In the Bronx, Yankees fans are partying like it’s 1927.
In South Florida, Marlins fans are stuck feeling the hangover as the reality of this new Derek Jeter-led ownership group kicks in like a boot-toe to the temple.
With a deal in place, Giancarlo Stanton is headed for pinstripes, joining Aaron Judge to give New York a modern-day Murderer’s Row, shades of that epic ’27 team of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.
Stanton takes his 59 home runs with him, and the NL MVP award, and what was left of the soul of the Marlins.
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The new face of the franchise is, by default, that of Jeter, the retired Yankees legend now running the Marlins for new majority owner Bruce Sherman. The face looks different now, though. Jeter is not who we thought he’d be. Can we trust that inscrutable smile? The change has happened fast. This should still be the honeymoon. Spring training hasn’t even started.
But, already, Miami fans are wiser now than a couple of months ago, when they cheered Jeter’s arrival and anointment — cheered because Jeter was swathed in success, cheered mainly because of the conviction anybody would be a better owner than the long-loathed and un-dearly departed Jeffrey Loria.
We now know that Jeter will be just as unpopular as Loria, though fiscally smarter, and that he doesn’t care what you think.
He surely didn’t care that a former Yankees great trading Stanton to his former team would ignite a wildfire of conspiracy theories on social media. Yes, it’s all a grand scheme! “You’re welcome!” says Jeter to the Bronx with a leering smile and a wink.
Of course, Miami and Jeter preferred the deals offered by St. Louis and San Francisco, but Stanton invoked his no-trade clause to nix those deals — exercising every bit as much power in this trade process as he did in hitting those 59 homers. But let’s not let the facts get in the way of a good conspiracy theory!
Stanton had all the power in this, not the Marlins. That the new owners were hell-bent to dump his contract is what’s sobering.
Did you picture Jeter riding in heroically on a white steed, ready to win now, caring about nothing more than filling the diamond with talent?
Ha. Your naiveté is showing. Get real.
Trading Stanton to the Yankees, and trading Dee Gordon to Seattle two days before, was zero about the team or winning and everything about dumping payroll, reducing debt and achieving financial stability.
Business first, baseball second.
Finances first, fans second.
This might be bottom-line prudent. This might even work in the long run, the idea of rebooting the franchise from the ground up by regrowing what became a decimated farm system. But that’s also an excuse for frugality, and losing, in the meantime.
It is a process that hurts while it happens — hurts like it did Saturday morning when South Florida awoke to the Stanton news.
You know how children have their whole lives to prepare for the loss of a parent, to think they are ready for it, but when it comes, it’s still so hard?
This isn’t family; it’s only fandom. But the idea is the same. Marlins fans have had a long time to live with the growing assumption-turned-inevitability that Stanton would be traded. But when it happens it still hits like a gut-punch.
Losing Stanton the way they did is Loria’s ultimate parting gift to Marlins fans. (Along with grossly overpaying for the likes of Wei-Yin Chen and Martin Prado, bad contracts Miami can’t move, which made divesting of Stanton less an option.)
Loria gave Stanton the crazy-big contract that was severely back-loaded, and gave him an iron-clad no-trade clause — the only one of those he ever gave.
Loria likely knew he’d be gone and that the escalating contract and no-trade clause would be some other owner’s headache.
Oh, and it was.
The no-trade clause meant the Marlins could not make the best deal for the Marlins. It meant Stanton could make the best deal for Stanton. He had all the power and, just like in hitting all those homers, he used it. Flexed it.
The Cardinals offered the Marlins the deal they really wanted. Stanton said nah. The Giants offered a deal Miami liked. Stanton said nope. The Marlins were losing leverage, bleeding leverage, as Stanton narrowed to only four teams he’d be OK with. In effect, he told Jeter, “Make the deal I’m happy with, or be stuck owing me $295 million over the next 10 years.”
So the Marlins did the best they could. New York absorbs the bear’s share of that contract and sends Miami all-star second baseman Starlin Castro along with prospects reported to be in the good-not-great category.
Miami gets a capable guy to plug in for Gordon. Castro hit .300 last season, with a comparable on-base percentage. He has more power than Gordon, but doesn’t steal bases or bat leadoff or have a great glove. And those added prospects, of course, are a crapshoot. The deal mainly did the one thing the Jeter group most needed it to: made a huge, onerous contract go away.
Now what? Is the payroll slashing done with the Stanton-Gordon quieniela or should Marlins fans still brace for losing Christian Yelich or Marcell Ozuna or others?
We can’t know that yet, but we can know this as Derek Jeter moves forward:
Business first, baseball second.