The Marlins, yawn, are home again this week.
And as we continue to ignore the National League leaders in losing, the thought occurs that the disease fire sale arsonist Jeffrey Loria has wrought upon South Florida might be spreading.
There’s no doubt that Loria’s reprehensible crashing of the Marlins has caused fans to ignore the team by the thousands. The club’s intermittent closing of the upper deck at Marlins Park is only one indication baseball fans routinely are turning their backs on Loria’s scandalous approach to team ownership.
But the fear here is that while South Florida baseball fans wait for Loria’s already-too-long ownership plague to pass, baseball itself might be harmed by the disregard.
If rather than going to games or watching on TV or listening on radio, parents are teaching their kids to ignore the Marlins and baseball altogether, the damage Loria is doing to the sport won’t be contained to his team alone.
Baseball as a sport will be injured.
The truth is that while the Marlins are being ignored, kids are growing up learning to think about anything but baseball. They’re not monitoring the other teams in the National League East. They’re not comparing the statistics opposing players are posting with those of their Miami favorites.
The kids who could be growing up as potential Marlins fans are having their sporting interests decided by a fan boycott. The boys of summer for those kids are just as likely to be the Heat until June or the Dolphins when training camp opens in July.
So the local baseball team is effectively driving fans to other sports.
Commissioner Bud Selig must be proud.
The practice of baseball for the average fan is not conducted on a diamond but in the stands and the boxscore and the standings. And many people who have decided to ignore the Marlins because Loria has offended their sensibilities are no longer practicing at all.
So it’s not just the Marlins who are being ignored. Baseball is being somewhat ignored.
What does that mean anecdotally?
It means some people down here probably aren’t aware that White Sox pitcher Chris Sale has won three of his past four outings and just threw a one-hitter. We’re too busy seething over a Marlins fire sale to notice Sale is on fire.
It means that perhaps the final season by the greatest reliever in major-league history is passing without our undivided attention.
Mariano Rivera has converted all 15 of his save opportunities this year.
He’s doing it at age 43. He’s doing it after missing most of last season with a knee injury. He’s doing it, as always, with one pitch.
This is the last time Rivera will do this because he’s retiring after the season. How many local fans are missing this because Loria forced them to stop paying attention to baseball this year?
The Rangers are winning without a big-time home run threat in their lineup. The Yankees are winning without four All-Stars in their lineup. The Indians are winning without a true ace on their pitching staff. (Zach McAllister? Justin Masterson? Really?)
Meanwhile, the Angeles, Dodgers and Blue Jays are interesting because they promised so much and are delivering so little.
All of this is bound to get more compelling as the summer warms up.
And yet, in South Florida, it’s likely to fade from the periphery as the Marlins sink deeper in the standings and more people turn from the sport.
Sure, the people who live here and are lifelong Yankees, Cubs, Phillies and Red Sox fans are still paying attention. Those folks were indoctrinated long ago and are invested in their teams and the game.
The scores of children growing up here now? If they invest in the game at all, they might just join that standing army of Yankees, Cubs and Red Sox fans.
An optimist might argue the Marlins will actually garner more attention in the coming weeks because maybe Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi and Giancarlo Stanton will get healthy enough to help the team.
Can we please remember we’re not talking about Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Derek Jeter getting back in the lineup? We’re really talking about youngsters getting a chance to play well enough so they can be traded for future prospects.
That’s not the way to run a baseball team. That’s how you set up flight transfers.
That’s how you hurt an entire sport.