Last week, we began the Tales of a Fire Sale Survivor series in order to help newer Miami Marlins fans who have yet to witness all of the horrors of the team's history understand how to survive through the latest 2012 fire sale. I figured that the best group fans to ask would be the ones who have seen all three fire sales and have come out the other side to tell their tales.
One of the first people of whom I thought when this idea came to me was James Etzbach, former writer during my time running Marlin Maniac and the well-known Man of Teal on Twitter. James shared his eccentric historic views on the Marlins on both Marlin Maniac and Marlins Daily, and he now shares his answers regarding the fire sales with Fish Stripes today.
1. When and how did you become a Marlins fan?
Summer 1992, right before the expansion draft. I live in Atlanta, still do, and I was tired of all the fair-weather Atlanta Braves fans. I needed a new team to root for and the Marlins were it. Plus, my late grandparents lived in Melbourne, which is where the Marlins used to have Spring Training during the Wayne Huizenga years. My dad got me a Marlins away jersey for Christmas in 1992 and then later I went to their first Spring Training game ever at the Cocoa Expo in 1993 and my fandom just grew from there.
2. What was your reaction when the news of the first Marlins fire sale in 1997 started trickling in?
I'll never forget, I was at my girlfriend (now wife's) duplex in college and we were watching ESPN SportsCenter and I saw the trade between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Marlins where we sent Gary Sheffield and Charles Johnson to the Dodgers for Mike Piazza, whom we then later turned around and sent to the New York Mets. It was tough going from the ultimate high of winning the World Series to hanging my head in shame because we had just made what was, up to that point, the worst trade in franchise history.
3. How was your fandom affected by the first Marlins fire sale and the years that followed?
I retreated from baseball entirely for a little while to be honest. I put all my focus and concentrated on finishing college and starting my career. It was probably not until around 2001 that I finally began to enjoy watching baseball again.
4. In your mind, how connected was the 1997 fire sale to the 2003 World Series win?
I would like to think that all of the trades that Dave Dombrowski made after the 1997 season translated into at least some of the talent that the Marlins had during the 2003 season. I know Josh Beckett was home grown though.
5. What was your reaction to the second Marlins fire sale in 2005?
To this day I think that trading recent Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera away to the Tigers will go down worst trade in history, not just for the Marlins franchise, but in all of baseball as well. Yes I believe this trade is even worse than when Babe Ruth was traded to the Yankees.
6. How was your fandom affected by the second Marlins fire sale and the years that followed?
I was pissed that we gave up Cabrera, but the Marlins have taught me to keep my expectations low; that way if they are not successful, I'm not let down.
7. What was your reaction to the third Marlins fire sale in 2012?
Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times, you are lucky I am not a Jedi. Because I've had very satisfying dreams where I use my Jedi levitation skills to throw Loria out of a ten-story building window.
Disclaimer: I am not a violent person and by no means wish to bring actual harm to another human being. These are dreams and I am well aware of the difference between reality and fantasy.
8. Given your experience with the team, do you think the Marlins will move in a positive or negative direction in years to come?
I honestly have no idea, right now it is a crapshoot. I'm back to keeping my expectations low and hoping for the best.
9. What advice would you give a new Marlins fan about handling the difficulties of a fire sale?
Do not, by any stretch of the means ever get attached to a certain player. Your favorite player can be on your most hated rival team in an instant (cough, Uggla, cough). Owners have no loyalty to their teams fan base. My gut feeling from the very beginning has always been to purchase blank authentic Marlins jerseys.
Do no ever hate the team, but instead hate the owner. Always keep your expectations low to avoid disappointment - this has helped me in many areas of life.
I want to thank James once again for allowing me to interview him. If you would like to speak to him, you can always hit him up on Twitter at @ManOfTeal. He is just one of the many voices we will be featuring in the days to come as we continue our Tales of a Fire Sale Survivor series.