Jeffrey Loria is the Nationals Fan’s best friend. His mismanagement of the Montreal Expos franchise ultimately led to the Expos being taken over by MLB and moved to DC for us to love. Loria then was given the Miami Marlins franchise, and he is in the process of ruining that team too–which is good news for the Nats.
During last year’s off season, the Marlins made expensive, free agent signings to complement their spanking new ballpark. The Fish made a serious bid for Albert Pujols, who ended up signing with Angels. They signed Jose Reyes to a six year, $106 million deal with a club option for a seventh year. Heath Bell obtained a four year deal worth up to $33 million to be their closer. When Mark Buehrle hit the free agent market the Marlins paid $58 million over four years for the starting pitcher. The Marlins hired Ozzie Guillen to manage the club, giving him a four year deal worth $10 million.
I think Loria was still living in the ‘90’s when he made these free agent signings. He believed that just opening a new ballpark was going to put bums in seats. Remember when the Orioles opened Camden Yards and sold the place out for years, and every other team in the Majors then wanted a new ballpark believing that the new park would, all by itself, increase attendance? Yeah well, about that theory–Major League team owners sorta forgot that the Orioles actually had decent teams in the mid-‘90’s that were worth watching, and they had Cal Ripken. Orioles attendance plummeted after Ripken retired and the team became terrible.
Twenty years later, it takes more than opening a new ballpark to fill the place night after night and increase attendance to the point where you have the money to support signing expensive free agents. You have to put a decent product on the field. The Nationals found that out. Opening Nats Park in and of itself did not lead to a major increase in attendance. The team being put on the field was terrible and boring. Other than watching Ryan Zimmerman make the occasional spectacular play at third, and Josh Willingham and Adam Dunn connect for home runs, not much was going on. The Nats had decent attendance this year because they had a great team that was exciting to watch.
It appeared that the Marlins had put a decent team together. Injuries to Giancarlo Stanton and Emilio Bonifacio robbed the team of their services for part of the season. Heath Bell lost his mojo and didn’t get along with Ozzie Guillen. Ozzie Guillen didn’t get along with the Miami fans, who were not amused by his Fidel Castro remarks. By the July trade deadline, when the attendance and the team’s record was not what Loria expected, the team started shedding players. They traded starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez and second baseman Omar Infante to the Detroit Tigers for three prospects. They traded Hanley Ramirez and reliever Randy Choate to the LA Dodgers for a prospect and pitcher Nate Eovaldi (who went 4-13 this year). Heath Bell was traded to the Diamondbacks before the end of the season. Ozzie Guillen was fired at the end of the season.
The Marlins and the Blue Jays have announced a twelve player deal that will send the bulk of Miami’s decent players to Toronto–Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, Emilio Bonifacio and John Buck will be wearing Blue Jay uniforms next year. Giancarlo Stanton is stuck in Miami with no team around him and he’s not happy about it. Over the course of this season, Miami shed $236 million in future salaries through trades.
When a division rival dumps just about every decent player they have, almost guaranteeing they will remain in the bottom of the division next year, the other teams in the division and their fans have to chortle. It’s clear from the comments from Nats fans and Braves fans to the articles and blogs about the Marlins proposed trade that the Nats and Braves faithful totally get the favor Loria just did for their teams.
Maybe the Nats can break the curse of the Marlins in 2013. The Nationals have had their problems beating the Marlins over the years. The Marlins seem to find a way to beat the Nats more often than not. It has been frustrating losing to Marlins teams that haven’t been very good. Maybe the Nats can now find a way to win against the Fish in 2013. After all, it should take more than Giancarlo Stanton to beat the Nats this coming season–we hope.