Chicago Cubs @ Miami Marlins
2012 Regular Season at the New Marlins Park; the inaugural year. The Marlins were completing an organizational facelift, a campaign that ushered in a new image and the opening of a $551 Million complex at the site of the Old Orange Bowl. Jeffrey Loria, (owner of the Marlins at that time) built his wealth as an international art dealer, hence the placement of artwork throughout the hallways, the eclectic fish tank behind home plate. Then there was the sculpture; behind center field, with moving parts, sounding bells and whistle, that lit up and blew steam when a Marlins player hit a home run. The view beyond the huge glass panels of the Miami Skyline is impressive. Along with a retractable roof, the glass panels behind left field slide open to create a breeze way. New brand also meant new colors, new uniforms, new logo, and new name as the “Miami” Marlins, a throwback to the triple A Minor league team (1956-1960). Satchel Paige played for that team in the twilight of his career.
Amid the pompous circumstance of an inaugural year, the Miami Marlins faced a fallout in community support for two primary reasons. One, Jeffrey Loria worked with key figures in Miami Dade Politics to get a large share of construction cost covered by Miami Dade County through the sale of bonds, and with little community support for this project. Jeffrey Loria justified the need for public funding by arguing that the team was losing money. Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez was responsible for huge property tax increases to residents during a mortgage crisis in the State of Florida; in order to help fund development of Marlins Park and pay hikes to the Mayor’s top staffers. The controversial relationship prompted locals to an election that ousted Mayor Carlos Alvarez by a vote of 88%. It was the largest municipal recall election in U.S. history.
The Marlins were hosting the Chicago Cubs here for the first time. It was also the first game back for Manager Ozzie Guillen who was returning from his suspension for comments he made about Fidel Castro that infuriated the Cuban Community. If he was still in Chicago, it would not have been an issue. But, it’s a cardinal sin to speak favorably of Fidel Castro in South Florida. Protests demanding the firing of Manager Ozzie Guillen also threatened to wreak havoc on the Marlins season. Guillen was a vital part of the Marlins marketing plan to connect to the Latino fan base. More money was spent on signing a high caliber of free agents to jumpstart the team into the post season. Fanfare began to fizzle out when a change of plans mid-season prompted the front office to start trading away their highly minted free agents one by one. Showtime pulled the plug on their series “The Franchise,” featuring the Miami Marlins in their inaugural season. The new Miami Marlins, who promised a “World Series” relevant team would eventually go out like just another tragic ending to a “Miami-Vice” tv episode.
But the Marlins story is a resilient one. Despite the odds, the franchise has won the 1997 & 2003 World Series. In 2017, Derek Jeter, with New York Businessman Bruce Sherman, bought the team for $1.2 billion. Since then, the organization has been liquid to say the least. The high turnover and change in direction have challenged the team to find its place in the league. At the end of the day, the Marlins have been historically resilient. Their scouting has paid dividends and those winning seasons have apparently been perfectly timed.
They’ve always managed to field a roster and compete in uncertain circumstance. So, when the pandemic hit the Marlins recently with an outbreak of over half the team with positive covid-19 cases, I was sure that it was game over. Within a week, they re-signed players needed to fill the roster while dealing with logistics of travel, eating, and sleeping. Their ability to follow the protocol requirements is a different game. As of Aug 12th, they have an 8-4 record and a .667 winning percentage that puts them in first place in the NL Eastern Division. Regarding how much bearing actual records will have; it remains to be seen. But, in the last game against the Toronto Blue Jays, Marlins won a 10-inning slugfest 14-11.
The Marlins confirm my faith in the player who is hungry. If there is a silver lining in the 2020 season, it’s that doors will open for players who have waited a lifetime for that one chance. So far, there are 40 MLB new debuts. In the tradition of Edgar Renteria and Miguel Cabrera, 2020 will be the year of the unknown player.