Archive for October, 2009
Earlier tonight while perusing twitter for updates on the US Men’s Soccer Team’s quest at a World Cup berth, I happened across a rather strange feud. It seems that Mark Cuban decided to pick a fight with Sports Illustrated writer and NBC NFL analyst Peter King.
Now, I follow my fair share of sports celebrities on twitter and, other than Chad Ochocinco picking a fight with Shawne Merriman, I can’t remember such a high profile skirmish being started (and probably ended) right there in front of me on the powerful social network website. It all started with this tweet, which basically is Mark Cuban accusing Peter King of being a neanderthal for not knowing what HDNet is.
HDNet, for those who don’t know, is a high definition television network that “provides viewers with some of the most exciting and topical news, sports, music and entertainment programming in the industry” (As taken right off their website). More relevant to this discussion, though, it is also the channel that televises the games for the newly formed UFL professional football league. If you weren’t aware of that don’t worry, you’re not alone. Apparently neither did Peter King. Although technically this is a retweet, meaning that @Golf Logsdon was the one who actually didn’t know where to find the UFL. Fortunately for him and everyone here, we all know where to find it now.
That’s the point of all of this after all. Mark Cuban basically used Peter King to promote his network. You see, Mark Cuban is the Chairman and President of HDNet, and therefore a strong advocate for the success of the UFL. Peter King is a football writer who has shown passing interest in the UFL. When Cuban saw that King was tweeting about the UFL, he waited for some sort of negativity on the part of King and jumped at his chance to rope the 20-year SI veteran into a war of, um, tweets.
After that initial provocation, though, King never really took the bait. Maintaining his composure, King responded by re-tweeting what Cuban was saying to him a couple of times, adding a “Nice to meet you” to the end of the first one. King also came right out and explained his position further, that he had never heard of HDNet.
Cuban, for what it’s worth, didn’t take matters too far. He had what he wanted, which was a response or two from King and his 85,000 twitter followers. Although I did find it funny that when Cuban saw this tweet from someone explaining to King that he was being baited, Cuban had the response of “ding, ding, ding :)” An overtly condescending reaction from Cuban,you might say.
I take two things from this whole episode: 1) Peter King is, if nothing else, an intelligent person for not retaliating in this situation; 2) Mark Cuban likes to use smileys in his tweets.
Oh, and 3) Go USA! They beat Honduras and are headed to the World Cup. USA! USA! USA!
Listen, I know that a LOT of people listen to Radiohead. They are actually considered to be Gods, I’m pretty sure. But I’ve just never enjoyed listening to them. It may have something to do with the fact that the first time I heard them I was unbelievably drunk and stoned and the video for Paranoid Android came on, (you know, the cartoon dude who chops his arms off) and it completely freaked me out. But not only did it freak me out it also was the last thing I remember before I started praying to the porcelain gods. And it was one of those REALLY bad nights, I think maybe it was my birthday or something. And when you get that sick you have a tendency to associate it with something. Well for me that something is Radiohead. So, just to clarify, I’m not a Radiohead fan, but I don’t dislike them for any real reason. To me they are like Pearl Jam or even The Rolling Stones. I’ll listen to them if someone else plays one of their songs, and I’ll even admit that it’s pretty good, but they just don’t do it for me.
But what I’ve noticed lately is that anyone who wants to sound like they know music at all will try to associate their listening tastes with Radiohead. Like, just the fact that they listen to Radiohead makes them cool for some reason. And I’ve gotta say, this is now my new reason for not liking Radiohead. I feel like I’ve had this conversation many, many times and it always goes something like:
Whoever: “Hey, so what’s your favorite band?”
Me: “Well I really like The Police, and Nirvana, and lately I’m sorta into Death Cab.”
Whoever: “What? What about Radiohead? Of course you like them, right?”
Me: “Um, no. Not too much really. I would have definitely mentioned them if I liked them.”
Whoever: “But they are like the only REAL band out there. Maybe ever. They are real musicians.”
Me: “People always said Phish were real musicians. You a big phan of them too?”
Whoever: “Uh, they’re alright. I guess. But Radiohead, they are the best. You just don’t like good music.”
