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DeFranks: Marlins fans betrayed by trade (Nov. 16)

Matthew DeFranks | Friday, November 16, 2012

It was April 4, the opening day of the Major League Baseball season, and the stadium was full. That is usually a normal occurrence.

But this? This was in Miami, where LeBron James’ welcome party garnered more attention than both Florida Marlins World Series runs. This was where attendance was always putrid whether or not the team was good.

Miami had just made a run at superstar Albert Pujols and acquired Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Heath Bell and Ozzie Guillen. So it was April 4, Miami was playing St. Louis and Marlins Park was jammed with people, hope and big salaries.

But that now seems much further away than the seven months it is.

With midseason we-give-up trades and offseason giveaways that would make the South Bend Silverhawks jealous, the Marlins have signaled loud and clear that the party is over.

They traded away star third basemen Hanley Ramirez during the season. The Pirates acquired hometown boy Gaby Sanchez. Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez won an American League title with the Tigers.

Most recently, Miami agreed to trade Reyes, perennial ace Josh Johnson, lefty Mark Beuhrle, utility man Emilio Bonifacio and underachieving catcher John Buck to Toronto for nothing – now, at least. The prospects involved in the deal are supposed to be great in the future but for Marlins fans, they’ve heard the same thing too much before.

After the Marlins won the title in 1997, the entire team was gutted. After the Marlins won again in 2003, they let Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez walk away following just one season in the teal and black.

Now, what was supposed to be the start of something new and exciting now sounds old and familiarly painful. All the stars that wore the orange and black a year ago are now somewhere in another galaxy, lighting up someone else’s world.

Jeffrey Loria has been the best businessman he can be. The rich art dealer set up a good business model years ago to lower costs and generate revenue in order to maximize profit. Sounds great, right?

Except that his model has no place in sports, where the fans want the best product on the field and not on the bottom line.

His spending spree last offseason carried multiple back-loaded contracts so that his trading spree this offseason wouldn’t hurt as much – or wouldn’t have as many sunk costs, really. His money binge in the winter also generated buzz and interest around the league and the nation. Let’s put those expenses under marketing and not as salaries.

His cheap spending and his slimy deals have left a bad taste in all Marlins fans’ mouths. They are stuck footing the bill for a new, expensive, shiny stadium while a minor league team languishes inside. The 2013 Marlins that Loria and the rest of his front office have built simply do not deserve to play in a beautiful, publicly-funded park.

It’s like drinking Natty Light from a champagne flute or like putting unleaded gas inside a Bentley. Something doesn’t add up.

The Marlins are the same franchise they always were, but now they’re a different team. If you need further proof, check the box score from that opening day.

Reyes, Bonifacio, Ramirez, Sanchez, Infante, Buck and Johnson all started that day on a team managed by Guillen. Gone, gone, gone, gone, gone, gone, gone and gone. The only remaining Opening Day starters are Giancarlo Stanton and Logan Morrison.

This trade has irritated the Marlins fan base and will make it nearly impossible to win the Miami market back. And that’s precisely why Bud Selig is deciding whether to approve this deal.

Even if Selig denies the trade, the message has been sent loud and clear – the real Marlins are back. The Marlins put on a mask last winter that they shed as easily as they did all their talent.

Now, they are just fish out of water with no team, no fans, no common sense and no dignity.

The Clevelander in left field will stop bumping. The home run atrocity in the center field will cease to move. The fans in right field will be gone.

Not that the Marlins care anyways.

Contact Matthew Defranks at mdefrank@nd.edu.

The views expressed in this Sports Authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.