Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros responsible for Miami Marlins’ teardown?
By Jake Misener
With much of baseball furious over how Miami Marlins ownership is running things, where does the blame lie? Could it all start with the Chicago Cubs?
Since the then-Florida Marlins took up residence in Miami, it’s been a long and complicated history. Of course, history means something different there than it does with Chicago Cubs fans, where history is about goats, curses and black cats. At least, it was up until last year.
In Miami, it’s about two World Series titles in 25 years. It’s about ownership groups tearing down decent ball clubs down to their foundation. Or being a local taxpayer on the hook for a new ballpark tied to promises of building a perennial winner. Now, it’s about a new ownership group trading the face of the franchise and just about every valuable player on the roster in a ‘reset’.
The face of this new ownership, of course, is former New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. He sat down with season ticket holders – to some, let’s just say, mixed responses.
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"“You can’t throw money at a problem and dig a bigger and bigger hole and not have any depth in the organization,” Jeter said. “You have to build from the bottom up."
To be fair, Jeter inherits a fan base whose patience has been stretched to the limits. Sure, they’ve tasted October glory. But the last time the Marlins saw postseason baseball? 2003. Yes, that Marlins team. The same one that rallied in the NLCS against the Cubs after Alex Gonzalez booted a potential inning-ending ground ball in Game 6.
Jeter’s predecessor, Jeffrey Loria, took advantage of the fans time and time again. Couple his inadequacies as an owner with some less-than-logical baseball operations decisions and you get to this point: low attendance, poor performance and an organization that’s bleeding money by the day.
Following the Cubs Way – and being #HoustonStrong
In recent years, sub-par teams have eyed both the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros with envy. The last two World Series winners both executed a complete overhaul on every level over a half-decade or so – only to come out on top of the baseball world.
On the North Side, the Ricketts family purchased a team swimming in debt, playing in an antiquated Wrigley Field that was literally falling apart. On the diamond, the Cubs fielded a team that lacked clear direction. In both 2007 and 2008, the front office paid up to get the team over the hump and into the playoffs. Chicago suffered a sweep in the first round both times.
In January 2009, the Ricketts family steps in. They purchased the team and immediately got to work. As we all know now, they bring in Theo Epstein to head up the baseball ops team. A few years later, Joe Maddon assumes the role of manager. The whole time, the Ricketts pour hundreds of millions of dollars into Wrigley and the surrounding area. And it’s not just Chicago, either.
In Arizona, the Cubs develop a state-of-the-art training facility. Sloan Park becomes the crown jewel of Cactus League stadiums. Year after year, the team drafts high-impact position players and swaps veterans for young talent. And, with time, they form the nucleus of a championship team.
Miami looking for long-term sustainability
One of the most appealing aspects about the Cubs over the last few years? Most of the roster is homegrown – and cost-controlled for the foreseeable future. The renovations to the ballpark and the 1060 Project, as a whole, opened up previously untapped revenue sources to ownership.
Derek Jeter is not at fault. The Cubs proved that a complete rebuild – in every sense – can be successful when done correctly. Miami cannot continue to operate as it has in recent years – it’s not sustainable.
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The difference? Miami doesn’t have a patient, understanding fan base behind it. Cubs fans longed for a rebuild to be done the right way. They wanted a winner. And they got one. But in Miami, communication is everything. Do this wrong and the Marlins risk not only losing their remaining fans, but they may lose their franchise, as a whole.