When in the presence of greatness, one must acknowledge the greatness. In that vein: Jeffrey Loria, that's some business you're running down there in Miami. But, the gall, that's what makes you special.
It seems like only yesterday we pondered the notion of the Miami Marlins seizing their hardball destiny, conducting themselves like adults, spending money they'd for years siphoned from fans and fellow franchises, and then putting a serious team on the field. It was amazing. Inspiring even. And then we wondered exactly how long before they blew it up.
If you had seven months (Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, Omar Infante) or 10 months (Heath Bell, Ozzie Guillen), you'd get partial credit. Eleven months? Winner.
There is a soaring tolerance to humiliation on Marlins Way. Perhaps that is the true greatness of Loria and his Marlins. Even as they spoke of honesty and loyalty in luring free agents to Miami, they doggedly refused to consider no-trade protection. Did they know this contingency existed, even then? Had they planned on it?
Even as they spoke of the entire organization being culpable for 2012, the man they fired was Guillen, who helped recruit the free agents and would have howled the loudest at this outcome. Did the Marlins have a one-year plan all along? Will you believe them when they say they didn't?
On Tuesday, the Marlins – owner Loria, president David Samson, other president Larry Beinfest, general manager Michael Hill – reportedly were to trade five of their better (and most expensive) players to the Toronto Blue Jays, leaving the Marlins in their more familiar place. That is, in rebuild, in denial, and in last place. And, very likely come April, all alone in their new $634 million ballpark.
The 12-man trade, the core of which was first reported by Fox Sports and could be finalized as early as Wednesday, stands as follows:
The Marlins would jettison right-hander Josh Johnson, left-hander Mark Buehrle, shortstop Jose Reyes, catcher John Buck and outfielder Emilio Bonifacio. In return, the Blue Jays would send to Miami shortstop Yunel Escobar, shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, right-hander Henderson Alvarez, catcher Jeff Mathis, minor league left-hander Justin Nicolino, minor league right-hander Anthony DeSclafani and minor league outfielder Jake Marisnick.
While that may seem lopsided from a major-league competitiveness standpoint and would certainly benefit the Blue Jays, who with consummation of the trade consider themselves legit in the American League East, here's how the Marlins might view it:
The Marlins were to jettison about $175 million, depending on the cash involved in the transaction. In return, the Blue Jays would send to Miami, um, peanuts.
Undone by a 93-loss season that threatened the jobs of anyone not at least distantly related to Loria, the Marlins will have stripped payroll. They will have stripped the pretense of their goals of just a year ago, which was to field a competitive team forever more. They will have stripped whatever remained of the club's dignity. And they will have stripped their chance to lure another high-end free agent as long as Loria controls the books. That's some wreckage right there.
Remember, last December they also made a run at free agents Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. You wonder today if those players' worries over this sort of outcome – maybe premeditated, maybe not – led them to Anaheim instead.
So, anyone who bought one of those new Marlins jerseys, bought a cap, adopted Jose Reyes, believed in Josh Johnson, loved Mark Buehrle, supported Ozzie Guillen, shelled out for a season ticket, forgave Jeffrey Loria, well, this is the greatness we applaud.
He got you again. He painted the place teal, dressed it up, plunged the necklines of the waitresses, cranked up the homer machine, and put an opening-day lineup on the field Miami could be proud of. You know, for a few weeks. Maybe two players will be in the lineup come this opening day, they being Giancarlo Stanton and Logan Morrison.
Fortunately, management discerned immediately that the disastrous 2012 season was Guillen's fault, which cleared baseball operations of its responsibility and set them on the path to tidy up, $10 or $20 million at a time. Mike Redmond will manage what's left. He was in A-ball last season, and apparently will do much of the same work next season.
Dutifully, the Marlins appear back on the road to the lowest payroll in baseball. Back to bilking their customers. Back to pretending the plan is anything more than accepting the money of their fans and handing it to Jeffrey Loria.
[Related: Ultimate free-agent tracker]
Oh, the Marlins will be enthused over the futures of their new players. Hechevarria and Nicolino were two of the Jays' brightest prospects. (The Jays apparently managed to swing the deal without moving pitchers Noah Syndergaard or Aaron Sanchez, or catcher Travis d'Arnaud, or outfielder Anthony Gose.) They will adore what Alvarez, at 22, could be. They'll explain their way around Escobar.
But, the Marlins have parted again with the present. They're back to the future. And what they do in the future is sell off good players when those players reach their earning years, also known as their primes.
You wonder what Bud Selig will do. The path he cleared for Frank McCourt is certainly broad enough for Loria. For this is not how the health and prosperity of the game can play in Miami. Maybe Loria can live easily with the embarrassment of what he's done, but baseball shouldn't.
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