Posted Under: Johanna's View
Back in 1978, Oakland A’s owner Charlie Finley set up deals with the Red Sox and the Yankees to trade three of his stars away in exchange for $1.5 million in cash. That way he wouldn’t need to pay them once they entered free agency the following off-season, and would have some cash in pocket. But then Commissioner Bowie Kuhn voided the deal in the best interests of baseball. Kuhn wanted to be clear that that much cash changing hands, as well as such a big fire sale was not in the best interests of baseball.
The Marlins seem to be the new Charley Finley. With the pending trade of 5 stars, including a couple of high price stars that were just signed a year earlier to lure fans to their new stadium. Now, they are all Blue Jays. And while Mark Buerhle tries to figure out how to own a pit bull while living in Toronto where they are banned, the present Commissioner of MLB has to determine with the shift of payroll and players here is bad enough for baseball that it trumps the risk of backlash from other owners for interfering with how two clubs operate.
This is the third fire sale the Marlins have been through, though really only the second for this ownership group. And, honestly, when the Marlins sent Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to the Red Sox during the last one, they got back Hanley Ramirez who would be the centerpiece of their team for years to come. This time, in looking at who they are getting back, the Marlins are again getting back some very good pieces. The idea that they will finish last automatically next season probably isn’t the case. (The Mets at this moment still are worse.) The problem is really the covenant that teams have with their fans, and the promise that the Marlins made to players. Yes, it is a business. The players will get paid by someone, so they should just be able to go anywhere they are told to play. But Curt Flood helped move free agency along because he didn’t want to be just away- and certainly, the players in the deal did have a reasonable expectation when they signed the contract that they wouldn’t be traded less than a year after the ink dried.
But more importantly, with the history in Miami is the covenant with the fans. While Jeffrey Loria and his group can’t be held responsible for the 1998 fire sale after the team won the World Series in 1997, it is part of the history of the Marlins and something that has to be taken in consideration. The thing the Commissioner needs to decide is if this new team- with the players that came back- can honestly be competitive in the NL East. Will fans find the team completely miserable to watch? Or do they need a Jose Reyes or Hanley Ramirez to make them care? And if the trade is vetoed by Mr. Selig, will that make the fans of Miami trust the team again? Probably not. But if the new players from Toronto manage to compete next year and make the Marlins look good, that will earn a lot of fans trust. But that is a big if.
Forcing the Marlins to keep the $160 million on their payroll that they are trying to free up could put the organization in financial trouble- since the stadium didn’t sell out they way they had hoped last season. And with the Dodgers finally settled, and the new stadium opened in Miami, the Commissioner can’t afford to have that franchise in financial trouble. He just can’t. And if he vetoes the trade, that is a risk he runs.
So while I would say this trade was very very stupid move to be made by this Marlins ownership group and front office, the Commissioner doesn’t have much choice when it comes to actually vetoing it. He really can’t. It clearly is a trade that isn’t in the best long-term interests of this Marlins ownership group. They are losing a few more fans with it. Its their choice. Perhaps this deal might make Selig interested in changing owners in Miami, but as for this deal there probably isn’t much he can do.