Spring Training is an exciting time for most baseball teams due to the fresh allure of baseball beginning anew and the appeal of everyone receiving an opportunity to make it to the majors. Of course, even if Spring Training is supposed to be about everyone getting a shot, Spring Training games are still technically supposed to have some players expected to get regular playing time. That rule (and yes, apparently it is a rule by MLB), is at the center of the first bit of controversy this season between the Miami Marlins and Boston Red Sox.
As reported earlier here by Scott Gelman, the Marlins and Red Sox ran into a minor spat when their recent Spring Training game failed to display enough expected regulars from the Red Sox. The Marlins were rumored to be "furious" and almost certainty brought up the issue with Major League Baseball, which subsequently fined the Red Sox an undisclosed amount. Apparently, the two sides had at least made up, as the Red Sox sent a private apology to the Marlins' front office, but as one might expect with Marlins-related news, an owner still got involved.
This time, however, it was former Marlins owner and current Red Sox owner John Henry who fired off the salvo.
"They should apologize for their regular season lineup," Henry, who as Miami's owner constructed most of the 2003 World Series roster, said.
Salty much, Mr. Henry?
The fine is unlikely to have caused such a response, and it is very much possible that Miami's frustrations and tattling to the league office angered Henry more. But there is something to be said about technically being in the right on this one as well. The Marlins were right to be frustrated by the rules, which state that at least four "regulars" expected to compete or earn a Major League roster spot should be on any given game. The reasoning behind the rule, near as I can tell, is to allow fans for a decent experience in seeing their favorite players. In a way, the Marlins are upset because they felt their fans were being gipped from the experience of seeing the Red Sox's stars, especially since Miami hiked the price of the Red Sox tickets in accordance to those expectations.
Then again, the Red Sox were sending their players to a game in a storm bad enough to eventually postpone the game for an extended period of time. In a meaningless Spring Training game, why risk your players at all? The letter of the rule was indeed broken, but perhaps some of the spirit of the rule could be excused.
I think the comment by Henry says it all. The fact that the Marlins looked to enforce this rule, in some way to benefit themselves or placate the folks whom they charged extra for tickets, is probably what angered Henry. It comes off as petulant from the Marlins to be "furious" about this relatively small injustice.
And yet Henry's one-liner is equally petulant. It's a nice dig at a Marlins team that has seen better years, but it is completely unnecessary to make, especially on a public forum like Twitter, especially if you would like your organization to appear to be the level-headed one. The front offices apparently made up quietly in the background, and while Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria was not particularly named as being involved with the anger over the game, you can insinuate that his short temper had a say in this. Henry could have easily stayed above the fray of this minor conflict, especially given his history with the team. It should be noted that Henry routinely ran out minor league-quality ball clubs when he was owner of the Marlins. When Henry realized that he could not receive the stadium deal that Loria eventually coaxed from the local government, Henry took the first opportunity to jump ship from Miami to a cozier job in Boston, with the help of Loria and Major League Baseball (and at the expense of the Montreal Expos). Henry most certainly played a role in establishing the current culture in Miami, even if Loria has grown it into something awful that may not be reversible.
The truth is that this whole conflict should be water under the bridge already. The Marlins and Red Sox are no longer at odds, and Henry can safely watch from his Boston high tower the continued struggle of the Marlins franchise from which he cleverly extricated himself. The Marlins were probably wrong to make a big deal out of this in the first place, but given Henry's ignominious place in Marlins history, he probably would have been better off letting the whole thing die down.