One of the all time great heists in sports history was completed last night, in an elaborate plan that started last offseason.
The Toronto Blue Jays became the beneficiaires of this scheme, as they basically pillaged any of the remaining talent on the Miami Marlins roster (with the exception of Giancarlo Stanton) for a shortstop who has been described as a clubhouse cancer, a back up catcher who probably won't hit his weight, and some marginal "prospects".
From the Toronto side of things, the team rids themselves of dead weight while acquiring Jose Reyes, Mark Buerhle, Josh Johnson, John Buck and Emilio Bonafacio, making them an instant contending team in a division that is seeing the stalwart Yankees and Red Sox trying desperately to reinvent themselves.
It's a great haul for the small market Blue Jays, but rather than applauding the work Toronto has done in making itself a contender with the type of move normally reserved for the aforementioned teams in New York and Boston, the spotlight is shining bright on the despicable practices of the Marlins, and Major League Baseball's role in this blatant salary dump.
This is not the first salary relief trade in baseball history, nor is it the most total money in a deal being saddled on another team. The similarities to other trades end there, however.
What makes this trade different is the fact that for years the Marlins have complained that they needed a new stadium in order to generate enough revenue to make the team competitive. After years of battling for public funding to build their new ballpark, the Marlins got their way, and the new, state of the art home in Miami was built.
The fear has always been that once the Marlins got their new home, they'd sign a bunch of free agents, make the team good for a year or two, strip the roster and sell the team.
With the ballpark about to open, the Marlins did indeed go on a spending spree last winter. They brought in Heath Bell, who was recently traded to Arizona, Carlos Zambrano, Buerhle, Reyes, as well as new manager Ozzie Guillen.
None of the new players were given no-trade clauses, and hidden in all the hype was a feeling by many that the Marlins did this by design, so they could eventually dump these players.
To be fair, the Marlins' additions from last offseason all contributed to what would be a very disappointing debut in their new digs. Heath Bell was terrible, and eventually became nothing more than an overpaid mop-up reliever. Jose Reyes followed up his batting title season by hitting more than 50 points less. Mark Buerhle was solid—but nothing spectacular—and Ozzie Guillen and Carlos Zambrano were, well, Ozzie Guillen and Carlos Zambrano.
Even Josh Johnson and Emilio Bonafacio were constant injury concerns last year, so unfortunately, the Marlins brass can masquerade this disastrous trade as "baseball related", but nobody is going to buy it, nor should they.
With this move, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has successfully taken advantage of the people of south Florida, gotten his new ballpark and will continue to pocket millions. In return, Marlins fans will continue to watch inferior baseball and cheer on a team that is out of contention before Memorial Day.
Major League Baseball has a role in this fiasco, but it just depends on which one they choose. What Bud Selig should do is veto this trade and not allow the Marlins to break the promises they made to the people of the area they represent, the same people who are footing the bill for that new stadium.
So far, it looks like commissioner Bud Selig, a former owner of a small market team himself, will side with Loria and let this trade go through. It's a disgraceful stance by the commissioner, who should feel at least as loyal, if not more so, to the fans as he does to the owners. Unfortunately, however, it looks like the fans have been duped, and that baseball is going to sit by and let it happen.
Who knows what happens in Miami from here on out, or if Major League Baseball's lack of action in this matter will begin a trend of small market teams doing whatever they can to get the public to fund a new stadium, then strip the team and payroll so the owners can pocket as much money as possible. For the good of the game, let's hope this doesn't become a trend.
As for the people of Miami, they'd be smart to boycott anything having to do with the Marlins and owner Jeffrey Loria, including never again stepping foot in that new stadium. Then again, they did pay for it.