backlash and anger.
And, heck, it might have been a good baseball play, too. It might have worked. They might have been as good as we thought they were going to be. It was worth one more try.