Published November 14, 2012
Less than a year after Miami went on the biggest off-season spending spree in Major League Baseball, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria completed the team's fire sale, agreeing to send Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson to Toronto. The deal was first reported by Fox Sports on Tuesday.
While in the past the Marlins have been known to follow a championship season with a fire sale, this latest news caught the baseball world off guard.
Who would have expected that Reyes and Burhrle, two prized off-season acquisitions along with Johnson, would have quickly followed recently fired manager Ozzie Guillen out of South Beach in what turned out to be a disappointing season that was filled with the hope of winning a championship.
However, the Marlins never lived up to the expectations that accompanied the team’s new $515 million stadium located in Miami’s Little Havana.
The Marlins were followed by Showtime for The Franchise, a television show on the cable network that gave fans an inside look into the lives of the players of a major league club.
Today the Marlins are better suited for an installment of Back to The Future as the fan base has once again been misled by the art dealing owner.
The team struggled out the gate with a 8-14 record in April but had a hot streak in May, winning their first seven games of the month, going 21-8 and for a moment striking up some hope. Entering play on June 5th, the Marlins were tied atop the NL East with the Washington Nationals, whom went on to win the division. Miami then lost six straight and 11 of the next 14 games, thus never recuperating.
Miami finished 69-93, good enough for last place in the NL East and even great enough for Loria to fool fans with another fire sale.
Catcher John Buck also was shipped north of the border for a package that included shortstop Yunel Escobar, starting pitcher Henderson Alvarez, shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, catcher Jeff Mathis, and pitching prospect Justin Nicolas along with two other minor leaguerers.
The front lawn yard sale might have been easily accepted by Marlins fans after the team won the World Series in 1997 under former owner Wayne Huizenga and then in 2003, a year after Loria purchased the club.
The first warning signs came last year when right before the trade deadline the Marlins decided to pull the plug on Hanley Ramirez, who reportedly was never happy about switching over to third base after the team did not consult with him before signing Reyes, and traded him to the Los Angeles Dodgers. If the smoke of the fire sale was not clear then, then it was when the Marlins dealt starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez and second baseman Omar Infante to the Detroit Tigers.
Loria shed over $30 million in salary in those two trades.
Before the 2012 World Series had even concluded, the Marlins pulled the plug on Heath Bell, trading him to Arizona. Bell flopped as the closer and sparred verbally with Guillen throughout the season. Loria will pay only $8 million of the $21 million Bell is owed.
The latest binge Tuesday evening had some fans scratching their heads as they headed home from work, ready to get that hot stove going in their kitchens.
Instead they're now left with a sour taste of what could have been if the team had been kept intact for first-year manager Mike Redmond.
Here it’s the fans and the city of Miami that are the real losers.
Along with many citizens of Miami-Dade County, who could care less about the Marlins, the city ended up getting played by Loria. With the backing of local government politicians, the city still owes $2.4 billion for the estimated final cost of Marlins Park that now stands as a constant reminder of the now disgraced franchise.
Can fans trust Loria anymore? It was he who stripped Montreal of its baseball franchise and sold the Expos to the commissioner's office for $120 million in 2002 and then turned around to purchase the Marlins from John Henry, who would then buy the Boston Red Sox.
He paid $158 million in 2002 for the Marlins, who according to Forbes were worth $450 million in the early stages of the season that just ended.
Loria balled so hard and in an instant gave out $191 million during his spending spree last winter.
Loria wined and dined Reyes in New York once the free agency window opened up and gave him a check for $106 million but was smart enough not to give Reyes a no-trade clause. Ditto with Burhrle, who had signed a four-year, $58 million deal. With Guillen running the show in Miami, it was easy to convince Buehrle to join his former skipper for a run at another title after winning one together with the Chicago White Sox.
He even flirted with Albert Pujols.
Fans could have braved this trade after the 1997 and 2003 seasons, when the sole decision to trade away talent was based on the stadium issue. That excuse in unacceptable now.
Last December before the NBA resumed its abbreviated season, the Los Angeles Lakers almost got Chris Paul in a deal before commissioner David Stern stepped in and vetoed the trade for "basketball reasons".
It may be time for Bud Selig to save baseball and its fans in Miami from this madman.