That conversation probably ends badly. And it may be a little bit of an exaggeration. (That ‘whoever’ guys sounds in my head like the dude who plays Earl’s friend in My Name Is Earl, and he was also the sailboat guy in Mallrats.) I don’t think I’m exaggerating all that much though, and I have to assume you’ve met people like that too. They’re everywhere lately. How do I know this? Well, by everywhere I mean the Disney Channel, and more specifically little Miley Cyrus, who refers to them as her Rock Gods. Seriously? WTF is that about? This Radiohead thing has officially gone too far when Hannah Montana is acting like she likes them just so she can look cool.
I feel like there may be an analogy to fantasy baseball here, but more than anything I really wanted to get that off my chest. Oh, I know what it was. To me, all of the fantasy sites that try to tell you exactly how to draft your team, they are all like Radiohead fans to me. One guy on one site will be telling you not to pay for saves, and someone else will tell you to ignore steals. Or even crazier, you may get someone to advise you to never worry about pitching at all and spend all of your budget on power hitters. They all apparently know better than you. But guess what, they don’t have to listen to that crap, er, I mean, they don’t have to manage your team. You do. And while seeking advice is always a very prudent thing to do, you should never feel swindled into any one set of parameters for how to build your team. If you want to have all elite closers because they won’t kill your ERA and WHIP, then pay for them. If you want to have speedy steals guys with the potential to score a lot of runs and hit for a high average, then draft them. If you want to build the most awesomest pitching staff ever assembled just because you really enjoy watching great pitching, then more power to you. And nobody should tell you otherwise.
Fantasy baseball, first and foremost, should be an extension of being a baseball fan. Don’t get so caught up in “winning your money league” that you lose sight of that. If you’ve watched a guy play and you feel like he’s poised for a breakout season, but the experts don’t agree, I say screw ’em! You spend as much as it takes to get that guy on your team, then you go out and buy his jersey, and sit back all season and just root for him. Like a real fan is supposed to. Dammit.
I feel like I may be starting to sound like James Earl Jones here, but then again I like to pretend that I always sound like James Earl Jones when I’m trying to make a point. It reminds me of all that once was good and it could be again. Just like a good Radiohead song.
We assume that when a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear it, it still technically makes a sound. But what would happen if a Major League Baseball team won two World Series titles in the span of eight years and nobody cared? There would definitely be sounds. There would be the sound of fans in other cities and of other teams gasping in disbelief at how those titles were taken for granted. There would be the sound of the Commissioner threatening to relocate and/or contract the team. And, inevitably, there would be the sound of paperwork being filed to officially trade away all of the talent on that team.
Such is the impossible existence of The Florida Marlins. And, make no mistake; with the players they have stockpiled from making those trades, they are currently on the cusp of making a run at a third title in the last 12 years.
How exactly are they doing this? It’s not like they have had the same General Manager this whole time. Dave Dombrowski was there from the beginning of the franchise in 1993 until 2002, and is primarily responsible for building both World Series winning teams in 1997 and 2003. But since he left, Larry Beinfest has been able to continue Dombrowski’s success remarkably well. In fact, some of Beinfest’s moves have been even better.
So, if that’s not the answer, maybe the baseball gods have simply been smiling upon their every trade. Well no, actually, they have made numerous bad trades along the way. They traded Derrek Lee for Hee Seop Choi. They traded Luis Castillo for Scott Tyler and Travis Bowyer. And, worst of all, they traded Johan Santana for Jared Camp back in 1999.
So what is it then? Why has it been so easy to rebuild the Marlins? The answer is that the fans don’t care enough to notice. Marlins fans don’t care that the team might be putrid for a year while they are rebuilding. They don’t care if some of the players shouldn’t be playing above AA. And most importantly, they don’t care if the team trades away all of their star players for other teams’ prospects.
It’s not like they are going to the games anyway. It’s too hot to sit in an outdoor stadium in the middle of July in south Florida, especially if you have to drive 40 minutes just to get there. So what right do they have to care? The Marlins’ front office has free reign to do whatever they want. The fans can have no gripe when they stay home. And nobody has understood that fact more clearly than Marlins fans themselves.
But soon, that will all change. By 2012, The Florida Marlins will be known as The Miami Marlins, and they will have a shiny new stadium to call their own, right in downtown Miami. All of the state-of-the-art amenities will be in place, including a retractable roof to keep some of the heat and humidity away. It will be expensive, but it will also forever change the landscape of professional baseball in Miami.
