Vetoing a trade won’t fix Miami

With the massive trade between the Toronto Blue Jays and Miami Marlins now awaiting physicals to be completed and league approval, much speculation has arisen over whether Commissioner Bud Selig will allow it to go through. While the odds are overwhelming in favor of the rubber stamp, it is still a question worth asking.

In the Marlins, we have a team backing out of a sudden “win now” philosophy under questionable pretenses. Ownwe Jeffrey Loria is obviously not the most highly thought of individual in many locations, and he can now add Miami to that list after his public lobbying for shared funding of Marlins Park.

In the Blue Jays, we have a team looking to capitalize on an unusually vulnerable AL East with plenty in the cupboard. Their ownership group ranks among the wealthiest in baseball and after a trying season both on and off the field, they have done well to not only change the public perception of the franchise, but immediately boost the name value of the roster.

So why the commotion?

The Blue Jays are free from fault here, putting together a reasonable baseball deal while spending within their means to improve their roster. The cause for suspicion falls squarely on Miami.

While the Marlins did acquire solid talent from the Blue Jays farm system in addition to three serviceable big league players, the team’s motives look incredibly questionable. Much of their funding for a brand new facility was contingent on a commitment to win immediately and fill the building. An unprecedented spending spree a year ago appeared to turn the tide in that direction. This week, the team has effectively undone all of that work.

The deal is unlikely to be vetoed. Not only is there no precedent for Selig to make that type of move, but from a purely baseball perspective there are many who would happily argue that the Marlins got fair value in the deal, if not even a little ahead. I, for one, disagree, but the issue as it has been drawn out in media circle, is not based around the trade at all, but rather the Marlins’ ties with the city of Miami.

If we’re examining this from a baseball operations perspective, an argument against such a massive salary swap is in an indirect argument for a salary cap or structured financial system. This type of framework would likely come with a salary floor and, in turn, ensure that teams couldn’t dump salary as Miami historically has. However, since there does not appear to be any interest in such a change in the financial structure of the major leagues, it would not make sense to nix the trade on this basis.

The key issue here is the series of promises made between the Marlins ownership group and Miami-Dade County which stand to alienate the Marlins fan base in the short term and potentially cripple the franchise. If the doomsday scenario plays out the way many project, the Marlins will be forced to relocate or contract from Major League Baseball and Miami will be left with a $634 million white elephant stadium. The city contributed $508 million of that.

Major League Baseball did play a role in this. MLB was active in the proceedings between Miami and the Marlins and suggested that baseball could no longer exist in the city if a new facility wasn’t delivered. What baseball officials didn’t expect, however, was they may have inadvertently killed it by pushing for the building altogether.

The issue here isn’t whether the Marlins needed a new park—by all accounts they did—but how they went about it. Not only has Loria raised the suspicions of fans, but many owners have questioned his practices with respect to revenue sharing and reporting accurate financial numbers for the team. Now, after he’s undone the promises he appeared to be following through on, the issue becomes whether he can be trusted by fans or baseball again.

The trade itself must be approved. If the dealmakers for the teams agreed to go ahead with this trade, the league has to respect it. If the consequences from the trade mean future provisions are put in place to keep similar trades from occurring, so be it. Alter the Collective Bargaining Agreement in the future. This trade itself should not be a platform for making sweeping changes across the board. It is an entirely valid swap within the framework of the major leagues.

What MLB can do, and do immediately, is begin holding its owners to a higher standard of conduct. Jose Reyes & Co. have nothing to do with the conduct of Loria or his executive group, they were merely pawns in the process. A year ago, Reyes, Heath Bell and other Marlins were talking about their franchise’s commitment to winning multiple World Series in Miami. Now we know the commitment didn’t extend very far beyond the dressing room.

If MLB wants to make a point with an investigation, it ought to start at the top. This trade is just a microcosm of how the Miami Marlins franchise has been allowed to operate. For professional baseball in Miami to succeed, the league needs an owner who wants to run it in an equally professional manner.

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Comments

  1. Michael Caragliano said...

    I would think Bowie Kuhn vetoing the moves Charlie Finley made at the 1976 trading deadline “in the best interest of baseball” count as a precedent for vetoing this trade, no? Finley may have gotten money back instead of prospects, but the principle remains the same; an owner pulls a fast one and gets his hand slapped. The real difference is that Finley had a winner to begin with and couldn’t maintain it. Loria is a sleight-of-hand expert with a track record of ruining franchises and crying “not my fault”,

  2. Chris Lund said...

    Re: The Doomsday scenario

    There is a line of thought making its rounds in which many people believe the fanbase in Miami is so put off by the deal that it will serve as the death knell for the franchise.

  3. hopbitters said...

    Bud isn’t one to slap hands of owners. He’s more one to lovingly caress their hands as he…er, well, moving on. In isolation, it’s a defensible baseball deal and that’s how it should be treated by MLB.

    Anything between Loria and the county is just that. So yeah, he’s ostensibly responsible for the debacle, but you have to put at least some of that back on the county for not seeing it coming. I mean, it’s not really a well-kept secret whose interests he has in mind, is it? And it’s nothing new to the Marlins fanbase. If you give a monkey a hammer and a wink, you have to take responsibility instead of acting shocked when he uses it.

