The Miami Marlins aren't the first club to grumble about an opponent sending a lineup of reserve players to a road game in the Grapefruit League. There's a rule — it might just be an "understanding" — that any spring lineup for a game that counts in the standings should have at least four major league players in it and they need to play at least three full innings. So the fans, who pay the money for tickets, actually get to see some major leaguers in preseason action. And so the home team, which might have nine or 10 major leaguers in its lineup, plus more in reserve, can practice against like talent.
Sometimes the visiting team abides by this policy, and sometimes it doesn't. And it's not often you see an apology from a team for sending players with low "Q" ratings — but the Boston Red Sox did, after the Marlins let everyone know how unhappy they were with the quality of their opponent Thursday.
The reason the Marlins were upset definitely had to do with selling tickets. For the first and only time this spring, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports, the Marlins put "super premium" prices into effect to make fans pay extra to see the likes of David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli, Xander Bogaerts and so on. None of them showed. Jackie Bradley Jr. and Ryan Lavarnway did. Allen Webster pitched. He's a prospect. How did that grab the Fish? It did not. As reporter Juan C. Rodriguez noted, the most prominent member of the 2013 Red Sox on the field was Marlins catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia:
The Marlins had no comment, but a source said team executives were “outraged” and planned to contact the league office. A league spokesperson said the matter would be reviewed.
Apparently, it was. From the Fish Tank blog of the Palm Beach Post:
Marlins president of baseball operations Mike Hill received an e-mail from Red Sox GM Ben Cherington during their game on Thursday apologizing for Boston’s predominantly minor league lineup.
Cherington said “they had some injuries and were working on some things,” Hill said. “He apologized. So I don’t know if that meant he got a call from the league or what.
Hill said the Marlins have no issues and even if they did there is no mechanism to file a complaint with major league baseball. The penalty can be anything from discipline to a fine.
“You have to have a specific number of regulars,” He said. “The league watches, they monitor all of our lineups. So if there was an issue they’ll deal directly with the Red Sox.”
Good job by Hill to take the onus off his team — particularly owner Jeffrey Loria and team president David Samson — and put it on the league. It was MLB's issue, not the Marlins. Nobody likes a complainer or a squealer. It's funny, though; the headline the Sun Sentinel used for its post — "Red Sox cheat Roger Dean Stadium fans with substandard travel roster" — was awfully harsh on Boston, when it was the Marlins who were gouging fans by making them shell out extra money for an exhibition game. And, when they know that, even if the stars came out, they might only play a third of the game.
Cherington did a nice thing by apologizing, but the Red Sox only owe it to themselves and their own fans to get the team ready for the regular season in the best possible way. If that means sending Pawtucket to Jupiter, Fla., in the first week of March, then so be it. It's not at all unusual for teams to not send their best players on the road — especially when that means crossing the state from Fort Myers, where Boston trains, to the Atlantic Coast.
And the Marlins — not that there's any talking to the Marlins — shouldn't squeeze every last dime out of their fans for a Grapefruit League game. It's fitting, then, that the game ended in a scoreless tie in the eighth inning because of rain. There's no crying in baseball and there's no tying — unless it's during the spring, when the results don't really matter.
"Super premium pricing"! Who is cheating whom, here?
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