Greg Cote

Did Jeter move the Marlins out of town right under our noses — and did anyone notice?

The baseball season is still young, but let’s quickly catch up on how things are going with the British Virgin Islands Marlins.

He has done it. Derek Jeter has exceeded all expectations. We thought it would be impossible for any new Marlins owner to make Miami and South Florida pine wistfully for Jeffrey Loria, but we might have been wrong.

I know. Small sample size. Only 10 games into a 162-game season entering Tuesday night. So, you are absolutely right. Things could get even worse — although the idea of that really sends the mind boggling into overdrive.

The Fire-Sale Fish at this pace would have the NL’s worst winning percentage since the infamous 1962 Mets. They are last in ESPN’s MLB Power Rankings and also in home attendance, including Monday night’s “crowd” of 7,003 that was lowest ever at Marlins Park. They already have lost one game by 20-1. They are 14th of 15 NL teams in runs per game, last in home runs and 14th in team ERA.

Oh but if only the embarrassment confined itself to the playing field. At least there we could understand it after Jeter and primary owner Bruce Sherman bought the club and immediately traded away all the best players including NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton, wringing the talent from what was a competitive team and leaving behind a roster beneath major-league standards.

Then came Tuesday’s Miami Herald headline: ‘To avoid Miami courtroom, Marlins claim citizenship in the British Virgin Islands.’ Huh, what!? It reads like something out of “The Onion,” like intentionally preposterous fake news played for a laugh. It’s like a man claiming in court to legally be a giraffe to get out of paying child support.

Except this is really happening. The Marlins have gone to court and claimed corporate citizenship in the British Virgin Islands in a maneuver to have a federal arbitrator, instead of a Miami courtroom, hear the lawsuit brought by the city of Miami and Miami-Dade County to recover a share of the profits from Loria’s $1.2 billion sale of the franchise to the Jeter group last fall. The suit is against Loria and the current ownership.

Marlins lawyers base their claim on the fact a BVI entity called Abernue Ltd., owns a piece of Marlins Holdings LLC, which owns Marlins Funding, which owns Marlins Teamco, the legal lawyer-speak name of the Miami Marlins.

Got all that? Marlins Teamco! Shouldn’t it be Marlins Really Bad Teamco?

The attempt to turn a local dispute into a matter of international intrigue seems ludicrous on the face of it, but let’s let the suits hash that out.

1709 Cubs vs Marlins DS
Billy the Marlin and Marlins players celebrate after a 2-1 win over the Chicago Cubs at Marlins Park on March 31, 2018, in Miami. David Santiago

I’m more interested in the gall of a Major League Baseball franchise (benefit of doubt on that) squeezing through a loophole to claim a Miami team is somehow legally based 1,100 miles away on a tiny island west of Puerto Rico, islands whose entire population would not fill up Marlins Park.

So let’s go all the way with this, shall we?

Jeter should immediately order manager Don Mattingly and all his players to begin speaking with British accents during interviews.

Players will henceforth wear not ballcaps, but bowlers.

The national anthem will be “God Save the Queen” as Marlins fans salute the Union Jack.

The ballpark menu will add fish ‘n chips and bangers and mash.

Billy the Marlin is now Simon the Marlin, and he’s wearing a monacle.

The seventh-inning stretch is now a pause for crumpets and tea.

New ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’ lyrics: Buy me some Tetley’s and crumpets, Jack, I don’t care if I ever get back...”

Gotta wrap this up. I’m just about out of stereotypes.

The good news in all of this?

We Brits are used to low-scoring soccer games, so by comparison the Marlins might suddenly seem like an offensive juggernaut, almost.

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