  4. Paul G. said...

    If Selig thinks this trade is bad for baseball he has every right to block it.  It would be an unusual move, but this is an unusual situation.  Will he block it?  I doubt it.  If he was so concerned about such things he never would have arranged for Loria buy the Marlins in the first place.

    While deporting Loria back to Montreal for death by toonie would be most satisfying, I doubt there is a legal way of doing that.  With that out of the picture, perhaps the Eldritch abomination they call a “home run feature” could awaken from its millenia long sleep and eat Loria.  Perhaps with ketchup and a side of fries.  If we are lucky the “thing” will find the late Marlins owner disagreeable and return to its slumber to recover without further snacking.

  5. Michael Bacon said...

    What happened with Charley Finley way back in 1976 may not be applicable today. Times have changed and so has baseball. Look at what the A’s did last year with the young players. What they accomplished my prompt another book like ‘Moneyball’…I recall a book being written about the Marlins after they won the World Series detailing how they put that team together. Sometimes one must tear down in order to build up. There is little continuity in these free-agent days of ‘win now’…A five year plan will be deemed “four years too long.” Wheather or not that is good for MLB, I will leave others to decide.

  6. David P Stokes said...

    Most people believe that Kuhn was wrong to veto some of the trades that Finlay was trying to make.

    While what Finley was doing could be looked at as a salary dump, the circumstances were different.  As I understand it, Finley wasn’t trying to unload all of his star players;  rather, he was trying to trade some of them for cash and use the money gained to sign the others.  Oakland would have no longer had the great team that had won 2 WS, but it would have still had a good, contending team.  Without the operating cash that the trades would have brought in, Finley couldn’t re-sign any of his stars—they all walked as free agents, and the A’s were left with a terrible team.  Finley didn’t have the resources to own a team in the free agency era, and eventually had to sell the club.

    In vetoing Finley’s trades, Kuhn did establish a policy that star players couldn’t be traded for cash.  Cash can be a consideration in a trade, but stars can’t outright be sold (prospects and journeymen, as I understand it, can still be sold strictly for cash).

  7. MikeS said...

    I think this is a disaster for MLB in general.  It seems Bud and his cronies see publicly funded stadiums as necessities in their business model.  Miami is not the first city to be threatened with relocation if they don’t build a stadium (Minneapolis comes to mind) and they won’t be the last (Oakland).  Thanks to Loria, any city must think twice now before committing a half a billion dollars or more to a private business, especially with so many of them being strapped.  If the Marlins do end up moving, that will make it all the more difficult.

    I can see the local owner coming to the legislator with Selig standing beside him and promising that he will spend, spend, spend if only they will give him something worth spending on.  Then they share in the profits.  The elected officials will all wonder if this is going to be another Miami….

  8. studes said...

    If the doomsday scenario plays out the way many project…

    What sort of doomsday scenario are many people projecting?

  9. bucdaddy said...

    I think David P. Stokes has the Finley thing about right. The main problem with what Finley tried to do was that Kuhn (and, I’m thinking, most of the other owners) hated Finley. Many of his players did too, of course.

    But think about it: Finley thumbed his nose and did whatever he wanted to do whether MLB liked it or not and his Oakland teams still kicked ass, bless his miserly little heart. Of course they hated him. Finley had already lost Hunter as an FA with no compensation, he had to see where that was headed with the rest of his stars. It’s hard not to think that Kuhn’s veto of Charlie’s effort to keep his team afloat was the result of a personal vendetta and had nothing to do with the “best interests of baseball.”

  10. Mark said...

    I live up North but spend quite a bit of time in the Miami area. There’s plenty of blame to go around here, certainly, anyone who trusted Loria has to look straight in the mirror. The whining of the players over verbal promises is laughable, poor Jose is faced w/ not only an increased tax burden but his agents failure to understand where Pit Bulls are allowed is inexcusable.
    Buttttt, the blame here is the hapless City of Miami and Dade-County. Let’s face it, they can’t even count votes. Worst of all is the location of the stadium which actually is a pleasant place to watch a game. Instead of locating the Stadium in the City’s waterfront area that would have allowed access by public transportation from almost anywhere including the Airport or water taxi for that matter, they place it in a neighborhood w/ terrible access and questionable safety issues. Locating it in the downtown waterfront area w/ tremendous access and residential backup would have spawned development all around it as it has done in many city’s. Did they even visit other parks to understand the impact of a major League team?
    Many years ago I used to attend UM games in the Orange Bowl and even at that early age questioned the location.
    Miami is a great City, but even greater is their absence of Leadership……

  11. ksw said...

    an unbalanced transaction?
    c’mon.
    johnson & buehrle, league average; no peaks for them going forward.
    buck, a pretty good second catcher.
    reyes! at short! on turf! arf, arf, arf.
    the jays will spend the second half of 2013 wondering why they spent so much money on a back-up centre fielder in reyes.
    the marlins got folks who might become better than average major leaguers, for a boatload less than the folks they were paying.

  12. asym said...

    “Bud isn’t one to slap hands of owners. He’s more one to lovingly caress their hands” —check with the Dodgers prior owner.  And speaking of the Dodgers, I wonder if Budman will now step into the Marlins management as the 800lb gorilla in the corner again.

  13. Brian Standing said...

    Still think community shared ownership, a la the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, should be the model for all sports franchises.  Makes so much sense, though, that owners will never allow it.

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