For any relationship to work, whether it be boyfriend-girlfriend or team-fan, there needs to one thing, more than anything else, that has to be present between both sides; trust.
Trust is defined in the dictionary as "a belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, effective, etc." So by trusting someone you believe that what they are telling you is the truth because you think that they are reliable. If one party does not trust the other, then it can lead to major problems, such as fights or a break-up.
In Miami, there is an imaginary fan-team relationship between Marlins fans and the Marlins organization, who have been run by owner Jeffry Loria since 2002. In this team-fan relationship, trust has been a major issue in the past ten years.
This mistrust can be best showcased by a recent article from the NY Times, which was about Jeffry Loria and his attempts to end losing in Miami. In the article Loria talked about the 2012 fire-sale and how the team has quickly turned around because of its blossoming young players. He talked about how he was excited to move forward with the current young core. But the article ended with an interesting set of quotes from Loria:
"There are no horns to be blown here," the owner said,
"we haven't done anything yet."
Then, with a smile, he added: "No more re-set buttons either."
Let's come back to that last quote later.
Jeffry Loria was not a very liked by Marlins fans nor people around the league from 2006-2011. After ridding of players from the 2003 World Series team, such as Josh Beckett, Juan Pierre, and Mike Lowell,following the 2005 season, the Marlins would endure five years of baseball misery. The product on the field was well represented by the attendance in the stands, as the Marlins placed in the bottom three in that category in all six seasons. After not being able to land a deal for a new stadium, Loria began to explore the possibility of relocating the franchise.
This was as a result of Jeffry Loria hitting the re-set button by gutting the roster and not spending money on free agents to improve the team, as the club's 2005 opening day payroll of $60 million ended up at $14 million at the beginning of the 2006 season. That cap number would slowly begin to rise over the next few seasons and there were some exciting, overachieving teams, such as the 2009 club. But it seemed as if Loria would never be willing to spend enough money to put together a consistently contending team.
In 2012, it seemed as if all of that was going to change. With a new ballpark, logo, and uniforms waiting to be unveiled, Loria made a huge splash in free agency by signing three All-Stars in Jose Reyes, Mark Buerhle, and Heath Bell. These three players were being added to a roster that already had Hanely Ramirez, Giancarlo Stanton, and Josh Johnson. The Marlins opening day payroll was over $118 million, which was the seventh highest in all of baseball, and expectations were high. The city of Miami was buzzing about the Marlins for the first time since 2003. It seemed like Loria had finally turned the page as an owner and was ready to commit big money to build a contender in Miami.
But in July of that season, with the Marlins standing at 45-52 and over 10 games out of first place, Loria hit the re-set button and traded away Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, and Omar Infante. In that following offseason, Jose Reyes, Mark Buerlhe, Josh Johnson, and Heath Bell were all traded. The Marlins opening day payroll in 2013 dropped all the way to $36 million. Loria had hit the re-set button once again.
As I was reading the above quote, I chuckled, because I knew that I had heard that same thing from Loria before. He lauded the 2012 team, and claimed that there would be no more fire-sales, as the Marlins would be entering a new direction as a franchise. Marlins fans bought into this new direction that Loria was selling them, but they were ultimately lied to as Loria returned to his old ways. Whether you thought the team the Marlins assembled in 2012 was never going to be successful, the fact of the matter is that Loria hit the re-set button after just 97 games.
I would love to believe Loria when he says that he is done hitting the re-set button and that now the franchise is committed to winning. But Marlins fans have heard this before, and have no reason to trust him yet. Re-signing Giancarlo Stanton to a mega-deal was pleasantly surprising and a great start in moving this franchise forward. But I said the same thing when he re-signed Hanley Ramirez in 2008. Once Loria finally spent money to put talent around Ramirez, he traded Hanley mid-way through the season and went on to strip the rest of the roster.
Now Loria has to continue to build on the Stanton signing and prove his commitment by locking up their other younger players to long-term deals and continuing to be active in free agency. There is only so much an owner can do, in terms of personnel and roster decisions(with a few exceptions), so in Loria's case he just needs to continue to write the checks to prove that this is going to be different from years past.
So as we enter this season, which will be the first season with expectations surrounding team since 2012, the hope is that Loria has learned from his past mistakes. Hopefully he has learned that you do not have to spend the most money or have one of the highest payrolls in the league to be a good team, but you need to be willing to spend money on your core and free agents to build and strengthen your roster. More than anything, I hope that Loria has learned that he has to be patient and not to panic if things do not go well at first. The last thing we need is the Marlins sitting with a record of 35-52 and Loria being tempted to hit that re-set button again.
Jeffry Loria can gain the trust of Marlins fans again, but it is going to take some time. A successful season this year would not wash away the past ten years, but it would be a nice start.
Once that re-set button starts to get covered with dust, then Marlins fans can begin to trust Loria again.