Sunday, January 30, 2011

March 7, 2010:

Third baseman Wes Helms said recently, "I have told Hanley 100 times, 'You have to lead this team.'" Now, "he looks like a guy that wants to. I'm proud of him."
January 30, 2011:
"Everyone will be very surprised with the new Hanley and his whole makeup," manager Edwin Rodriguez said. "He is very motivated. He was very disappointed in his season. He knows the whole offense revolves around him." ...But Rodriguez will not ask Ramirez to be something he's not. "He is not going to be vocal," Rodriguez said. "He will lead by example."


Geography and Demography

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Last night, Forbes.com posted an article by Patrick Rishe in which Rishe examines three factors which have made Super Bowl contestants Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh* Steelers two of the most popular (as in top 5) teams in the NFL. Their popularity has many predicting record ratings for this year's Super Bowl. Rishe examines three factors which have led them to their level of popularity, which both have sustained for a long while:

  1. History, as explained by the "first-mover advantage." Both were early entrants in the league, both had near total access to the entire market share of NFL fans, and both won championships early (the Packers were the Team of the 60s in NFL lore, while the Steelers were the Team of the 70s). This access allowed them to conquer a new frontier, so to speak. Most importantly, "though both franchises had their struggles and extended bouts away from postseason play during the 80s, the market share and branding that took place years ago made it possible to rekindle those allegiances as both franchises slowly returned to glory in the 90s and beyond."
  2. Geography. Pittsburgh and Green Bay are mid-level economic markets (Pittsburgh is the 22nd largest metropolitan area, Green Bay the 42nd). Smaller markets with successful teams "tend to breed more loyal and rabid fanbases," invoking the St. Louis Cardinals to bolster his argument. 
  3. Financial structure. Due to the NFL's very equitable revenue sharing and hard salary cap, both franchises (Green Bay an anachronistic publicly-owned football team, Pittsburgh's controlling partners only control 30%) have the same financial resources as large-market teams in the NFL, allowing them equal access to the top players in the league. 
What does this have to do with the Florida Marlins? The Marlins' historic, geographic, and financial system are far from those of the Steelers and Packers. And the first two factors compound the third for the Marlins. As such, Marlins fans the world over are greeted with puzzled stares when they assert their fandom, and the team is saddled with the "terrible fanbase" tag, playing for bandwagon fans or no fans, with no exceptions or gray areas. But if you can credit structural factors to the growth of two fanbases, you can certainly point to them when explaining why your favorite team routinely plays in half empty stadiums.

The Marlins, as we all know, were a 1993 expansion team, beginning play nearly 90 years after the first World Series. By the time the Marlins had entered MLB, virtually everyone in America outside the home market (and many inside) already had a favorite baseball team. Ted and I had the Orioles (this was long enough ago for that to not be a bummer). I think people of my generation (born in the 1980s) all know one peer in Miami who could have become a Marlins fan as a kid but instead retained his or her prior allegiances. In short, the Marlins entered a saturated market.

On top of that, the Marlins are in the 7th largest metropolitan area, a market with ample entertainment options. And as a subset of the geographic factor, I would add that phsyical migration has improved the Packers' and Steelers' national brand while hindering the Marlins' profile. When Green Bay and Pittsburgh first joined the NFL in the 1920s, the term "rust belt" was decades from inception. The industrialized northeast and Great Lakes regions were among the most populous regions in America. But as the postindustrial decline set in after the 1960s, these areas saw huge numbers of residents leave the region (this migration continues today). Many of these rust belt residents have moved to the south, west, and sun belt states. They have taken their sports allegiences with them. This is why, as Kissing Suzy Kolber noted last week, you can find Steelers bars all over the country.

The Marlins, as you can no doubt infer from the previous paragraph, play in a destination city, where rust belters and immigrants from all over the hemisphere and world relocate daily. If you're a born and bred Indians fan from Ohio, you'll hold a grudge against the Marlins, not root for them. And every Marlins fan knows the indignity of going to a Mets (or Yankees or Red Sox) game and being outnumbered by the visiting fans.

