Miami Marlins look foolish, immoral after trade

11/18/2012 12:01 AM

03/26/2013 2:31 PM

It would have felt less dishonest, and been a more prudent business and baseball strategy, if the Marlins had done what the cheap and awful Pittsburgh Pirates did, getting a taxpayer-funded ballpark without even bothering to inflate the payroll with fan appeasement. That way, the Marlins could at least argue that they were abiding by some sort of careful and consistent baseball philosophy, looking for cheap value, exploiting market inefficiencies and waiting to spend that extra ballpark revenue when they were closer to winning.

There would have been a public backlash, of course, but it wouldn’t have felt and looked like the seismic sewage that swallowed them last week. Now they look like they are immoral and don’t have any earthly idea what they are doing. There is only one thing worse than fans thinking their team is run by crooks: Fans thinking their team is run by incompetent ones.

The Marlins have never valued managers. But they traded prospects and spent millions on one they fired after a year — and will be paying for years to come.

The Marlins have always found effective closers without overspending. They spent millions on an old, fat one they sent away after a year — and will be paying for years to come.

Given that they also gave the Blue Jays $4 million in that everything-must-go fire sale, the Marlins might somehow pay people about as much to not work for them the next two years as they’ll pay people to work for them next year.

What kind of way is that to run a business? Making dumb mistakes, and then spending millions to make those dumb mistakes go away? It is a reckless stupidity that will handcuff future team spending, and it will play defense against the Marlins being good in the future even if by some miracle they do start making smart decisions and finding cheap value. Say what you will about the outrage that surrounds management, these people have always been good businessmen — excellent at making money, anyway — and they have a new bejeweled ballpark in our broke city to prove it. But they went about turning their most recent profit in the loudest, worst and most inefficient way possible.

The Marlins spent money like drunk rock stars at the winter meetings on whatever free agents happened to be available, abandoning their core principles with a recklessness that, while exciting, was not only out of character but also debaucherous. This cruel and random sport’s history is littered with expensive failures who thought it mattered to win the offseason. The Marlins did this to create a buzz that is now long forgotten, replaced instead by something the customers view as betrayal and deceit. This is actually the perfect team for the state of Florida, where we specialize in foreclosures.

Any healthy relationship has a foundation of trust, but here is where we are with our dysfunction: We don’t trust middle management to get the right players. We don’t trust upper management to keep those players if by some miracle they are the right ones. And we don’t trust upper, upper management to fire middle or upper management for failing to acquire or keep the right players.

Instead, what the Marlins keep doing is firing lower management again and again — Joe Girardi and Fredi Gonzalez and Ozzie Guillen. It is like watching a CEO run his business into the ground with recklessness and embezzlement while continually blaming and firing the company’s janitors.

The reason for those firings of managers has always been, well, you can’t fire the team. But they just got done firing the manager and the team.

The Marlins last offseason were like a gluttonous fat man at the all-you-can-eat buffet, stacking the plate with his eyes and appetite without regard to practicality or the oncoming food coma. The team overspent assuming we’d fill the ballpark, which we didn’t, and that meant losing about $40 million in that calamity of a season. Even though management didn’t have to serial-killer slash the payroll, there were going to have to be cuts, so the team decided to take a wrecking ball to the blueprint and just start again. It is terrible for public relations and awful for fans, but they were going to cut $40 million somewhere. Unlike Micky Arison, who lost money every year he owned the Heat except last year, Jeffrey Loria doesn’t have enough money to keep losing $40 million a year even as the ballpark appreciates his and the franchise’s value. We might feel better if Jose Reyes was still here, but what’s the point of that if you are going to have to trade your pitching staff to cut costs anyway?

This was businessmen behaving like businessmen. Sports owners didn’t get rich in their cutthroat worlds by doing the moral thing. There are no charities in charge of sports teams. Although what the Marlins did feels immoral and indecent, it is up to our politicians to protect us from it instead of just assuming that people who have behaved badly before would act now in good faith. And we didn’t even get to vote. You can’t blame snakes for being snakes without putting responsibility on the zoo keepers.

And now? Well, this betrayal is going to echo and cost the Marlins paying customers. There is only one thing about this entire organization that anyone trusts today. It is Giancarlo Stanton’s bat. That’s it. Word is he didn’t want to be here long-term even before this recent mess, preferring California. If the Marlins can’t afford him, and he doesn’t want to be here, you know what that means. His value is high, his salary is cheap, and the franchise is back to its core philosophy after all that drunken spending. You will never get more prospects for Stanton than you will today. And, already surrounded by howling, how much worse can the customer hostility possibly get?

Get ready to get angry all over again.

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