Déjà vu: another Marlins "fire sale"
Once again, the Miami Marlins have unloaded several big-money star players in an attempt to scrimp on payroll expenses. Unlike the two previous times when they did it (1997 and 2003), however, they did not just win the World Series. Far from it, in fact. In one of the biggest trades in baseball history, the Toronto Blue Jays are getting shortstop Jose Reyes, right-hand pitcher Josh Johnson, left-hand pitcher Mark Buehrle, catcher John Buck and infielder/outfielder Emilio Bonifacio. In return, the Marlins get some young prospects, including infielder Yunel Escobar. Altogether, twelve players were involved in the trade. It's a salary dump worth $165 million altogether, but the Marlins will presumably have to "eat" a portion of the contracts they signed with Reyes, et al.
Bud Selig went through the motions of "reviewing" the transaction, which to no one's surprise was made official today. See MLB.com. Given that the Red Sox and Yankees are going through some painful adjustments as their veteran stars retire or leave, the road is open for the Blue Jays to surge to the top in the AL East. Toronto fans are pretty happy, as you can read from Callum Hughson at Mop Up Duty. Meanwhile, Miami fans have reacted with great anger, as they have every right to do. See the Washington Post.
Last December former Met Jose Reyes signed a six-year, $106 million contract with the Marlins, who also acquired much sought-after free-agent pitcher Mark Buehrle. But hopes that these acquisitions would make the Marlins competitive proved illusory, as they again finished in last place in the National League Eastern Division.
This deal is a vivid illustration of the inflationary impact of publically-funded stadiums on team payrolls. It maximizes the return on investment to owners, who can make proportionally higher profits by filling seats with happy (and thirsty) fans -- as long as their team keeps winning, of course. That is where the pernicious role of Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria comes in. Washington Post columnist Tom Boswell expressed the matter in direct, very strong terms:
You cannot understand the devastation of the Marlins, the fleecing of hundreds of millions of dollars from Miami taxpayers for a new park and the crippling of a franchise for many years to come until you grasp the pattern of business depravity of the man behind it.
On Tuesday, the Marlins didn't just trade away most of the best and most expensive players left on their roster: Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson and others, dumping more than $160 million in salary to Toronto.
Loria and his executives turned their seven-month-old, $600-million, 80-percent-publicly-funded park into a toxic dump where no sane player will choose to play as long as present management has its hands on the throats of the team.
As Bosworth writes, Jeffrey Loria's past record should have led people to expect such craven double-dealing. The only way he came up with the money to buy the Marlins in the first place was because he had driven the Expos into the ground, almost worthless in terms of economic value, and the other Major League franchises figured it was better to pay him off than to unleash a scandal. "Too sleazy to fail"? The "weird game of musical chairs" took place in February 2002, when I was just getting started on this Web site. (That link is to a "post facto" blog post.) That three-way transaction was how former Marlins owner John Henry gained ownership of the Boston Red Sox -- at a very fortuitous moment.
Cabrera, Posey win MVP Awards
Miguel Cabrera was named American League Most Valuable Player last week, and Buster Posey won the award for the National League. It's the second year in a row that a Tigers player has won the MVP Award. Last year it was Justin Verlander, who also won the Cy Young Award.
Having won the Triple Crown, there wasn't much doubt that Cabrera would get the MVP nod, but many baseball analysts argue that Mike Trout would have been a better pick. Trout had a higher "Wins Above Replacement" (WAR) rating, taking into account his fielding and baserunning performances. An article by Zack Meisel at MLB.com takes a look at MVP controversies of years past, applying modern Sabermetric techniques to see who was really "most valuable." Personally, I don't worry about such things too much. "Valuable" is an inherently subject adjective, meaning different things to different people. In any case, Cabrera and Posey both deserve hearty congratulations for winning those awards.
Dickey, [Price] win Cy Young Awards
As widely expected, Mets knuckleball pitcher R.A. Dickey was chosen for the NL Cy Young Award, with 27 out of 32 first-place votes. He had superior statistics in all categories but wins. Last year's winner, Clayton Kershaw [of the Dodgers], was the runner up, and [the Nationals'] Gio Gonzalez, who had the best win-loss record in the majors (20-8), came in third. See MLB.com. On the American League side, the Cy Young Award went to David Price, of the Tampa Bay Rays. Congratulations to Dickey and Price.
Davey Johnson: Manager of the Year!
The Nationals' Davey Johnson was named Manager of the Year by the Sportswriters He got 23 out of 32 first-place votes, far more than Dusty Baker (Reds) or Bruce Bochy (Giants). In 1997 Johnson was named American League Manager of the Year Award for his success in leading the Baltimore Orioles into the postseason. There is no question that he has rare leadership talent, and richly deserves getting recognized for leading the Nats into their first postseason campaign. Johnson earned the trust and respect of his players by taking the time to understand them as individuals, beyond being good at baseball strategy per se. He says he looks forward to taking care of "unfinished business" in the 2013 season. See MLB.com. Natitude!
So at least the Nationals won two of the big annual awards, [Manager of the Year and Rookie of the Year], something to be proud of.
Great American Ballpark upate
The Great American Ballpark diagrams have been revised, with a few minor corrections and greatly enhanced accuracy in the rendering of the profiles and entry portals in the upper deck. There is now a full-[view] version that shows the adjacent office buildings and entry plaza. I realized that, much like PETCO Park and Progressive Field, "the forward portion of the grandstand roof consists of bare structural beams," except that it's smaller than at those other two stadiums, so it [wouldn't] make much difference as far as shade. Also, unlike them, there are three lateral rows of such beams, about two feet apart.
While thinking about the sad way the Reds' postseason quest came to an end (three straight losses at home), it occurred to me that "GABP" is one of the relatively few (nine) "neoclassical" ballparks yet to have hosted a World Series game. The others are (in chronological order) Orioles Park at Camden Yards, Miller Park, PNC Park, PETCO Park, Nationals Park, Citi Field, Target Field, and Marlins Park. All but eight neoclassical ballparks have hosted the All Star Game, including GABP, Yankee Stadium II, Citizens Bank Park and the last five stadiums on that list, and one of those nine will be the ASG host next year: Citi Field. I'll have to create a new Web page to tabulate such "major events" and other milestones for each stadium.
The mail bag
Here's a couple of recent news items from Mike Zurawski, in case anybody missed hearing about them. First, in early October, Major League Baseball reached a series of agreements with ESPN, Fox Sports and TBS to renew the current TV broadcast arrangement for another eight years, i.e., 2014-2021. Apparently, TBS will be broadcasting fewer divisional series but will broadcast Sunday afternoon games with new co-exist rights during the second half of the regular season. There will be increased streaming of games so that fans can watch on their iPads and other mobile devices. MLB will receive about $1.5 billion per year in exclusive rights fees. One looming question: Will Fox bring back announcers Joe Buck and Tim McCarver after their contracts expire next year? See ballparkdigest.com.
Also, the Texas Rangers will play two exhibition games at San Antonio's Alamodome next spring. The seats aren't movable in that football/basketball stadium, so they will have to put up a high temporary fence in either right or left field, depending on how the diamond is laid out. See ballparkdigest.com. That article mentions that Florida Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria visited San Antonio a few years ago, as a bargaining tactic to put pressure on South Florida governments to pay for the Marlins' new ballpark. A totally absurd bluff.
More news and correspondence yet to come...