It would be going overboard to suggest a tip of the hat to Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria and it would be disingenuous to say that all is forgiven, but we should take note that the Marlins are no longer the worst baseball team on the planet.
Fans can safely breathe the same air as the Marlins without fear of dying a strangling toxic death. Not that Miami is a pennant contender or anything, but at least the mob is no longer circling Loria’s office with the intent of doing him bodily harm.
That was not true in 2012 when Loria was blamed for selling the guts of his team, of waving a white flag and abandoning all hope of success. The fans were mad enough to do one of those Old West tar and feather jobs on Loria and exile him from South Florida.
The cause of fan anger was Loria dumping salary and shipping Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, John Buck, Emilio Bonifacio and Jose Reyes to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for seven players that no one had ever heard of – or thought they would ever hear of again.
Blue Jays rue mistakes, but so do Marlins
Acquisition of those players was supposed to make Toronto an instant pennant contender, which did not occur. Shedding themselves of those players was supposed to make Miami an instant American League bottom feeder, which did occur.
The Marlins finished 62-100 in 2013. Last year they also finished 15th and last in the league in attendance.
Miami were woeful last year. The team batting average was .231. The only notable pitcher on the roster was budding star Jose Fernandez, who at 20 went 12-6.
Signs of improvement at last
Fast forward to 2014 and the Marlins, while clearly going to be short of making the playoffs, are crowding a potential .500 record. They have been hindered by the early-season loss of Fernandez due to injury, muddling through a long season without Fernandez’s reassuring presence on the mound.
It is hoped that Fernandez will return in 2015 fully cured and able to improve on his rookie campaign. With him this year it seems likely the Marlins would actually have had a winning record. Instead, they have been mediocre, nonetheless a step up from horrible.
New strategy should eventually reap rewards
Of those no-names acquired in the trade for bigger names, thus far in 2014 Henderson Alvarez, Adeiny Hechavarria, Jeff Mathis, Jake Marisnick, and Anthony DeSclafani, have worn Marlins uniforms. Yunel Escobar was traded to Tampa Bay for Derek Dietrich, who has played for the Marlins this season. The seventh player, pitcher Justin Nicolino, was 14-4 in AA as of the other day.
As of right now, the Loria trade that was vilified, doesn’t look as bad as it did at the time. The Blue Jays fizzled despite the addition of the veterans. The Marlins have improved, albeit to average at best. It’s too soon to say whether or not that gaggle of players obtained from the Blue Jays will be difference makers for Miami next year, or in the future. But at this stage they have done well enough to indicate that Loria wasn’t the complete idiot so many thought he was.
Loria still won’t get any pats on the back, but the level of venom has subsided. Still, it will be some time before Marlins fans truly trust Loria again.