It’s September, and that means the playoff races are heating up in Major League Baseball. However, not everyone makes it to the promised land. Tom Wright tells us what went right and what went wrong in the elimination of the Miami Marlins.
Other teams have been worse than the Marlins, but few have been as frustrating.
You might remember that the Miami Marlins opened a half-billion dollar stadium, financed almost entirely on the public’s dime, in 2012 to great fanfare and promises that south Florida would now host an exciting and high-spending team. The players on the field matched the words from the owner; Miami unveiled a roster that featured high-profile, high-priced stars like Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Carlos Zambrano. This created an era of goodwill between the team and its fans that lasted, oh, about fifteen minutes before new manager Ozzie Guillen ran his mouth about how much he “respected Fidel Castro” and turned a whole generation of Miami residents against the manager and team.
That era mercifully over, Jeff Loria and the Marlins went back to their usual Marlin ways of trying to irritate the maximum number of people, and Miami residents went back to not caring about the team. Since the stadium opened, Loria has really gone out of his way to be as miserable as possible, moving signs to block season ticket holders’ seats, trading players to places where their household pets are illegal, and holding the traditional Marlins’ firesale to ensure that the Fish wouldn’t have to pay for the luxury of actually having good players. Basically, the stadium is new, but the team is still the Marlins, and the owner is still a jerk.
This winter, the Marlins made a series of moves that would have been exciting if anyone else had made them. Mat Latos and Dan Haren were acquired to beef up the pitching staff. Dee Gordon was brought in to provide speed and a competent second baseman. Ichiro Suzuki was signed in case the calendar happened to turn back to 2001. Most strikingly, Giancarlo Stanton was signed to a massive 13 year, $325 million deal that would ensure that the slugger would remain in Miami not only through his prime but likely through the twilight of his career and also possibly the beginning of his coaching career. It was a huge offseason, and Marlins fans were only left to wonder how the Fish would screw things up this time.
Fortunately, those fans didn’t have to wait long. Less than a month after Stanton signed his mega-deal, owner Jeff Loria was quoted in the Pittsburgh Tribune saying that he fully expected Stanton to opt out after the first six years of the deal, which really only made the deal worth $107 million. Further details on the Haren and Gordon trades also revealed that the Dodgers would be footing some of the bill for both players, indicating that the Marlins could have sent back lesser prospects if not for their frugality. In short, it was the same old Marlins.
Of course, given that this is the Marlins, we all knew how this was going to end. Mat Latos was shipped out in the middle of the season, sent to a Dodgers team that was already paying quite a bit of the Marlins’ payroll. Haren was traded to the Cubs in a three way deal that somehow involved the Braves. Giancarlo Stanton went on the DL with a broken wrist, which is the sort of thing that would seem to be a fluke except that it’s the second year in a row where Giancarlo has suffered a major injury. Henderson Alvarez underwent yet another season-ending surgery, marking the second season-ending surgery in as many years. As so often happens, the Marlins ended the year with a young, thoroughly mediocre team that’s not really any closer to contention than they were last year.
The Marlins future direction remains entirely unclear. They’ve been binging and purging on superstars since the new stadium opened, which makes it awfully difficult for the Fish to convince free agents that they’re serious about… anything. Obviously, that means that they’ll have to build from within, which makes it even more puzzling that they’d overpay with prospects for Haren and Gordon (even for the prospect of some salary relief). While the Marlins are no longer at the 100-loss levels of 2013, they’re still not good, and they still haven’t presented disillusioned fans with a way forward or anything resembling hope for the future; Giancarlo Stanton is a lovely player to have for the next five or twelve years, and Henderson Alvarez is a talented arm when healthy, but the road to championships isn’t usually paved by prospects alone, and the Marlins will have to shed their reputation of baseball’s Siberia if they want a chance to be competitive again.
The Marlins are still the only team to win a World Series in every postseason appearance in their history. Their last postseason/World Series was in 2003.
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