If you know anything about baseball, you know which teams contend most years and which ones don’t. Order your tickets to the Giants vs. Dodgers game right now and you’ll have a great story to share with your friends. You can expect good teams and contention from the Yankees, Red Sox, and Astros more times than not.
On the flip side, you know the Reds rarely make the postseason. The Marlins are generally bottom feeders, as are the Tigers and the Royals.
In this article, we’ll talk about one of those bottom-feeder teams, the Miami Marlins. It’s time to discuss relevance and heartache in Major League Baseball.
What a Team’s Website and TV Broadcasts Reveal
As a sports fan, you know you can find unlimited places to talk about the game you love. You can listen to a fantasy football podcast or a radio show during the season. You can watch ESPN or read blogs.
Sometimes, former players write those blogs. Other times, fans write them because they love the game and want to connect with other passionate individuals.
The point is that you’ll probably get different perspectives depending on where you go. The Miami Marlins are a bad team, and they haven’t competed to win the National League East in several years. If you tune into their games on TV, though, you won’t hear the announcers say the team stinks.
That’s because, even though the Marlins aren’t any good, the team employs the announcers. Those announcers can’t run down the team because ownership would get rid of them. They need to try and put a positive spin on everything, even when the Marlins deal all their best players at the trade deadline every year.
On the team’s website, it’s the same thing. Maybe the Mets trounce the Marlins by a 9-2 score. The headline isn’t “The Dismal Marlins Drop Another One.” Instead, it’s something like “Marlins Pitcher Garrett Shows Improvement in Loss.”
A Marlin affiliate like the website or the TV broadcast can’t run the team down, but that doesn’t mean any halfway-serious fan won’t know the truth. This squad is bad, and they haven’t had a championship-caliber team in a couple of decades.
Big Market vs. Small Market Teams
For most teams, ebbs and flows dictate the franchise’s fortune as the years pass. A team has a young player core with some power bats and stud starting pitchers. They probably built up those players through their farm system. They begin to contend in the division, and they trade for pieces before the trade deadline to make a playoff run.
At that point, maybe they win a championship, or they at least give it a good try. The Braves did that last season, using homegrown talent like Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuna Jr. The Cubs did it back in 2016 when they won the World Series.
A team has a run at the top for a few years, and then they go back into rebuilding mode. It’s challenging to stay at the top for extended periods like the Yankees or Red Sox attempt to do.
If you never want to have any down years or very few of them, you need to have an enormous payroll.
That means you’re not just paying for top players, but team ownership must also pay the luxury tax. Yankee or Red Sox ownership can do that because they have plenty of cash.
The Marlins don’t have that money, which is why they don’t contend every year, much like the Royals, Reds, Tigers, etc. Team ownership can’t spend beyond the luxury tax threshold, and the Marlins’ payroll is a fraction of what big market teams like New York or Los Angeles spend.
What’s the Solution?
Realistically, selling the team is probably the only thing that will make the Marlins competitive. However, even if owner Bruce Sherman decides to sell, the new owner or ownership group still probably can’t lure top talent to Miami. It’s not a hot baseball market.
In 2017, Sherman brought in baseball legend Derek Jeter as a minority investor. Jeter thought Sherman would give him more creative control to help dictate the team’s fortunes. That never happened. Sherman had a different vision for the team, and Jeter left unceremoniously.
Bruce Sherman can trade off his best players each year at the trade deadline and bring back a prospect haul. Some of those prospects may pan out, and some might not. The ones that work can form a contending team’s backbone, and ideally, that’s how you fix the Marlins and make them relevant again.
Here’s the problem, though. Even if Sherman has a few young pieces in place, he’ll need to trade for some proven veterans when the trade deadline approaches one of these years. No proven veterans want to go to Miami. They’ll fight tooth and nail to avoid it, just like they’ll fight to prevent a trade to Cincinnati, Detroit, or another perennial loser.
If the Marlins contend one of these years, it will probably happen purely by accident. Much like the Tigers, Royals, and the other small-market teams, a squad like Miami might break through and claim a wild card spot one year out of every five, if they’re lucky.
Even that’s an optimistic outlook. After all, the Seattle Mariners are a small market team, and they have not even made the playoffs in twenty years. At least now you have three wild card teams in each league as well as the three division winners. That gives a team like Miami a mathematically better chance to make it into the postseason.
If you’re a Marlins fan, you’re probably in for a lot of heartache. The squad claimed two World Series victories, but the last one is nearly twenty years in the rearview.
Don’t hold your breath waiting for this organization to get better. The Cubs had to wait over a century to claim another World Series win, and the Marlins might have to wait that long as well.