There are plenty of baseball fans in and around that city, and most of them have been clamoring for this stadium for a long time. My guess is that when it is ready, they will start going. And as long as their first impressions are positive, they will keep going. Unfortunately, as they start coming in the door, the Marlins well-laid plans will be heading out the door.
After all, how would you trade away World Series heroes like Kevin Brown and Livan Hernandez if you have to worry about a fan backlash? The quick answer is you can’t. Maybe you would like to. Maybe you have proven that it actually works out well, but you still can’t do it. Can you imagine if the Marlins somehow made a magical run to a title this year, and then traded away Hanley Ramirez, Dan Uggla and Josh Johnson right after the season? Yeah, ok, I can imagine it too. But in 2012, when they have a new stadium, they will have to have a different agenda if they expect to make enough money to pay for it.
It’s too bad they didn’t decide to do this a while ago. It would have been nice to see how things would have played out if the Marlins had held on to most of their talent throughout the years. Yes, they are a relatively small market, and no, they are never going to have a huge payroll, but they aren’t the smallest market. They could easily have been as competitive financially as a Baltimore or a Texas if they had some steady gate revenue.
Instead, they have needlessly traded away young talent because they didn’t want to be on the hook for any big contracts. They have made some trades that no other team would have even thought of making. How shocking would it have been if the Boston Red Sox had traded away Curt Schilling right after the 2004 World Series? I could probably name at least 14 trades since 1997 that the Marlins have made that would have never happened if they had actual fans, but I’ve decided to narrow it down to a convenient top four right here, in chronological order:
1. December 14, 1998: Traded Edgar Renteria to the St. Louis Cardinals for Armando Almanza, Braden Looper, and Pablo Ozuna.
In case anyone has forgotten, Edgar Renteria knocked in the winning run in the 11th inning of Game 7 of the 1997 World Series. At the time he was 22 years old. He was 23 when he was traded. He was also one of the best defensive and offensive shortstops in baseball at the time. Who else would trade away a toolsy 23 year old World Series hero? Only the Marlins.
2. November 25, 2003: Traded Derrek Lee to the Chicago Cubs for Mike Nannini and Hee Seop Choi.
The reason I reference this trade twice is that not only is it the worst trade they have made, but it shouldn’t have happened anyway. Lee ended up being exponentially better than expected as a Cub, and the Marlins ended up trading Choi to the Dodgers a year later along with Brad Penny for even more players that they would eventually trade away.
3. November 24, 2005: Traded Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell and Guillermo Mota to the Boston Red Sox for Jesus Delgado, Harvey Garcia, Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez.
This trade ended up helping out both teams so much that it almost seems like a good trade now, but the fact remains that there is absolutely no way it should have been made. Beckett was one of the big pieces of the 2003 Marlins team. He was incredibly talented, and incredibly young, and he was both of those things for the Red Sox in 2007 too, helping them win the World Series that year. Lowell was one of the key players for that Sox team as well. Meanwhile, the Marlins ended up getting Sanchez, who threw a no-hitter for them in 2006, and Ramirez, who is now one of the best players in the game. But, again, no way any sane organization pulls off this deal, and can you imagine if Hanley Ramirez were playing shortstop for the Boston Red Sox right now? Unbelievable.
4. December 5, 2007: Traded Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Detroit Tigers for Dallas Trahern, Burke Badenhop, Eulogio De La Cruz, Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller, and Mike Rabelo.
I think that by the time this trade was made, most baseball fans had already gotten used to the fact that the Marlins tend to do this from time to time. Otherwise, this would probably be the most shocking of all. People noticed, and it was a big deal, but nobody was shocked. Today, it seems like a good deal for the Marlins. Cabrera is still incredible, but he belongs in the American League where he can DH occasionally, and Willis has something wrong in his head that he can’t seem to shake. Meanwhile, Florida has at least two, and maybe three or four, really good players for the future here. But it still shouldn’t have happened.
South Florida baseball fans need fret no longer, though. The era of crazy trading of the best Marlins will soon be over. And so I say “Welcome to the real world, Marlin nation”. Soon, you will be able to buy your favorite player’s jersey without fear that it comes with a six-month shelf life. You will be able to call a local sports radio show and express your dismay over the rumor that someone may get traded. Most importantly, though, you can look forward to rooting for your favorite players until they are much, much past their prime and extremely overpaid. After all, that is why we love the game.