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.