Back in July, my bosses at SB Nation decided to fly me to Miami at great expense. While the All-Star Game was the draw, my assignment was to dive into the history of baseball in Miami. This was the result. I gave it my best. I really did. I was proud of it for a while.
I regret to inform you that the thesis was utter trash.
The new owners, though, won’t have the patience to be weird. They won’t see the profit in punching their fans in the nose. That’s too much money to futz around. They’ll see the positives. The gift of a ballpark. A region that is looking forward to not getting punched in the nose. A huge, untapped market.
Being weird won’t be cost-effective, and you’ll get used to the Marlins.
The thesis was built on the idea that there couldn’t possibly be a group of people willing to plunk down a billion dollars and immediately lock themselves in a coat closet. There had to be some sort of cold, calculated competence that came along with one of the most important business decisions of their life. There had to be some sort of understanding that the Marlins weren’t just any team, and their fans weren’t just any fans. This was a wasted opportunity of a franchise that had spent decades actively alienating everyone and anyone who might have considered becoming a baseball fan. There would need to be light footsteps.
Instead, it’s all THUMPTHUMPTHUMPCLORMPPUSHSHOVECRINKLECRASHTHUMP, like nothing has changed. If anything, the chaos is almost enough to make a person yearn for the halcyon days of Jeffrey Loria, who at least seemed emotionally invested in the team. The latest story is from Jeff Passan, who reports that the Marlins fired a scout while he was in the hospital, undergoing colon cancer surgery. It’s more provocative to picture Derek Jeter swiveling around in his chair, stroking a white, long-haired cat, and yelling, “I don’t care what he’s in the hospital for, I told you to get him off. the. payroll,” but that’s probably not what happened.
No, it was probably just rank inelegance and unfeeling incompetence. Here are the people who make too much. Here are the people who need to go. Any rebuttals that the person in question was actually really well-liked and good at their job were rebuffed. Was there anyone who could have mumbled something about Marty Scott’s predicament to someone in charge with a heart? If there was, and it was ignored, it suggests that someone is making heartless decisions for the Marlins. If there wasn’t anyone who could have pointed that out, that’s another huge problem. There’s value in keeping at least a few people around who understand the recent history of an organization, and the new Marlins weren’t even competent enough to do that much.
For me, though, the biggest sign that the new Marlins have no concept of the history of baseball in Miami is their desire to trade Giancarlo Stanton. It might be more of a need, depending on how leveraged the new owners are with their new team. And it feels like we haven’t stopped to ask why enough.
Here’s a group of millionaires and billionaires, all invested in the success of a baseball franchise, in a market that has been repeatedly lied to and punished. The good news is that this team employs one of baseball’s truest marketing commodities, a young, affable titan under contract for a decade. He does the baseball thing that baseball fans like best, and he does it better than anyone else in the sport.
Nah. Can’t use him.
That might be too glib and unfair of a criticism. I’ve spent a couple hours thinking about the Marlins; these people crunched the numbers for months before submitting a bid, and they’re still crunching them now. There might be a clear, direct plan to get the Marlins from their current mess to a Miami institution, and that plan is incompatible with one superstar making $300 million. Fine. Harsh, but fair.
It’s hard to believe, though. The Marlins are defined by Giancarlo Stanton right now, and they would be for years. He could have been wearing a Marlins uniform for his 500th homer. Maybe his 600th. His 700th? Hard to say, but he’s off to one of the best starts in history. If you’re going to give that up, you’d better have one helluva bag of magic prospect beans to show your fans. Look at what the White Sox did with Chris Sale. They turned their superstar into something that made their fan base excited about their future.
The Marlins are currently talking with the Giants about a deal for Stanton. The Giants have four prospects named Todd, and they’re all 43 years old and working in IT. The only reason to deal with them is if they’re offering to take the bulk of the salary back. Consider what would happen if the Marlins said this:
Hello. We would like to put Giancarlo Stanton on the market, and we are willing to pay $100 million of his contract down. $150 million if you completely empty your farm system.
Chaos. There would be Black Friday fights at the Winter Meetings, with owners using their fingernails and teeth to get the $200 4K TV. Would the Braves part with Ronald Acuña? Maybe not, but the other teams in the hunt might think they’re lying, which would force them to pile more prospects on top of the pile, like a High Heat Baseball trade.
Instead, they’re dealing with the Giants. It’s the surest sign that all they want is Stanton and his contract off the team so they can start over. Phew. That was a close one, having a generational talent almost be the face of the franchise. Some real Matrix stuff dodging that.
It’s not fair to assume every ownership group needs to follow what Guggenheim Partners did with the Dodgers, but look at what happened there. They came in and planted a flag. On the flag, there were words. Those words read, “We understand your previous owner was a dingus. We’re here to fix all that.” Attendance went up. The fans came back, even before they started winning their division every year. The new owners wanted to make a statement, and, man, did they ever.
The Marlins are the Marlins are the Marlins, apparently. In retrospect, my editor should have selected all of the words after this and hit the delete key.
There isn’t a city in baseball — maybe baseball history — that’s punched its fans in the nose quite like Miami. The intentions are strong. The results are always, always, always disastrous.
I thought the Marlins’ new owners would be different. And it’s still early. Don’t forget that Warriors fans, ground into the mud for decades, booed their new owners at first, too. Nothing was going to change for them. The team was always going to be rotten. And then ... whoa, sorry about all that booing.
It could be like that for the Marlins. But the start is sure auspicious. There’s discord. There’s rancor. And there’s another trade where the only goal is to save the Marlins’ owners money. It could work out in the end. Forgive me, however, if this all feels erratically familiar.