And another season starts! Are we excited? Depends on who you are, I guess. If you’re a baseball writer in south Florida, you’re thrilled to the point of what former Fed Reserve Chief Alan Greenspan called “irrational exuberance,” known in ordinary language as “delusional stupidity.”
It comes down to this: after 14 years of mismanagement, deceit, arrogance, and borderline criminal activities that earned them a rebuke from Major League Baseball and a command to change its ways, this current Marlins ownership group is simply not to be trusted. And yet, after a whirlwind off-season of trades and managerial redirection, the local media, by and large, have not only declared a truce, they’re joining hands and started kum-ba-ya-ing.
Well, include me out, as Sam Goldwyn said. (Monday is throwback quote day.) The new asshole torn on the members of this ownership group was richly deserved, and until they prove themselves to be a thoroughly changed entity, I ain’t buying. Seems like we should wait at least for the first season of their apparent metamorphosis to play out, doesn’t it?
For 20 years, Greg Cote has been writing lame, adolescent commentary for the Miami Hurled, faithfully upholding that newspaper’s tradition of terrible baseball coverage. His column on Sunday, proclaiming Marlins owner Jeff Loria a “new improved” man, was a lovefest in print, filled with praises for the guy who once polled lower favorable numbers than Fidel Castro — this is south Florida, remember — and notes that while Loria earned much of the rancor aimed at him, “some of it has been unfair.” For example:
“Loria deciphered the hardscrabble Miami politics to see a state-of-the-art stadium built, but instead of credit he became the lightning rod for a backlash over taxpayers bearing too much burden. Loria was the businessman whose job was to strike the best deal; it was the politicians whose job was to protect the public interest. Yet the arrows aimed at Loria.
“’I honestly don’t think much about my own image,’ [Loria] said. ‘You don’t get to where I am without developing thick skin. I’m not here to win a popularity contest. But I care about the game and our city’.”
If you truly cared about “our city,” Jeffrey, you wouldn’t rip it off, no matter how easy that might have been and how brilliant you fancy yourself. That’s not how successful partnerships operate, and that’s not how trust is either earned or expressed. The crackpot notion, echoed by business types and ordinary citizens alike, is that government is somehow fair game for exploiting and shortchanging wherever possible. It’s how we “get back” at them. The fact that it’s tantamount to picking our own pockets and making life worse for our neighbors and fellow citizens is laughably dismissed on rare occasions when it’s even raised. It’s one thing to cheat a parking meter out of a quarter, and quite another for a zillionaire who fancies himself a community leader to loot the public treasury.
Cote, of course, doesn’t raise this, preferring to dutifully repeat the Given Wisdom, and, befitting the Easter holiday, performing absolution. Now that the Marlins gave Giancarlo Stanton the largest, most expensive contract in the history of sports — hey, look at all the cash saved with that stadium hornswoggle! — all is forgiven.
The Marlins have certainly improved the ball club. The local commentariat, parroting the Marlins’ own promotional releases, has them playing in the post-season. I’d say that’s possible — if playing .500 ball (or a few games better) can get them there, because that’s about all I anticipate them to achieve. This season will be another dominated by starting pitching, and the Marlins’ staff (depleted by an injured Ace scheduled to return mid-season at best) is at best average in a Division with dominating arms (Nationals and Mets). Did you see what the Cardinals did to the Cubs in the season’s opener last night? Get used to games like that this year. Fewer runners, less scoring, more strike-outs.
But this raincloud doesn’t blot the sunny sports pages of south Florida, where memories are short and apathy thick. The big intrigue is how Loria reacts should things not work out: pull the plug in September as he’s done before? Fire sale? Public sulk about lack of support and weak ticket sales?
And remember the nuclear option: rescinding Davey Samson’s gag order. Egad. Even our milquetoast media won’t stand for that.