Don Chase walked about Marlins Park on Saturday wearing a Toronto Blue Jays cap.
Out of protest, he grumbled.
Chase, a 54-year-old lawyer from Fort Lauderdale, was among several thousand fans who showed up for the Marlins Winter Warm Up, which availed them a chance to mingle with Marlins players, buy single-game tickets to the 2013 season for the first time and catch baseball fever on the eve of spring training.
But Chase, like many Marlins fans, is bitter. Hes angry that the team traded so many players in what marked yet another fire sale for a franchise that has experienced several. For Chase, the final punch to the gut was the blockbuster deal in November with Toronto in which the Marlins dealt five prominent players to the Blue Jays in exchange for mostly young and inexpensive talent.
Thus the Blue Jays cap.
For Christmas 2011, we bought Miami Marlins presents, Chase said. For Christmas 2012, it was Blue Jays.
And Chase doesnt plan to support the Marlins at the box office.
We had a 20-game plan last year, he said. We did not renew.
Twenty-seven-year-old Jorge Hidalgo of Miami is no different.
Last year I went to over 30 games, he said. This year, if I go to two, its a lot. And if I go, its because Im going to protest.
Hidalgo and his friend, Gary Cooper, were in protest mode Saturday, advertising their disdain for Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria and team executives with hand-made T-shirts. On the front they read: Marlins yes. Loria no. Samson no. Beinfest no. And on the back: Marlins Need a new owner.
When they built the new stadium, I thought it was going to be a new franchise, that we were going to be a winning team, Hidalgo said. And this is not it.
Marlins executives are acutely aware of the anger, but said theyre ready to turn the page and move on.
I understand where the fans are coming from and the upheaval, said Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest. But it is time to turn the page. Organizationally, we have. I think its kind of done. I think its been hashed out enough.
With Marlins pitchers and catchers scheduled to report for spring training in Jupiter on Monday, Beinfest said he will deliver his annual speech to the coaching staff and new manager Mike Redmond. He said it will be different from those in the past.
My preamble to the staff tomorrow will not include anything about last season, Beinfest said. Generally, when I open things up with our field staff, we talk a little bit about the previous season and how the winter went. And my plan is not to talk about it at all. I think its had its time, and I dont really think its productive.
The Marlins expect a drop-off in attendance from last season. Part of it can be attributed to the normal second-year decline almost every new ballpark experiences after the honeymoon feeling has worn off. But the Marlins could also experience a fan backlash from the offseason trades, which will reduce player payroll from last years franchise-record $100 million to somewhere in the neighborhood of $40 million, which will be one of the lowest in the majors.
Marlins president David Samson refused to make a prediction on how severe he expects the decline to be.