The Miami Marlins Are Not the Worst Thing Ever

If you are a Marlins fan and saw this article from SB Nation's own Al Yellon, you would probably have opinions ranging from "mad" to "ugh." And that's kind of how I felt when I read it. Yellon is the editor over at Bleed Cubbie Blue, our awesome Chicago Cubs blog. This must have something to do with it, as Yellon admits that he isn't particularly happy with the Marlins' 2003 vanquishing of the Chicago Cubs in the NLCS, among other things. But it seems Yellon is just mad because our team is, well, tacky.

Then there's this affront to baseball logos:

And this affront to humanity:

Seriously, what are these people thinking? That's right: "tired lounge act." As if that's not enough,the team's marketing department regularly taunts the Chicago Cubs whenever they come to town...

Yellon then goes on claim that the acquisitions of players like Carlos Zambrano and Ozzie Guillen as manager are leading to a circus-like clubhouse atmosphere. So three of the four complains were due to the tacky nature of the ballclub, and only one had anything to do with something legitimate, which was the sleaziness that is Jeffrey Loria.

And you know what? Marlins fans would probably agree with all of that. The logo is odd, though it has grown on me enough that I have been looking for a cap at a local store for some time. The home run piece is, well, words cannot describe it really. The clubhouse will be an interesting one to manage, though if there is someone to do it, it is probably Ozzie Guillen. And you would be hard-pressed to find an owner less liked by his team's fans than Loria.

And you know what? None of that really matters. Because deep at the heart of it all, it is not really about any of those things. People just hate the Marlins, and there's no real rhyme or reason to it.

The Ownership

A lot of the Marlins hate is centered around Loria. When it comes to reprehensible owners, Loria fits the bill perfectly. He orchestrated the second-worst fire sale in the team's history. He deflated payroll an enormous amount. He claimed poverty and swindled tax money from the city of Miami to pay for a stadium. Prior to this, he bullied the Montreal Expos with threats of relocation before getting subsidized to escape Montreal and buy the Marlins, I mean, this is a terrible rap sheet.

But as much as we like to blame him for everything, there are things that he did have going against him. No one outside the city of Miami understands quite how poor the Dolphins Stadium deal was for Loria. It does explain why the Fish never spent money, though revenue sharing eliminated a good deal of those concerns. And it is entirely possible that, while Deadspin's leaked papers showed the Marlins making money off of revenue sharing in the 2007 and 2008 seasons, the team could have lost money in its 2004 and 2005 years when their payroll was higher. And of course, with the team finally moving to the new stadium, Loria followed through with his promise that he would spend on payroll and purchased a decent free agent class that could bring the Fish back up to contention in 2012.

So yes, Loria was a bully in Montreal when he left that franchise in destitution, and he was a bully in Miami when he forced a stadium out of the city and county. But rare is the owner that does not bully their city to fund them a stadium. It is happening in Oakland. It happened in Washington. It may not come in as strong-armed a fashion as it did in Miami, but sports owners almost inevitably get their publicly-funded stadiums, and Loria's case is just the latest case of that happening. No one is privy to the Fish's books before those Deadspin leaks, so it is entirely possible that, with the team's stadium problems, he lost money on those years and required a "market correction," as they so disgustingly put it.

So Loria is reprehensible, absolutely. But most owners in baseball are reprehensible to one degree or another. And fans are not in it to cheer for Loria and company. Marlins fans cheer for the laundry and, to a lesser extent, the players. It is telling that Fish fans can hold a distinct hatred towards Loria and still cheer the team as loudly. Folks from outside of the Marlins circle of fans cannot separate between the two.

Can't Win No Matter What

Loria is a big part of the reason why outsiders dislike the Marlins so much. But something about the team itself bothers fans, and it has nothing to do with the logo. There is a stigma around the World Series victories the Fish achieved and the fan base's notoriously poor stadium showings that make the club hate-worthy no matter what they do. Fans of other teams that have lacked World Series success resent the Marlins for their two World Series wins. They point to the fan base and their lack of interest in the ball club (for reasons legitimate or not) and say "that team does not deserve a championship!" They clamor that the first championship was "bought" and that the second championship was marred by "Bartman" and the fact that they were "lucky" to even be there.

The 1997 World Series has the stigma of being "bought" because the Fish held that infamous fire sale immediately afterwards. The truth is that only three players from that team were major free agents acquired just before the 1997 year. Only Moises Alou, Bobby Bonilla, and Alex Fernandez were brand new to the Marlins. Kevin Brown and Al Leiter had shown up the year before, and guys like Gary Sheffield and Charles Johnson had been around for years. As for the 2003 World Series, I've seen numerous articles claiming how "lucky" the Marlins were to have won. To that I say "of course!" Any eight-team tournament is going to require some luck to win, and the Marlins happened to have it that year, just as the St. Louis Cardinals did in 2006 and the San Francisco Giants did in 2010. World Series victories have a lot of luck involved, so claiming any individual win as "lucky" ignores just how much luck plays a role in these things.

Wrong as they may be for blaming the Marlins, this stigma has stuck, so much so that there is little the Marlins could have done to break that negative attitude. Going into the offseason, outsiders were skeptical about the Marlins' willingness to spend. When they did actually spend, the team's moves were panned at the onset despite being decent moves. Signing Jose Reyes was made to sound questionable because of his injury history and his "fluke" 2011 despite being at least a decent contract. The Mark Buehrle moved was laughed at before it was seen a fair contract. Beyond a lambasting of the moves, outsiders figured the Marlins simply would not have the payroll to pay for these moves. After clamoring that the team needs to leave its cheapskate ways to prove that the change to the franchise is legitimate, they scoff at the idea that the team can afford the moves they made!

The truth is that the Marlins will never look good to outsiders, especially those who hold a fan's perspective rather than an objective outlook. No matter what they do, they will be looked upon as second-rate because of all the years of the team being, well, second-rate to an extent. If the Marlins had picked up the most sensible colors on the planet for their jerseys, people would still mock those colors. If the club had made the "M" smaller and a marlin more prominent on the hat, people would still claim it was stupid. The team will simply never be viewed with much more than dismissal at best. When outsiders ever deem it necessary to think about the Marlins, all they do is scoff.

And I'm OK with that. I have nothing bad to say about any teams. Personally, I've got my hands full enough being a fan of my team to be harboring disgust for other ball clubs.

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