Sale of the Marlins: Expect Resurrection, Rebuild, or Both?

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Is this the end of Gollum, Marlins fans? Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Is this the end of Gollum, Marlins fans? Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

Yesterday morning, a relative bombshell was dropped on the South Florida community when a Forbes report announced that a potential deal was on the table to sell the Miami Marlins. Obviously, that would mean saying goodbye to one Jeffrey Loria, the third and easily longest tenured owner in franchise history. This Sunday will mark fifteen years to the day since the Loria era began, and saying that the experience has been anything approaching smooth sailing would be charitable to the point of delusion.

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Considering the dizzying heights from which we started- a world championship in just the second year of his tenure- a fall back down to earth was to be expected. But the alacrity with which he turned himself into not just the least popular local owner, but arguably the most reviled owner in professional sports, was as impressive as it was maddening. Loria arrived on the scene at the same time all three other Miami franchises were struggling, as from 2002-2003, the only local team that even tasted the postseason was the Marlins. Just before Spring Training got underway, he even authorized special money to sign Ivan Rodriguez, an All-Star catcher who had earned his trip to Cooperstown before even arriving in Jupiter that February.

Yet, looking back on it all, it feels like he had two strikes on him the moment he got here. Considering the fact that the Expos payroll was always well within $2 million of what the Marlins were spending during Loria’s run with our division rivals to the north, optimism was never really running high at the outset. And then he traded fan favorites Ryan Dempster and Cliff Floyd, while at the same time, former penny pinching owner John Henry suddenly seemed to have a lot more money to spend up in Boston. If anything, that feeling of disappointment that came from a second new owner not immediately breaking the bank on payroll counted against him as much as anything that had been reported from his Montreal days.

Then 2003 was in the rearview mirror, and the cavalcade of missteps began. Low payrolls. Firesales. Stadium deals. Fans had a litany of grievances, both real and imagined. Even when they do stuff right, fault is found.  When the Marlins do something wrong, the nation chortles. The franchise is a punchline, except for the moments genuine sorrow is expressed on the part of our baseball betters in twenty-nine other markets and by at least one other entertainment and sports programming network. Rightly or wrongly, all of that goes back to one Jeffrey Loria.

Who now just might be on the verge of leaving. For good. Never to return again.

Basically, I’ve had that scene where Smeagol tells Gollum to “go away and never come back” playing on a loop in my head since lunch yesterday.

And yes, I’m aware I’ve just painted all Marlins fans as Smeagol in this analogy. I’m actually pretty comfortable with it. Gollum did a lot of messed up stuff, but he also got us a ring and a stadium.

Still though, this is something I’ve dreamed about since 2002. If the pockets end up being deep, it’ll be something I’ve dreamed about since 1998. A kinder, gentler George Steinbrenner coming down to the tropics and creating a perennial dynasty. Outspending the bulk of the league in international scouting, nestled comfortably in the most exciting city in the most exciting state not to charge income tax, the Marlins essentially become the next St. Louis Cardinals.

Just without the cybercrime.

Honestly, they don’t even have to win a title. I have crystal clear memories of watching my team win two world championships. Only eight teams have done that while I’ve been alive, and only five since 1990. Eleven teams haven’t even won a title, ever. But being able to consistently rely on being in the race, having a real chance, producing winning seasons, and allowing myself to fall for players without seeing them traded at the height of their powers? That’s what I want to see, and ideally before I have kids that I have to pass this fandom on to.

Assuming this does go through, and you have to think that Major League Baseball would be willing to be a bit more flexible than usual on liquid assets to get this guy out of the picture, the big question is what should we expect to happen? Will this be our Independence Day, a return to middle of the pack salaries, and pursuing the best free-agents? Or do all the sins of the past get expunged with a new owner, allowing them the freedom of a Cubs style rebuild?

Ultimately, on you to decide. But here’s two sides to the story of what to expect from the Good Ship Marlins in 2018 if franchise owner No. 4 is at the helm.