The Miami Marlins began 2012 with very high hopes: a new $500-million stadium, a new manager in Ozzie Guillen, a new roster of bright and shiny (and expensive) players. For the first couple of months of the season — despite some indiscreet comments made in public by the loose-lipped manager, for which he apologized several times — everything was coming up roses for them between the white lines.
By late July, it was all going south. The Marlins were floundering in the standings and all their high-priced help couldn’t turn it around. They moved prize shortstop Hanley Ramirez and long reliever Randy Choate to the Dodgers, while starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez and infielder Omar Infante went to the Tigers.
Then came The Trade. Five core players on Miami’s roster (starting pitchers Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, shortstop Jose Reyes, outfielder Emilio Bonifacio and catcher John Buck) were sent to Toronto in the biggest trade in the franchise’s history. In return, the Marlins got a bushel basket filled with seven prospects — but no everyday players. Then came the howls of derision.
Fans of pro baseball in southeastern Florida couldn’t believe their team had been gutted so thoroughly. They laid the blame squarely at the feet of owner Jeffrey Loria and his stepson, president of baseball operations David Samson. It became so bad that Loria hired a public-relations firm and published an open letter in a full-page ad in three newspapers in South Florida, including the Miami Herald, to explain his position. That seemed to inflame the fans even further, because to them it appeared Loria blamed everyone but himself for the team’s predicament.
Whether it’s called a rebuild or a fire sale, this situation has happened twice before — except that in both those cases (1997 and 2003), the Marlins had just won the World Series. This time, Loria shrugged his shoulders and said, “Look, we didn’t break up the 1927 Yankees; we broke up a high-priced team which was going nowhere.”
Loria has a case. He’s the one who puts up the money for the payroll, and he expected results which were not forthcoming. Despite spending $100 million (including $10 million for Guillen’s four-year contract), Miami ended up with a 69-93 record, last place in the National League East and 29 games behind the Washington Nationals.
Now it’s up to the remaining players on the roster to pick up the pieces, particularly outfielder Giancarlo Stanton — the only superstar left on the team. He couldn’t have been happy seeing his high-priced, high-value teammates head elsewhere while the major-league club has to make do with a lineup which would have a tough time beating some Triple-A teams. Not only that, but the Marlins won’t talk to Stanton about a multi-year extension on his contract until after the season. Good luck with that, Miami.