In sports as in cinema, even the worst debacles can be portals of discovery. For example, the epically awful 1996 summer blockbuster Twister taught us the following notable lessons: Tornadoes can sneak-up on drive in movie theaters without warning, wind or sound, and one can survive a tornado (and avoid the massive amounts of flying debris which accompany it) by tying oneself to a metal bar and hanging-on as the tornado passes directly through one’s location.
The 2012 Miami Marlins were the equivalent of a summer blockbuster movie: colossal hype, all style, no substance, and irrelevant by the end of August. The Marlins began 2012 with a new stadium, new uniforms and logo, a new manager, a boosted payroll that eclipsed $100 million, and the expectation that the club would contend for the N.L. East Division crown. Unfortunately, everything went wrong and the Marlins are limping to a last place finish with a 67-92 record.
Despite these colossal failures, there are nine things I learned from the 2012 Miami Marlins:
1. When re-launching your team’s logo and colour scheme, draw your inspiration from the wardrobe department of Scarface. It also helps if you choose colours which have absolutely no connection to your team name. Nothing says “the Fish” better than red, orange and yellow.
2. When deciding whether or not to spend $54 million on an overrated, 33 year-old pitcher like Mark Buerhle, focus on meaningless statistics like career win-loss record (174-132) and ignore real stats like career ERA (3.83), WHIP (1.28) and K/9 (5.1).
3. A fire sale can be a fun way to rekindle some nostalgia amongst your fans! When the Fish traded their franchise third baseman (Hanley Ramirez) and four other players in a $33 million salary dump this summer, it brought back warm memories of ye old Marlins’ fire sales of 1998 and 2005. The Marlins don’t have many traditions, but I’m glad to see that this one is still alive.
4. Deceitful art dealers who own baseball clubs are excellent interior decorators of new baseball stadiums. And if you think that Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria made a mistake using putrid green as the main colour for the interior of Marlins Park, you don’t appreciate the contemporary appeal of Spanish colour palettes.
5. In a struggling baseball market, the manager should employ the “any publicity is good publicity” strategy to win over a disinterested fan base. How else can one justify the behaviour of Ozzie Guillen, who had the following adventures in 2012: suspended five games for publicly praising Fidel Castro when Miami’s new stadium is built in “Little Havana” district and when many of Miami’s residents are Cuban refugees, compared Marlins rookie players to adult film stars, used profane tweets to defend his ball club to a reporter, publicly feuded with closer Heath Bell, and challenged/dared owner Jeffrey Loria not to fire him at the end of the season.
6. Give grossly overpaid, massively under-achieving veterans as much playing time as possible, even in the midst of a lost season. First baseman Carlos Lee, with his $18.5 million salary, 9 homeruns and .654 OPS deserves to start 140-plus games; First baseman Mike Cervenak, with his minor league contract and .912 OPS in Triple-A in 2012 doesn’t even deserve a call-up! And why shouldn’t catcher John Buck ($6 million per year), with his .197 Avg. and 0.6 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) receive over 100 starts behind the plate?
7. Never retire the seat-covering tarp used in your ball club’s old, frequently empty ballpark. The tarp can easily be used to cover the much nicer empty seats in your team’s brand new ballpark. Said tarp is essential when playing in a baseball-crazy city like Miami, where shiny new Marlins Park sold out a total of one time (the home opener) all season and drew the 12th highest attendance in the National League.
8. When team management is conducting your club’s annual fire sale before the trade deadline, be sure to retain the 34 year-old closer with an ERA above 5.00 and $18 million remaining on his two-year contract. Relief pitchers like Heath Bell are hard to come by.
9. Insult local taxpayers, residents and government officials only AFTER the local government agrees to finance most of the cost of your team’s new stadium. This one is kind of a no-brainer. Marlins President David Samson actually had the good sense to wait until the new park was constructed before he questioned the intelligence of the government and people of Miami and Miami-Dade County, who chipped in 75% ($508 million) of the construction money for Marlins Park.
What did you learn from the Miami Marlins in 2012?
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