This wasn’t easy to write, or done hastily in a fit of emotion. Coming to terms with the fact that the team which I have devoted my fan-hood to for most of my life is never going to be a sustained winner is difficult. Eventually though, the truth pushed its way through the deception and denial. The reality lurks there, a silent yet imposing figure, reminiscent of the Ghost of Christmas Future in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
When your organization was granted a Major League Baseball franchise for the 1993 season, I was 12 years old. I didn’t have a favorite MLB team at the time. I grew up in southeast Iowa, where there are no professional teams. Most people are either Chicago Cubs or St. Louis Cardinals fans, but I’ve always thought that geography determining which teams you claim as your own is a stupid idea. I decided to become a Marlins fan.
A mere five seasons later, my faith was rewarded with the franchise’s first playoff appearance and World Series championship. Six years after that, moves made in the fire sale which followed the 1997 season paid off in a second World Series title. I loved the Marlins. I understood the economics and endured the fire sales, because I had faith that it was only a matter of time before history would repeat itself. Eventually, I would see another World Series title brought to South Florida.
In 12 years of post-season drought (while your team hasn’t been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention this season yet, let’s be realistic) which have included only one winning record since, it’s been a series of one disappointment after another. I could stomach it if I believed that you were genuinely trying your hardest to build a winner in Miami, and you simply weren’t getting the desired results on the field. That wouldn’t be your fault.
That’s not the case, however. In this recent trade with the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers, you proved yet again that winning baseball games isn’t the top priority. I understand that a professional sports franchise is a business first. I understand that you don’t have unlimited funds. I understand that you are a low-revenue team, although much of that is the undesirable consequence of your own actions.
I also understand that MLB teams can win games on a budget if they are willing to exhaust all their resources to do so. I also understand that nothing boosts revenue like fielding a consistent winner. You say that you want to do exactly that, but your actions are screaming so loudly, I can’t hear your words.
Getting something for Mat Latos and dumping Mike Morse’s terrible contract is no big deal. I applaud both of those moves. What has upset me, and should upset every other fan of your team, is that for the third consecutive season, you have traded away your competitive balance draft pick.
From what I understand and I’m sure you know more about than I do, a competitive balance draft pick is a structure in the league intended to assist low-revenue teams in competing with teams who are more affluent. Certainly, there is no guarantee that players selected with these picks will turn out to be All-Stars. You have zero chance of drafting the next Josh Beckett, however, when you give that pick away three years in a row.
From my point of view, it’s simply a cost-cutting measure. Top-40 draft picks cost more money. Those are the only draft picks which you are allowed to trade off under the league rules, and you have taken advantage of that liberty consistently. I can’t say for sure that if you were allowed to trade more picks away that you would, but evidence seems to suggest that.
I could perhaps stomach this if you conducted your business in a more professional manner. Frankly, I feel deceived. Back in February 2013, you took out a full-page ad in all three South Florida newspapers. At that time, you said that you would, “keep you [Marlins fans] abreast of our plan, rationale and motivations.” We have yet to see any explanation as to why for three consecutive years, you have given away an opportunity to get better.
You told us that you, “know how to build a winning team” and, “I [Jeffrey Loria] can and will invest in building a winner,” but the results coupled with your consistent refusal to use the very devices designed to aid you in that endeavor are strong evidence to the contrary.
Here is the reality which I have finally acknowledged: your constant cost-cutting measures aren’t producing a winning team and have trapped you in a vicious cycle. Salary-dump trades seldom yield quality prospects. Therefore, you are never able to build the “necessary core of young talent” that you talked about in your letter. The on-field product suffers from a lack of competitive talent, which means revenue will stay low because very few people in South Florida want to come to Marlins Park to watch your team lose.
It seems to me that’s really the plan. Keep the team mediocre at best, so you can continue to cry poor while clearing millions of dollars in profit. According to Forbes, you had an operating income of $15.4 million last year. I can’t say that I know your minds, but since your failure to keep your promise of improved communication has yet again left me in the dark, I can’t do anything but guess.
The saddest thing about it is that in spite of yourselves, you have two of the most exciting young players in the game on your roster. José Fernandez and Giancarlo Stanton are a joy to watch. I hope that when Fernandez becomes eligible for free agency, he signs elsewhere. I also hope that when the time comes in which Stanton can opt out of the deal you somehow conned him into signing, he uses his player option. Both of them deserve a chance to win games and a fan base that will appreciate them fully.
If the last paragraph doesn’t make my intentions clear enough for you, then I will state them plainly: I’m done. I’ve endured your lies and your tightwad tactics for all these years. All the while I have been hoping that despite them, the team would win.
There’s no logic to hope when the people responsible for improving a losing product refuse to take every action possible toward that end, however. There’s no reason to hope when promises are broken. You cry poor because of low engagement of the community around you, but I say that you have gotten the exact “fan base” that you deserve.
You can find Derek on Twitter @dhellingsports and join in the discussion @CTBPod or on our Facebook Page.