The Miami Marlins thought they had it all heading into the 2012 season: a new name, a new logo, a new ballpark, and a bunch of new players, including Jose Reyes, Heath Bell, and Mark Buehrle. They shelled out a whole lot of dollars to get a whole lot of nothing, and heading into play tonight in Philadelphia, the Marlins are 63-78, already eliminated from the National League East crown and virtually eliminated from the wild card. They come in to Philadelphia with a chance to play spoiler, but they thought things would be a lot different heading into September when the season began in April. Where did it all go wrong for the Marlins in 2012?
Well, it starts at the top. Jeffrey Loria and his crew in Miami did not deserve a new ballpark, but Bud Selig and Major League Baseball essentially caved in and gave them a brand-spanking-new place to play. The problem is… they haven't filled it. Last year, the Marlins averaged 24,920 fans at Pro Player/Marlin/Dolphin/SunLife/insert-name-here Stadium, and that has gone up by about 5,000 this year. To be honest, it's a disappointment. The Marlins told everyone that with air conditioning in the park and a more attractive atmosphere, the place would be packed on a nightly basis. Now, of course that's indicative of how the team plays, but to be honest, Marlins Park was hardly full on Opening Night against St. Louis. I almost had to know then that the dream of filling that place up wasn't going to happen. A lot of this was covered by Jeff Passan's fantastic article back in July.
In that article, Passan said that Loria and team president David Samson are" awfully good businessmen, if you consider the ability to fleece feckless politicians and wring every last cent out of a metropolitan area a skill. What they lack in morals they make up for in social faux pas." It was a stinging criticism of Loria and Samson and their ability to run a franchise. They're the team you don't want to see succeed because they've won two championships since 1997 and sell their players off for pennies on the dollar so they can take their money to the bank. To say they are spineless would be giving them too much credit. As Passan said, they are con artists.
They made people believe they would be good for the city of Miami, and that they just needed this little chance and this little new ballpark to get things going. It's honestly a disgrace that the taxpayers have to worry about this burden that didn't seem like the right idea in the first place. When I first heard of the Marlins building a new ballpark years ago, I could only shake my head. It's turned out to be a nightmare.
Besides the nightmare off the field and in the owner's box, not much has happened on the playing surface, either. Reyes is signed through his age-35 season (2018), and after his career year in 2011, he's reverted to a player that really shouldn't be seeing $66 million from 2015-2017. He hasn't been a total disaster, but a .780 OPS is far off from his .877 mark last year. The team OPS is third from the bottom in the National League.
Bell hasn't been much to write home about, either. He has a career-high 5.63 ERA and seven blown saves, losing the closer's job back in July. Buehrle has been solid, but it hasn't been enough, particularly with injuries ravaging the club at times.
The good news is that Giancarlo Stanton (whose name change actually appeared to be a good thing) has hit 33 home runs and driven in 78 runs, a star on the rise that fans can seemingly appreciate in Miami and across the league. Of course, as has been the question with this franchise for years, will he stick in one city for any significant period of time?
This is a team that traded for Carlos Lee in early July, then dealt Hanley Ramirez, Omar Infante, and Anibal Sanchez in a matter of hours about three weeks later. It's a plan that still baffles many baseball people, and never made a lick of sense to me.
The Marlins are truly a tough to solve organization. They've had some success here and there, but for the most part, they run things like a business, not like a franchise that tries to win baseball games. If they happen to win, it's like some sort of accident.The key here will be to see if they stick to any sort of plan with the pieces they have. I have a feeling they would have
The shame of it all is that Loria and Samson seemed to fool Selig into this plan, and Selig bought it. Maybe some of the blame should go to the commissioner and the other owners. The fans aren't to blame. After all, there weren't that many in the first place. This is a lesson for Selig, and it begs the question: can baseball in Florida actually succeed? The fan support seems tepid at best for the both the Marlins and the Tampa Bay Rays.
There is a difference, though. The Rays have a front office that has locked up young talent to cheap contracts, looked at players to give them a second chance when they couldn't get it anywhere else, and hired a relatively savvy manager in Joe Maddon. The Marlins really don't seem interested in doing any of those things, and if they are, they haven't shown it. It's a new ballpark with new players and a new manager, but it still looks like the same old story in Miami: give the appearance of building something great, tear it down, and take the money to the bank. Jeffrey Loria really wouldn't want it any other way.
Sources: Jeff Passan/Yahoo!, Baseball-Reference.com,
Victor Filoromo is a featured contributor for Yahoo! and also contributes to PhuturePhillies.com, a Phillies' prospect blog. He grew up just outside of Philadelphia, and enjoys Philadelphia sports, media, and politics. You can follow him on Twitter @victorfiloromo.