To top it off, the Marlins play in a league which forces low-revenue teams to be ruthlessly smart and efficient to succeed, since they cannot afford the top players in the league unless they sign them to contract extensions below market value early in their career (as the Marlins have done with Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson and the Tampa Bay Rays did with Evan Longoria, among others). This is not to say that the Marlins or any other small market team cannot win a World Series, as we all know that is a fallacy. But these teams historically have had difficulty producing winning teams year-in and year-out, the very pattern of success which is almost required to build a fanbase in the modern era. The Marlins and Miami Heat have both seen their home attendance numbers plummet when either team struggled in the years following a championship season. Miami fans do not stick around for losers.

Of course, nothing is inevitable, and in a few decades, when the first wave of fans who grew up with the Marlins start raising their own broods of Marlins fans, or if the Marlins have a remarkable wave of success that hooks a bunch of people for life, the Marlins fanbase may not be a laughingstock. But it will take a confluence of significant events and trends to reverse the effect of the above factors, and frankly I'm not sure what that would look like. But at least I have some data to spout at a cocktail party. It's better than looking sheepish and saying nothing when asked to defend my fellow fans.

    *By the way, my favorite thing about Pittsburgh? It is one of the few "-burgh" cities in America, because during World War I it resisted the urge to drop the h during a period of anti-German resentment. Indeed, the citizens had to campaign to restore the h in 1911.


    Program Alert

    Tuesday, January 25, 2011

    Our good blogging friend Michael at Marlin Maniac will be having a live chat this Friday at 5:00pm EST on his site. Both of the Diehards should be there for at least part of the chat, so be sure to stop by and talk Marlins. Carry on.



    Saturday, January 22, 2011

    Yesterday was LoMo Day at Marlin Maniac (parts 1, 2, and 3). For the record, if Ted and I weren't convinced that Logan Morrison will someday be traded for a pair of pitching prospects to the Los Angeles Angels (or Minnesota Twins or whoever), we would rename this blog "Every Day Should Be LoMo Day," abbreviate it to EDSBLMD and wait for a cease-and-desist letter to arrive from Spencer Hall's lawyers. Nonetheless, we applaud Michael's devotion, and respond with a snippet of a future LoMo-Gaby Sanchez bff collage:


    A bit of Fun Before the Weekend

    Friday, January 14, 2011

    Via Deadspin:

    "A then-21-year-old Scottsdale-based girl who went to Arizona State University claimed she went to Chicago for the National Championship game in 2003," a source familiar with the production told RadarOnline.com.

    "She said she was partying with at least three Cubs players at one of their houses downtown until 4 a.m. -- drinking and hooking up.

    "It was the night before Game 7 in the NLCS and at least two of the guys played in the game the next day.

    "It was the most important game of the series and the Cubs ended up losing to the Marlins."
    Read the whole thing here.

    For a more serious take on the 2003 playoffs, head on over to MarlinManiac, where Michael discusses Game 4 of the NLDS against the Giants.


    This Should Put All Bobby V Rumors To Rest Forever

    In a puzzling move, former Mets manager Bobby Valentine was appointed director of public safety in Stamford, Connecticut, yesterday. I first learned of this from a tweet from Rob Iracane, and I assumed he was simply referring to some other guy named Bobby Valentine. I'm guessing he was hired for his experience in undercover work (see above photo). This is largely a volunteer gig for Valentine, who will remain an analyst with ESPN. But, he'll probably have a more amenable boss in Stamford mayor Michael Pavia than Jeffrey Loria, who attempted unsuccessfully to hire Valentine as Marlins manager following the firing of Fredi Gonzalez. Methinks Bobby made the right move.


