With MLB trade rumors around the league still whispering for more trades from the fourth-place Miami Marlins following the departures this week of Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante, the team's third and most puzzling sell-off in 15 years makes the Miami Marlins the worst franchise in baseball.
Despite signing some big free agents this offseason, completing a new stadium and re-branding of the team, the Marlins are yet again punting on their team, selling off several pieces before the non-waiver trade deadline.
In addition to Ramirez, once the cornerstone of the Marlins franchise, the Marlins also traded left-handed relief specialist Randy Choate to the Dodgers in exchange for prospects.
Starter Josh Johnson has also been rumored to be leaving South Florida before July 31.
While it's been reported that Jose Reyes and Giancarlo Stanton are likely staying put during this most recent Miami fire sale, one of the Marlins' marquee signings this offseason, Mark Buehrle, may even be in jeopardy of being traded.
While it's nothing new for teams to sell off veterans in exchange for prospects following disappointing seasons, the Marlins franchise has a track record of MLB fire sales and this one doesn't make much sense.
Despite their new stadium and flashy new uniforms, the Marlins continue to struggle to draw fans, currently ranking 18th in average attendance.
The Marlins have had their fair share of disappointments and bullpen blow-ups this season, yet are still only nine games out of a wild-card berth. While that might be too big of a deficit to overcome, the remaining Marlins fans attending games won't likely find out if the team can make a playoff push.
Instead, Miami fans and MLB fans will have to be subjected to another five years of a minor-league-quality team playing in the NL East while owner Jeffrey Loria pockets revenue-sharing dollars.
The majority of the Marlins' income derives from MLB's revenue sharing, and with the seemingly immovable contracts of Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell now weighing down the payroll, Marlins ownership appears to be selling off as many pieces as possible.
This latest fire sale not only lets down whatever Marlins fanbase that exists, but it also has to be a letdown to players such as Reyes and Buehrle who were likely promised that the Marlins were building a contender for years to come.
Heath Bell and manager Ozzie Guillen can share in the blame for the team's lackluster performance this season, and if the Marlins were still playoff contenders, the team wouldn't be selling off pieces.
How does this make the Marlins the worst franchise in baseball?
The Marlins have won two championships in their nearly 20 years of existence, and those titles were followed by ownership gutting those teams, similar to the current Marlins sell-off, except this time there is no championship.
In 1998, following the five-year-old franchise's World Series win over the Cleveland Indians in 1997, then-owner Wayne Huizenga authorized the trades of several big names on the Marlins who helped the team reach the promised land.The offseason immediately following their World Series win, the Marlins traded several players, most notably Kevin Brown, Moises Alou, Al Leiter and Robb Nen.
The team followed up their championship in 1997 with a 108-loss 1998 campaign.
The next few years were obviously lean in South Florida with the Marlins fielding young teams, filled with prospects learning their craft in the big leagues. Young players such as Derrek Lee, Josh Beckett and Miguel Cabrera would form the Marlins championship team of 2003.
While Cabrera would hang around for a few seasons after earning a World Series ring in his rookie season, he would outgrow Miami and command a big contract from the Detroit Tigers in 2008. Cabrera is currently one of the league's best hitters and continues to dominate AL pitching, currently leading the the league in runs batted in.
The Marlins once again re-built almost immediately following their 2003 World Series win, and have developed MLB talent such as Giancarlo Stanton, Logan Morrison and Gaby Sanchez. One of the pieces the Marlins sold off following their 2003 championship, Josh Beckett, landed the team infielder Hanley Ramirez.
Ramirez, once a 30-30 player, has become one of the game's elite players, making three All-Star appearances while with the Marlins. Although his performance has tapered off over the last two seasons, he is still a threat with the bat and on the base paths.
Ramirez was also made one of baseball's highest paid infielders, and is not without his personal shortcomings. Ramirez is frequently injured and has often been referred to as a clubhouse cancer. Unloading his contract on the Dodgers isn't the worst transgression in the world, and could actually have been a savvy move, considering the prospects sent to Miami turn out to be future MLB-caliber talent.
What his trade signifies, along with the other moves the Marlins have made in the last week is that the team is once again re-booting, or to put it bluntly, giving up.
How do you build a fanbase when you only re-invest profits into the team once every five or six years, and then constantly sell off important pieces almost immediately after? Those pieces may have been popular among Marlins fans, but how would anyone know when the team does such a poor job of marketing the team to Floridians and drawing in new fans.
As for the flashy new stadium the Marlins have been playing mediocre baseball in? 80 percent of the stadium's cost was reportedly funded by taxpayers dollars, and the deals to complete its construction drew the interest of the Securities and Exchange Commission earlier this year.
Where do we sign up for season tickets?
The bottom line is that owner Jeffrey Loria is using the league's revenue sharing loopholes to line his pockets while the franchise continues to fail in drawing fans and creating local interest for the team. Despite two World Series championships in its brief history, the Marlins still can't make any significant dent in the Florida sports landscape.
While baseball might not ever catch on in Florida on a grand scale, the practices of the Marlins franchise continue to make it almost impossible for a the team to build a loyal fan base.
Who would want to follow a team that blindly spends money on whomever is available and then allows the rest of the league to fleece them for any remaining talent.
Now the Marlins will likely field a young 90-loss team for the next few years while Buehrle and Reyes play out their bloated contracts. Bell will probably toil in the middle of the bullpen with his 5.90 earned run average.
While there is no shame in a small to medium-market team trying to build for the future, the way the Marlins go about it is bad for the game. They use league profits and a few thousand loyal fans' money to go on spending sprees, only to give up on the team shortly after.
With no continued commitment to reward loyal fans or build a successful, long-lasting relationship with its community, the recent sell-off in Miami proves once again that the Marlins are baseball's worst franchise.