It was a delightful spring day at Joe Robbie Stadium when Charlie Hough, the Marlins ancient knuckleballer, faced the first batter in franchise history. Strike one, followed by strike two. Houghs third pitch floated a foot outside and low to L.A.s Jose Offerman, but umpire Frank Pulli called it strike three anyway.
The sellout crowd of 42,334 erupted.
A kid behind home plate hoisted a sign that said History!
The Marlins beat the Dodgers, 6-3.
Anyone present during that Monday lovefest, April 5, 1993, would be astonished at the unpleasant aroma surrounding todays Marlins. Every cost-cutting move feels like an extended middle finger toward the fan base and the taxpayers who subsidized the teams $515 million ballpark ($634 million including parking) in Little Havana.
Since last weeks white-flag roster dismantling the latest of several over the past two decades owner Jeffrey Loria has remained out of the spotlight. But team President David Samson, to his credit, made an appearance on 790The Ticket with Dan Le Batard, the Herald columnist.
As The Heralds first Marlins beat writer, Le Batard was at that 93 opener, a day so sweet and innocent that even franchise founder Wayne Huizenga got a standing ovation.
Here is a sampling from the Le Batard/Samson conversation:
Le Batard: When and how did you guys make the decision to do what you did yesterday, which is trade all the players everyone knows?
Samson: Basically, the decision was made when we sat down after the season and talked about the team and said we cannot keep finishing in last place. It just doesnt make sense. We lost 93 games and we trusted all of our scouts and development people and upper level baseball people and said What we can do to possibly start this to turnaround? What needs to happen? How can it work? And all sorts of different plans were possible. And it just so happens we found a way to possibly, in one fell swoop, get a whole lot better.
Q: Any part of you embarrassed today?
A: No. To lose 93 games was the most embarrassing thing, far more embarrassing than this. Putting together a team in 2012 that we expected to win and the fact they didnt, that was the most embarrassing. I think when we made the managerial decisions [hiring Ozzie Guillen] and player decisions we made last year we could not have guessed that our season would end that way. Its time to change. Ill be embarrassed if our team is as bad next year as it was last year.
Q: What do you say to the people who feel betrayed?
A: I think people should feel betrayed by the fact we were losing so much and I would think they wouldnt want us to stand pat and keep losing ... We didnt think it would happen so many years in a row, that we would finish in last place. But we dont want a team that for 20 years doesnt win 81 games or doesnt make the playoffs. Weve already gone 10 years without making the playoffs. Thats too much. I absolutely understand that. On the positive side, its a great ballpark and now we need a great team to go with it. We thought we had it last year. The evidence was overwhelming that we didnt.
Q: What do you say to those people who think this is a sham?
A: What I say to them is we spent [payroll money] wrong and it showed with everything off the field and on the field. We didnt approach anything we needed correctly. I dont blame more fans for not coming out because who wants to see 93 losses... There is a long-term future for baseball in Miami and that is what the ballpark has been about and has always been about making sure an All-Star Game comes to Miami, making sure that generations will see baseball. Theres going to be losing seasons over the years. You just want to try to curb them with as few as possible. In our opinion, we were just having too many in a row.