    Children of the Marlins Diaspora 13

    Thursday, January 13, 2011

    Trevor Hoffman, P

    Played for Marlins: 1993
    Other Teams: San Diego (1993-2008), Milwaukee (2009-2010)
    Marlins fans know him because: The Marlins selected Hoffman with the eighth pick in the 1992 expansion draft from the Cincinnati Reds, for whom Hoffman played two years in the minor leagues. Hoffman spent the first part of 1993 as a setup man for Bryan Harvey, amassing 2 saves in just over 35 innings before being traded to San Diego for star third baseman (and future child of the diaspora) Gary Sheffield. Also included in that trade were Rich Rodriguez (sent to Florida), Andres Berumen and Jose Martinez. Being that his trade came in 1993, this makes him the very first child of the Marlins diaspora.
    Everyone else knows him because: Hoffman quietly became one of the greatest closers in MLB history, amassing a record 601 saves before announcing his retirement this week. It remains to be seen whether Hall of Fame voters will deem him worthy of inclusion, but that's a lot of saves, and Hoffman had one of the all-time great changeups. Additionally, Hoffman was a 7-time All Star, finished second in Cy Young voting twice (1998 and 2006), and has the 5th best K/9 in MLB history (9.36, just above Sandy Koufax).
    Best Marlins moment: Hoffman's greatest contribution to the Marlins was being traded for Sheffield. Sure, the Marlins lost out on a pivotal relief pitcher, but in exchange got 4 years of a premier power bat and possible future Hall of Famer. For that, we owe him thanks.


    Cue the Laugh Track

    Monday, January 10, 2011

    Today from Bleacher Report: Could Cliff Lee Signing Make Josh Johnson Available?

    Of all the Bleacher Report articles, this is the Bleacher Reportiest. The gist: Because the Phillies are so good (thanks to their monster rotation), the Marlins should consider trading their best pitcher (and second-best player overall), even though they are getting a bargain on him, to free up money for other good players. FLAWLESS LOGIC!

    Some choice quotes from the article/slideshow, written by Gregory Pinto:

    The Marlins are stuck in the proverbial "rock and a hard place." The rock is the fact that they aren't willing to spend top dollar on free agents, or expand payroll much beyond it's minuscule limits, and the hard place is that they have never developed great farm systems.

    Though the Marlins can afford the pitcher, they could trade him and free up that money for a number of different uses, including addressing other areas of need on the roster and spending bigger in the draft, something that would help a low-payroll team like the Marlins to a great extent.

    However, unlike most people seem to believe, he is far from the "work-horse" type of pitcher that teams like to see out of their staff's ace. Unlike some of the other "aces" of the NL East, like Johan Santana, Roy Halladay and Tim Hudson, Johnson has thrown over 200 innings in a single season just once—209 innings in 2009. In fact, he has thrown just 665 innings over the course of his career.

    Would trading Josh Johnson make that much of a difference? To the Marlins' fan base, it would. They love their ace. However, from the Marlins point of view, they'd be killing several birds with one stone.
    Today's achievement in false dichotomies goes to this sentence: "The Marlins are forced with a difficult decision—Can they win with Josh Johnson under contract, or should they add several more pieces for him?"

    Most Bleacher Report writers are unpaid (Note to Jeff Loria, don't get any ideas), giving new life to the truism "you pay for what you get."


    One Last Thought on Stephen Ross and Jeffrey Loria

    Sunday, January 9, 2011

    Yesterday at a media roundtable, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross told reporters "I was a little naive," in discussing a possible coaching contract with then-Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh without first firing Dolphins coach Tony Sparano. According to Ross and team general manager Jeff Ireland, the two decided against hiring Harbaugh, then signed Sparano to a contract extension, making a complete 180 in a matter of hours, while Sparano was left fluttering in the wind. I've criticized Jeffrey Loria plenty of times in this space, but you can bet your life that Loria would never look so pathetic as Ross did at yesterday's media roundtable, apologizing to and extending the contract of a coach he very clearly does not want leading his team, and stressing his commitment to winning(!) in the process.

