Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Hanley Ramirez Trade

The Hanley Ramirez Trade
(or how I’m glad the Blue Jays aren’t owned by a crook)

            Last night, as most of you probably know, the Marlins decided to trade the former face of their franchise, 3rd baseman Hanley Ramirez.  This has rekindled the ongoing questions as to the integrity of the ownership of Marlins ownership.

             I know Jays fans have lamented for years about how cheap the Rogers corporation has been when running our team, but I think it’s a worthwhile exercise to look at how much worse things could be if you were cheering for another team. 

            While the Marlins have had questionable ownership under original owner Wayne Huizinga, I’m going to focus on the man who’s owned the team since 2003, Jeffrey Loria.  Loria should be familiar to Canadian baseball fans, as he’s the man who presided over the dying years of the Montreal Expos, and the modus operandi that he used in Montreal, is essentially what he’s transferred to the south Florida market. 

            When Loria ran the Expos, he slashed payroll down to impossibly low levels, pleaded poverty, and threatened relocation as a way to blackmail the government into building the Expos a new stadium.  He’s done the exact same thing in Florida. 

From 2005, when the Marlins conducted their most recent firesale (notably trading Miguel Cabrera, & Josh Beckett away) til 2010 (when the stadium had been approved), it seemed that Loria’s goal was to spend as little as he possibly could on payroll.  His goal wasn’t to win ball games, but rather to drive people away from the ballpark both in order to receive as much in revenue sharing that he could, but more importantly to prove that the team couldn’t be viable in their current stadium.

If this was his nefarious objective, it was certainly effective.  Attendance fell from over 22,000 per game in 2005, and never gotten near that until this season (when the new ballpark is spiking attendance).  Combined with MLB threatening relocation, this was enough for Miami-Dade County, & The City of Miami to contribute over $500 million into the construction of new Marlins Park. 

After having a publicly funded ballpark fall into their lap, as well as the threat of an SEC lawsuit hanging over their heads (due to misappropriation of revenue sharing funds), the Marlins went out this offseason and spent like drunken sailors.  They committed $106M to shortstop Jose Reyes, $58M to starting pitcher Mark Buehrle, & $30M to closer Heath Bell.  With those signings (as well the high profile pursuit of Albert Pujols & CJ Wilson) it seemed like the days of the Marlins being a charity case were over. 

            Now less than 6 months after this spending spree, and a disappointing half season later, they seem to be in full on sell mode.  The first trade this week of Anibal Sanchez & Omar Infante didn’t seem too out of line, since it got them two pretty decent prospects, especially given the primary asset they gave up (Sanchez) was an impending free agent.  However, the trade of Hanley Ramirez really has raised my ire about how Jeffrey Loria operates his ballclub. 

            By taking the package they did from the Dodgers they announced, yet again, that they value the bottom line more than they do talent on the field.  Instead of paying a portion of his inflated contract and getting better prospects in return, they chose to dump the entire $31 mil that he’s owed over the next two seasons, and only received back end starter Nathan Eovaldi, and C level prospect Scott McGough.  

Today, we’ve seen increased rumours that they are shopping staff ace Josh Johnson.  If they do that they’ll have shed up to 30 million from this year’s payroll already. 

            Now put yourself into the shoes of a taxpayer in Miami-Dade County.  In the worst economy the country has seen in decades, you’ve paid over 500 million in tax payer money, and what do you have to show for it?  This season’s payroll increase seems all but gone.  All they’ve done is swap Jose Reyes, & Mark Buerhle into the salary slots occupied by Johnson & Ramirez, and you have a team that is back into the constant rebuilding cycle you thought your team had gotten out of by investing all this money.

I’m going to put on my tinfoil hat, and suggesting a conspiracy theory that this trade has raised in my mind.  Bear with me. 

            All three of the contracts given to Bell, Reyes & Buehrle were back loaded, meaning that of the total 196 million they gave out, only 20 of that is being paid out this season.  Now its standard operating procedure in MLB to backload contracts, but when it comes to the history of Marlins I have to wonder whether they did this with an eye to trading these players before the meat of the contracts needed to be paid out. 

If you go back and look at the Marlins history with signing free agents, you’ll see why I’m raising this as a possibility.  In their 20-year history the only player who has signed a long term deal, and been with the team at the end of the contract was Alex Fernandez (and that was only because he was hurt and so they couldn’t trade him).  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that none of the players they signed were given a No Trade Clause.  If this was any other franchise this wouldn’t seem out of the ordinary at all, but in the case of Marlins, I just don’t trust them.

Is it possible that they made these signings just to get publicity going into the new park (and to show the SEC that they were spending money, only to look at trading them before the meat of their contracts kick in? 

            It wont be long before we start to hear questions about the viability of the south Florida market, and about how bad sports fans in Miami are.  However before you go and take the easy cheap shot at those fans, think about how you would react if your team was owned by as big a scum bag as Jeffrey Loria?

            Rogers doesn’t look so bad in comparison, do they?

1 comment:

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