Today, SB Nation is running an interesting feature regarding the fan bases with the worst calender year in 2012. The Miami Marlins and their fan base were one of the groups with this dubious distinction, and I firmly believe that this team has earned the awful right to the throne in 2012. I explained this a little in the introductory piece for the upcoming tournament to decide what fan base wins this honor, but I would like expound upon that here on Fish Stripes.
In any other typical Marlins season, a 69-win year would add up to a normal amount of disappointment. After all, in 2011 the Fish went 71-91, just two games better than 2012, and we came out of it mostly shrugging our collective shoulders. While no losing season of that magnitude can feel good, the 2011 season had legitimate reasons for its problems. The Marlins were missing a fully healthy Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson. The Fish were more or less expected to do poorly given their problems that year.
Many of the previous seasons for the Marlins had similar situations. The Fish were not expected to do well, and as a result, the fan base could not suffer through too terrible a year. The Marlins were never too disappointing or too terrible since the early 2000's, so this team's fan base chugged along without much difficulty. There was never a year in which the Marlins performed so poorly as to disgust the fan base or disappoint them thanks to consistently lowered expectations.
But all of that changed in 2012, thanks to the Marlins' major spending spree in the offseason. Because the Fish grabbed the likes of Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Heath Bell from free agency, many rightfully expected the Marlins to perform very well in 2012. The returns of Ramirez and Johnson were supposed to form an elite core of talent along with the budding Giancarlo Stanton that would propel the organization to the playoffs. The expectations were pretty widespread, as most experts foresaw at least contention in the future for the Marlins.
All of that talk and those actions got the fan base legitimately excited about the team's chances for the first time in a long time. Not since the 2005 season had Marlins fans come to expect playoff contention for their team. We bought into those great expectations, and that was the first part of our eventual disappointing downfall in 2012.
Of course, the Marlins crashed and burned in a big way, and the fault for that crash and burn lies on the heads of many parties. The players did not perform as well as they were expected to play. The front office made a rash move in July and acquired a marginal gain for what seemed like a small future cost in a blocked future third baseman. Weeks later, the team gave up on the contention plan in 2012 and traded away the only remaining third baseman on their roster among other key contributors. Injuries ravaged the rest of the roster. As a result, the entire team's performance was sunk, and the team they fielded at the end of the 2012 season was a lot worse than the finishing 69-93 record.
No matter how you slice up the blame for the 2012 season and its failure, the overall disastrous performance in relation to those high expectations was the first part of why the fan base has had a rough year in 2012. Were it just that, however, I do not believe the Marlins would necessarily qualify, even with the team playing as poorly as it did. But the Marlins followed up a back-breaking regular season with perhaps the most back-breaking trade in team history in the deal with the Toronto Blue Jays.
The trade not only ravaged the team's remaining talent level, leaving Stanton as the only major commodity on a tattered roster, but it also, perhaps more importantly, broke the trust of the Marlins fan base once again. After a year in which their expectations were not met, the fans were already upset with the organization, but at least they felt as though the team may maintain a decent payroll in an attempt to stay as competitive as possible. Given that the 2014 season had top prospects in Christian Yelich and Jose Fernandez coming, one would figure that the Marlins would be willing to endure a passable 2013 season and wait for reinforcements next year. Instead, the team took out the payroll and ensured two-plus seasons of difficulty with the current roster.
The mega-trade with Toronto cleaned out the Marlins' talent and showed once again that owner Jeffrey Loria is at worst too rash with his decision making to run a team at a consistent level, and at worse proved that he is more interested in profits than what is best for the team. The trade also likely took out the Marlins' chances of re-signing Stanton or attracting other free agents in future seasons. The problems that this trade caused for the Marlins now and in the future outweigh some of the benefits in future talent, and as a result, it too became a disappointing part of the 2012 calendar year for the Fish.
One of these events may not have been enough to call the 2012 year such a devastating one for the team. But having both the disappointing season and the fire sale trade occur within the same calendar year makes the Marlins fan base the one group that suffered the most in 2012, in my opinion.