12/11/12, "Linda Robertson: Marlins could learn from Rays
," Miami Herald
"About 300 miles up the road
, within the former Major League
Baseball wasteland known as Florida, there is a team managed by people
who know what they're doing and where they're going. Vision, in other words. A plan.
The Tampa Bay Rays proved again
that nothing beats brainpower by
completing a trade stocked with foresight. They reduced their surplus of
pitching in exchange for Kansas City's Wil Myers, 22, the best hitting
prospect in baseball. They gave up durable starter James Shields and
reliever Wade Davis for highly regarded right-handed prospect Jake
Odorizzi, plus lefty Mike Montgomery and minor-league third baseman
Patrick Leonard. Pay attention, Miami Marlins.
The Royals, seeking
an immediate return
to relevancy after 27 years missing from the
playoffs, got a pretty good pitching upgrade. The Rays got talent for
the future to complement what they have at present at prices they can
afford. They keep adjusting their building blocks while the Marlins tear
down and stack from scratch.
You think 2012 was bad in
with the last-place record, the fire sale of recognizable names,
the axing of yet another manager? Next season could be worse, because it
will be loss upon loss without the novella entertainment value.
No free agents could possibly want to join the Marlins
, not with
Mark Buerhle and Jose Reyes - jettisoned to Toronto - whispering in
their ears. The stars who remain want a ticket out.
So, as a
model of sense and cents-ability, look at the Marlins' marine-creature
counterpart. While the Rays swim along, smoothly and steadily, Miami's
flashy fighting fish are flailing at the end of a line being jerked by
owner Jeffrey Loria.
Tampa is no baseball paradise.
franchise was conceived in chaos, endured doormat years and is still
housed inside unappealing Tropicana Field. The small-market Rays have a
limited payroll, and they play in the same division as the rich and
popular Yankees and Red Sox.
But within three years of progressive new ownership taking over,
the Rays were in the 2008 World Series. The Marlins won the 2003 World
Series but have not returned to the playoffs since.
went for the big splash to coincide with the opening of his
half-a-billion-dollar stadium, 75 percent of which was publicly
But his $161 million in free agent signings - his personal
choices - didn't pan out, Ozzie Guillen got off on the wrong foot by
sticking his foot in his mouth, and a succession of poor drafts plus an
unproductive farm system caught up with the franchise.
Result: A big
The Rays spent lavishly in 1999 and finished 69-92.
They, too, were ruled by a dictatorial, miserly, meddling owner, Vince
Naimoli, who alienated fans
, businessmen and employees. According to
Jonah Keri, author of The Extra 2 Percent: How Wall Street Strategies
Took A Major League Baseball Team From Worst to First , Naimoli invited a
high school band to play the national anthem, but insisted they buy
He ordered ushers to throw out a diabetic lady who brought
"outside food" in a Ziploc bag into the stadium. He had his general
manager sign declining veterans and trade promising youngsters. Then
there's the story of the scout who told the Rays to sign a kid named
Albert Pujols. He was ignored.
Under owner Stuart Sternberg,
president Matthew Silverman and general manager Andrew Friedman - all
former Wall Street moneymen
- the team and its image were retooled. They
removed the Devil from Devil Rays. They retrained service workers at
Disney World. The held a campout and concerts for fans inside Tropicana.
Offered free parking. Installed a suggestion box. Hired manager Joe
Maddon, also an innovator.
They run the team with the financial industry philosophy of buy low, sell high
, seek value, find small advantages.
"We are constantly working to balance the present and future, and
trying to thread the needle," Friedman said. "As an organization, we
rely more on the contributions of our young players than basically
anyone else in baseball. With this trade we're hoping to replenish our
system and add a lot of players we feel can help us sustain this run of
success we've had the last five years."
Meanwhile, Marlins management is tone deaf to the concept of
They need a voice other than David Samson's, because
who trusts him or Loria? They wildly overestimated attendance for 2012
given their history of treating fans like chumps. The "neighborhood
revitalization" that was to occur around the stadium is a joke.
Keri, a Montreal native writing an Expos book
, recalled how Loria was
a white knight when he bought the Expos, "but when things went
downhill, the shady merry-go-round started,
there was an incredible
backlash, and the way he left town was unsavory," Keri said.
As for constructing a winner, Loria and Larry Beinfest are all over the map.
Look at the potential starting lineup: pitcher Ricky Nolasco,
catcher Rob Brantly, first baseman Logan Morrison, second baseman
Donovan Solano, shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, third baseman Greg Dobbs,
left fielder Juan Pierre, center fielder Justin Ruggiano, right fielder
Giancarlo Stanton. Care to guess the team home run total?
Only two homegrown players, and no faith that they'll be here if and when the Marlins turn things around.
Baseball is an inexact science
, but the Rays took a deep breath and
embraced positive change. These ex-Goldman Sachs guys want to make a
profit as badly as anybody
, but they understand the perpetual link
between success on the field and in the stands. If Marlins executives
care, they better pay attention."