    You can say many things about Jeff Loria (lord knows I have), but he very rarely does not get what he wants. And even in those cases which he does not (like last year's failed courting of Bobby Valentine), Loria will not stick with a manager he does not want simply because the guy he did want isn't coming around (I know, he did leave Fredi Gonzalez at the helm about 6 months longer than he wanted to, but that was at the behest of Larry Beinfest and Mike Hill. Ross and Ireland both wanted Sparano to go, and then extended his contract anyway). Forgive me for presenting a false dichotomy, but I would gladly take a Marlins owner who is heavy-handed but decisive over one whose indecision baffles the fanbase and prevents him from taking the steps necessary to improve the franchise. (I prefer Heat owner Mickey Arison to both of these putzes, of course.)

    One final note, apparently Ross is lobbying Broward County for money to help fund a multi-million dollar renovation of Sun Life Stadium. This is another area in which Ross can learn a thing or two from Loria.


    Jeffrey Loria > Stephen Ross

    Friday, January 7, 2011

    When Loria messes up in hiring a manager, Marlins fans miss out on Bobby Valentine. When Ross messes up in hiring a coach, Dolphins bloggers react thusly:

    Advantage: Loria.

    Image via Fins Nation


    No CJ? Denied

    Wednesday, January 5, 2011

    The BBWAA Hall of Fame voting results were announced today and MDH extends a congratulations to Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven who have been elected to be enshrined in Cooperstown, both very deserving of the honor.

    It wasn't a good day for some members of the Diaspora. Kevin Brown, Al Leiter, Benito Santiago, Lenny Harris Soul Food, and Charles Johnson did not receive enough votes to remain on future ballots and their candidacies are over. Tim Raines however, did receive 218 votes (37.5%) and is still alive in future years.

    *The BBA voting (including a ballot from Dave, with a vote for CJ, h/t Brother) produced the same two and only two winners for Hall of Fame as the BBWAA. I'm not sure if that is a good or bad thing.


    Recent Miscellany

    Tuesday, January 4, 2011

    It's official, the Braves have signed former Marlin second basemen Dan Uggla to a 5-year $62 million contract extension. The Marlins had offered 4 years and $48 million to him in November, which he turned down. 5 years seems like 2 years to many, but Uggla deserves to get whatever the market will pay for him. But if that expected post-30 decline hits (and it is highly unlikely it won't), Atlanta will be stuck with a below-average fielder who has never hit for average that it can't DH. And he'll be costing them $10+ million a year (I will enjoy the schadenfreude if he becomes an albatross on a division rival, and I won't feel guilty about that one bit).

    Meanwhile, Joe Frisaro reported last month that Emilio Bonifacio, the official pariah of Marlins Diehards, could see some playing time at third base in 2011. I really really really hope Matt Dominguez is ready for the big leagues (or the Marlins wise up and pick up a replacement-level player to man the hot corner), because I don't think I can take another stint of Bonifacio as an everyday player (this is where I remind you that his career OBP is .306, while his OPS+ is 64).

    Finally, I recently cast a Hall of Fame ballot for the Baseball Bloggers Association. The BBA publishes its members' voting results every this year, and this year's deserving inductees according to the BBA are Burt Blyleven and Roberto Alomar. I voted for both of them, along with Barry Larkin, Jeff Bagwell, Edgar Martinez, Tim Raines, and Mark McGwire. I also threw in a courtesy vote for Charles Johnson (and I'm pretty sure I'm the only one to vote for him). I thought about writing a long post explaining my vote, but I got lazy. Instead, I direct you to Joe Posnanski, whose quartet of HOF posts gives you more quality reading material on the subject than I could ever hope to (1, 2, 3, 4).


    Today In Items That Evoke Bittersweet Feelings

    h/t: Carolina, the only person (I know of) whose ongoing affection for Cody supersedes that of the Diehards.


    A quick note

    When Ted and I first started planning our Marlins blog in early 2009, one of the blogs whose tone and wit we wished to emulate was Walkoff Walk. We were disappointed to hear yesterday that Walkoff Walk will be shutting down at the end of the month, but we wish its proprietors, Rob and Kris, the best.


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