The Miami Marlins left Los Angeles last night with a convincing 6-2 victory over the Dodgers. The two franchises are, on the surface, going in different directions. The Marlins are unloading high-priced players and the Dodgers are picking up big contracts as if the ghost of George Steinbrenner has inhabited the body of Magic Johnson.
But the two teams are very similar in two significant ways, and not just because they play in warm weather cities.
One similarity is they both made blockbuster, expensive and risky moves to go for a championship in 2012. And the other similarity is, as of this writing, neither would make the playoffs this year.
It can sometimes be fascinating to see how teams can not learn from others' mistakes nor see patterns that are developing.
The Marlins went on a whirlwind spending spree this offseason to bring a third World Series in as many decades to South Florida. And this time, it was not going to be just a one-hit wonder and then dismantle. They had a new stadium, new money, new manager and a new attitude. Even Showtime was impressed and sent their cameras to follow the team.
But the big-priced players like Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle did not lead the team to the promised land. And Heath Bell became a gigantic bust.
Simply adding big names to a team does not necessarily translate into wins. And soon Miami started unloading the big-priced names, including former face of the franchise Hanley Ramirez to the Dodgers.
Remember that for every big contract that a team desperately wants to move, there was an optimistic press conference and good will with the fans at the original signing.
Think of every behemoth deal that fans desperately want to see off of their teams and remember to the day the contract was announced. The Giants signing Barry Zito was looked upon as a great deal for the Giants. Cub fans were elated when Alfonso Soriano was signed. Red Sox fans cheered the signing of Carl Crawford.
When the Mets signed Bobby Bonilla after the 1991 playoffs to what was then the biggest contract in baseball, New York fans rejoiced. And, according to the New York Times, Bobby Bonilla was the happiest of them all. "It's almost a storybook," he exclaimed.
If Bonilla's deal was a book, it was written by Stephen King. And the contract looms over the Mets to this day as the deferred payments, according to the Wall Street Journal, will cost the Mets over $1 million until 2036. That year is not a typo.
The Dodgers just finished a deal with the Red Sox where they essentially dumped three gigantic contracts on their lap. The fact that most Boston fans feel that losing Adrian Gonzalez in the short term is worth losing his giant contract along with Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford's collective money pits should be alarming to the Dodgers.
The short-term gain of bringing in a star player is always good for morale and for initial ticket sales. But like a toy loved on Christmas day and discarded on December 26, the effect of those deals linger.
But look around baseball. Check out the Marlins, Cubs, Mets and what the Red Sox had. With a few exceptions, like Milton Bradley and Jason Bay, most of the awful deals were considered to be great when they happened. And those teams are desperately trying to shed the contracts.
Meanwhile, the Marlins left Chavez Ravine, far from contention. The Dodgers, meanwhile, still trail the Giants by two games and are two back in the loss column behind the defending champion Cardinals for the last wild-card spot.
Bringing in Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, Josh Beckett, Shane Victorino and Joe Blanton over the course of two months could lead them exactly where the Marlins landed after signing Jose Reyes, Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle: to the golf course.
And then another team will sign big, huge deals and the fans will rejoice and nobody will ever learn.