Another game, another loss.
At this point in the season, this seems to be a common theme for the Florida Marlins. Shoddy pitching by a starter not named Josh Johnson (in last night's case, Sean West), no offensive prowess and a bullpen with names like Jose Veras and Burke Badenhop not helping the cause. What makes it worse is that the Marlins lost 6-1 to a Philadelphia Phillies team missing All-Stars Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Shane Victorino.
One could look at this as just a bad stretch for the Fish. However, I believe that it's an issue of ownership setting this team up for failure.
With the other South Florida teams making big splashes that scream "We want to contend." (I heard somewhere the Miami Heat got some guy named LeBron?), the Florida Marlins brought in franchise savior, Will Ohman, at the non-waiver trade deadline. Only in the distorted reality of Jeffrey Loria's world does trading a capable starting pitcher (Rick van den Hurk) for a left-handed specialty reliever make competitive sense.
At the risk of turning this into a bashing of Loria and this penny-pinching ways (and let's face it; had Major League Baseball and the players' union not intervened and forced Loria to spend what the team was receiving in revenue sharing, Josh Johnson and Hanley Ramirez would have been traded for a handful of prospects by now), let's just take a look at the differences between his ownership and those of the Miami Heat's Micky Arison and Stephen Ross of the Miami Dolphins.
Investment in The Product
As anyone who has a television knows, the Miami Heat now have the trio of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James. Three near-maximum contracts. Add the contracts of Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem (along with the minimum contracts to fill out the roster) and Arison is writing a check to the NBA for the dollar-for-dollar luxury tax. I'm pretty sure he'll be smiling when he writes out the check, since he realizes that all the money he's invested in player contracts, as well as the American Airlines Arena, he'll make back easily (with profit) in the sold-out crowds that will come in droves over the next five years.
Stephen Ross has taken a slightly different approach, taking on celebrities for stakes in the Miami Dolphins. While this is something I personally think makes sports too Hollywood, it doesn't matter whose name is at the top of the check being handed to Brandon Marshall or Karlos Dansby. As fairweather as fans are in South Florida, the Dolphins have had no problem attracting fans and are one of the most profitable football teams in the NFL. Ross has been willing to spend, both on contracts and renovations to the stadium-formerly-known-as-Joe Robbie Stadium.
Jeffrey Loria, on the other hand, is almost the anti-Ross and Arison. He demands that the residents of Miami-Dade and Broward County pay the bill on the new stadium being built at the old Orange Bowl site. When he didn't get his way the first few times around, like a jilted ex he flirted with moving the team to Las Vegas or San Antonio. In terms of investing in the team, he only does so when Major League Baseball says he has to. Until they complain, it's bargain-bin shopping for middle relief and trading arbitration-eligible players for cheaper, less talented replacements.
This, of course, doesn't put fans in the seats. Then again, neither does Vuvuzela Night or the Super Saturday concert series (do fans really want to see P. Diddy if it means paying to watch a glorified minor league team beforehand at major league prices?). In an stupefying attempt to make money, Loria put tickets from Roy Halladay's no-hitter on sale earlier this season. Let that sink in for a moment...tickets...to a no-hitter...thrown by the opposing pitcher.
Front Office With A Brain
I'll give you one reason "Miami Thrice" happened in South Beach. In fact, I'll give you five; each one of team president Pat Riley's championship rings. Arison is well-respected in the basketball world because he allows for the basketball minds to be in charge of player personnel and doesn't meddle in decisions. Is there a better basketball mind in the game today than Riley? Even if he doesn't come back to coach like most of the world thinks he'll do, he has a coach in his image, Erik Spolestra, to sit in, who did tons more with Dwayne Wade and a veritable "who cares" of a supporting cast than anyone could have imagined.
Same goes for the Dolphins. Stephen Ross has given Bill Parcells carte blanche as long as it fields a winning team. In two years time, Parcells has gutted an aging roster and rebuilt it in his image, which has staying power and can be constantly competitive in a tough AFC East. He hand picked his head coach, Tony Sparano, who has done a terrific job keeping the team in the right direction through these past two rebuilding years (and don't be fooled; even with the 11-5 first season, this team was in rebuilding mode).
Under Loria's reign of terror, only one trade has truly panned out long-term; the dealing of Josh Beckett & Mike Lowell for Hanley Ramirez and other assorted prospects. Since then, Larry Beinfest has traded the current AL batting leader (Miguel Cabrera) for busts (Andrew Miller, Cameron Maybin) and has signed no one that can be described as an upgrade or impact player at any position.
To top that off, Loria has fired two managers, one of which won Manager of The Year, Joe Girardi, but was let go because he told Loria to shut up while arguing with an umpire a-la Mark Cuban. The other, Fredi Gonzalez, was toyed with since the offseason with rumors of Bobby Valentine and the declaration by the front office that this team is playoff-ready, despite the glaring holes in the roster (no relief, high strikeout numbers offensively, no defense).
When Fredi was fired, it was believed that Valentine was the replacement. Instead, Valentine walked away from talks to trash the organization on ESPN about how they do business. The end result is a third base coach who has never managed at any level. I've never seen two managers do more with less and couldn't be happier for them, with Girardi winning a World Series with the Yankees and Fredi Gonzalez being considered for some of the top jobs in the game (Cubs, Braves).
Until some changes are made (is it possible Bud Selig can relieve an owner from ownership?), this will be the second team Jeffrey Loria has run into the ground. You can't expect fans to be faithful until you're faithful to them. To this point, that hasn't been the case and until then, it's time to find another team to latch my fandom on to.
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