In praise of “I’ll believe it when I see it”


Editor’s note: More excitement announce. We are about to debut two new authors here at Marlin Maniac today. First off, we have Cory Eucalitto. Cory is new to sports blogging and this will be his first chance to get a crack at it. Please give him a big MarlinManiac welcome!

Hello, readers. This is my first post here at Marlin Maniac, and in fact my first as a sports blogger entirely. Go easy on me.

With the unveiling of some surprisingly snazzy uniforms (check out the review from SCWS over at Marlins Daily for the best breakdown you’ll find online), and a seizure-inducing performance by Miami’s own Pitbull, the Miami Marlins have seemingly rocketed into an new era right before our eyes. Any time we move forward, though, we do so at our own risk if we don’t first look back with an appreciative yet critical eye. Without remembering where we came from, whatever comes next will seem rather empty and unfulfilling.

“I’ll believe it when I see it” is a sentiment being expressed quite a bit by fans these days, and rightfully so. For the first time in the Loria era, the Marlins have been linked to almost every big-time free agent on the market: José Reyes, Albert Pujols, Mark Buehrle, C.J. Wilson, even Ryan Madson. Conflicting team sources have confirmed and then denied the existence of competitive offers already on the table. All in all, team brass has made a point to demonstrate that the team’s thrifty ways are coming to a close with the opening of the new ballpark.

In many cases, “I’ll believe it when I see it” is thrown around in reference to the short term, to describe a sense of hesitant excitement over the possibility of seeing a big time star’s name on the back of an orange alternate. For a fan base that has had so little reason to “believe” in the first place, the reaction is natural and healthy. Yet even the most un-Marlins like offseason should not dupe us out of our deep suspicions of Jeffrey Loria and company.

Anti-Loria extraordinaire Jeff Passan recently crafted another scathing indictment of the team’s ownership. After scamming politicians and screwing over the taxpayers of an already broke city, ownership, he writes, is now dangling shiny objects in front of loyal fans hoping they fall for the same tricks. The article is a must-read in itself, and my recapping it will certainly fail to do it justice. Despite my fandom, this newly turned Marlins blogger finds himself in near complete agreement.

I’m giddy at the idea of wearing a big free agent signing like an obnoxious badge reading “What now?” to fans of the traditional big spenders. Yet I’m bogged down by fears that a year or two down the road, when attendance lags as the novelty of the ballpark wears off, everything will go back to how it always was and that cocky pride will turn into embarrassment. Passan outlines many of the attendance and revenue falloffs that that have plagued other teams’ massive new stadium investments. One situation I’m more familiar with is that of the Washington Nationals, who used taxpayer dollars to build a gorgeous new park. Today, the only time you’ll have trouble getting a ticket is when Philly fans make their triannual pilgrimage to throw beer bottles at Jayson Werth.

Loria and Samson have plenty of work ahead of them to ensure long term support of fans looking for more than the shallow satisfaction of a win. That vague and basic emotional connection is embedded in most of us for life. Where progress must be made is in creating a population that can be genuinely proud of an organization, through and through. No single, shiny free agent can do this. We haven’t forgotten how the payrolls dwindled while the profits soared. We haven’t forgotten the dishonesty and shadiness that went into building a ballpark that may or may not draw crowds. We haven’t forgotten the managerial firings, the misplaced discipline,the tight lid kept on outspoken and engaging players, and the lingering “what ifs” as we watch long gone stars like Miguel Cabrera compete for the MVP award.

Sure, I’ll buy into the existence of competitive offers to players like Reyes and Pujols this off-season. I’ll even believe the organization’s supposed commitment to providing the support those players need to produce a winning team. Why not? Even the most obtuse owners can’t fail to recognize the “do or die” nature of this moment in time. Yet, I’ll only believe that more than just uniforms and logos have changed about this organization when I truly see it. Not this off-season. Not even if this year’s spending push somehow brings the Fish to their first playoff berth since 2003 and third in history. Talk to me in 2015 instead. I’ll still be watching every game. I’ll still be yelling at the screen and getting way too emotionally invested in something with literally no real impact on my life. My suspicion is, though, that I’ll look back at this off-season with a case of early onset nostalgia and mutter “those were the days” into a glass of cheap bourbon. And then I’ll laugh at how, hey, at least we did not sign Jonathan Papelbon to a potential 5 year, $63 million deal. Or Ryan Madson, for that matter. Seriously, that part better be true.