Since around mid-June, the Marlins have been a reliable source of amusement, and most of that has been because they have been exquisitely hate-able.
Their stadium deal, which dumped enormous costs on the citizenry, was reflective of the times, but still uniquely exploitative. Their off-season roster building approach was brash, undisciplined, and kind of obnoxious. Their massive re-branding as a competitive team was centered around Ozzie Guillen, who had leveraged his worst season as a manager into a pay raise.
When they lost, when they failed, when they imploded, it felt right, and just. Even when owner Jeffrey Loria started the first part of his crass rebuild and jettisoned Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez right in the middle of the would-be renaissance season, the immediate disaster of all his grand pre-season plans was still fresh and comedic.
Now, in the wake of a trade that sends Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes, Emilio Bontifacio, and John Buck (Two mid-rotation starters, a leadoff man/shortstop, a second-division starter 2nd basemen, and a backup catcher, in exchange for precious little major league value (with Ricky Nolasco possibly on the move too), things have become genuinely troubling as far as what the Marlins’ existence means.
The trade could justify itself down the road if prospects SS Adeiny Hechevarria, LHP Justin Nicolino, and OF Jake Marisnick pan out, but at this point confidence in the Marlins organization to bring those players to maturation and invest to compete through their primes….well, there should not be any confidence. The Marlins have given no one any reason to trust them.
What’s troubles me is that the system where fans have to.
Let me stress, Loria is an outlier. He is the king of coasting by on revenue sharing, and it takes an especially ravenous stadium financing deal in this age of taxpayer-funded monstrosities to attract attention from the SEC, and he is the owner of a franchise that once fantasized about playing in Vegas, having the casinos buy up all the tickets, playing in front of an empty stadium and still making out like bandits.
But he’s this way because he’s allowed to be. These trades are allowed to go through by MLB, and the only hint of intervention was a nudge to make a token increase to player payroll two years ago. The only thing preventing other owners from doing the same is personal choice. And really, they’re mostly exercising that choice, just not at the extremes of Loria.
Jerry Reinsdorf has the same revenue sharing privileges available, has a sweetheart stadium deal that reduces his expenses and levies costs upon Illinois taxpayers, and even avoids a tax on tickets for keeping overall attendance below 2.425 million. His decisions on the yearly budget reflect what he wants the profit margin to be. Since Reinsdorf possesses some mixture of shame and interest in winning, that budget has typically remained quite competitive.
But the investment is a choice, whereas ours, and the investment of fans abroad isn’t, and Loria just did a fine job of demonstrating how hopeless that can feel.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan