And so the howling begins anew, angry and redundant, ripping raw those old wounds. At some point, you just imagine the enraged consumers collapsing to the ground en masse, exhausted from the sustained screaming. Hostility and distrust are so very wearying, and South Florida’s baseball fans have been carrying them like a crucifix for about a decade.
It is like the Miami Marlins don’t know they are in the emotion business, which makes them either incredibly cold or totally incompetent. Either way, it feels today like our poor city helped build a bejeweled cathedral for false prophets in search of false profits.
The Marlins, playing in a publicly funded playground for less than one year, just shipped away almost all of their stars in what feels like an act of betrayal, figuring there are cheaper ways to finish in last place. They run their business with little regard for customers or public relations or decency. The players/employees are cattle. The customers are suckers. And the checks keep cashing, now more than ever.
That might be the most galling thing about this transaction. Buffoon owner Jeffrey Loria profits from being meddlesome, greedy, incompetent and despicable. He is being rewarded once you get past all the angry noise, with an ATM we helped him build in Little Havana. Loria, who is George Steinbrenner without the money, has never been worth more than he is worth today ... because tax dollars and that new ballpark increased the value of his team so much, a team that now doesn’t have that many expenses.
Loria was out in front of all the cameras when the ballpark was about to open, taking a lot of pictures with his monument, dragging a shaking and sad Muhammad Ali into his look-at-me on Opening Day. But he goes into deep hiding now, away from all the questions. You can find him in that empty place where other humans might keep a conscience.
The most stable thing about this franchise over the last decade of mismanagement? Management, oddly enough. The team that sits atop this organization, making the failed decisions, would have been unemployed several years ago in just about any other market, under any other owner. But why would Loria fire these people? They make him profit. They got him a ballpark. And, in times like this, when he’s in hiding, they go out in front of the cameras to become the piñatas for him.
What this franchise just did feels like the sports equivalent of a Ponzi scheme, a crime against the spirit of sports. No wonder South Florida is only passionate about baseball when we are winning the World Series or experiencing an abomination like this, with no in-between. We’d fill that new ballpark today in a way we didn’t during the season, standing-room only, if there was a way for our outrage to be seated.
We have an abusive, dysfunctional relationship with baseball here. The team needs our financial support. But it doesn’t have our financial support because it does things like this. So it does things like this because we withhold our financial support. It is, in baseball, the wrong kind of cycle. No new ballpark has ever drawn as poorly as ours did. So payroll gets slashed. So, too, do allegiances.
Very few franchises, any sport, any time, leave so many befuddled parents trying to explain to generations of crying kids why their favorite player has again been traded. Sports tends to be hand-me-downed through a family, across generations, fandom passed like an heirloom. What is getting hand-me-downed here is contaminated, a genetic illness, a viral strain.
The Boston Red Sox hit the reset button last season, trading away so many of their expensive stars, but there is trust in that market — trust that the baseball team will try, trust that it will reinvest. Here? The distrust is caked on the franchise in so many layers that it doesn’t even matter today that an argument can be made that getting Toronto’s cheap farm-system jewels in exchange for Miami’s expensive last-place stars isn’t a terrible business or baseball strategy when taking a wrecking ball to an obviously failed and expensive blueprint.
But here’s the problem: You don’t trust the people who run the Marlins to tell you the truth, to get the right players, to do their job competently. Seeing as how they traded 29-year-old Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera for a whole lot of nothing — it is, no hyperbole, the single worst trade in the history of our most historic sport — you don’t trust anything from their acumen to their character. How can you? And, if by some small miracle they do get it right, as they did with Giancarlo Stanton, you don’t trust them to keep said player once he gets expensive.
A year ago, the vision was that Josh Johnson, Mark Buerhle, Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonafacio, John Buck, Omar Infante, Heath Bell, Anibel Sanchez, Hanley Ramirez and Ozzie Guillen were going to the playoffs. Now, every single one of them is as gone as what little remained of South Florida’s trust.