The Miami Marlins and owner Jeffrey Loria ticked off a lot of people by gutting their roster and trading five of their best players to the Toronto Blue Jays in one of the blockbuster deals of the offseason.
The Marlins sent shortstop Jose Reyes, starting pitchers Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, catcher John Buck and utilityman Emilio Bonifacio to Toronto, pulling the plug on a team that was expected to contend in the NL East and bringing an abrupt end to what was supposed to be a new era of baseball in South Beach.
Fans, commentators and fellow baseball executives were outraged at Miami for selling off talent to save money again—especially after their new ballpark was funded largely with taxpayer money. This wasn't supposed to be how the Marlins did business anymore. No more fire sales.
The outrage and uproar over the Marlins reverting to another salary dump was loud enough that MLB commissioner Bud Selig felt compelled to review the trade and the various factors that contributed to it.
Perhaps that was just a public relations gesture to placate furious Marlins fans (and baseball fans, in general). But there may also have been some genuine displeasure at the way Loria runs his team or at least general irritation at the Marlins embarrassing MLB.
If it's the latter, Selig may be enacting some indirect punishment on the Marlins by depriving them of a very big prize that any MLB team would covet.
As reported by the Cincinnati Enquirer's John Fay, the Cincinnati Reds and Great American Ball Park will be awarded the 2015 MLB All-Star Game. The formal announcement is expected to be made on Wednesday (Jan. 23).
However, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald explains that the Marlins stated their intention to apply for the showcase event last March, shortly before the new Marlins Park opened to begin the 2012 season.
With Citi Field getting the 2013 All-Star Game and Target Field being awarded the 2014 Midsummer Classic, it seemed like a natural progression to go with another of MLB's newest ballparks for the 2015 event.
To be fair, the Reds also have a relatively new ballpark. Great American Ball Park opened in 2003. But Cincinnati hosted the All-Star Game in 1988. Yes, that was 25 years ago, but the Marlins have never hosted the event.
(Spencer reports that Miami was supposed to get the 2000 All-Star Game, but there was doubt over the long-term future of the franchise after the fire sale of the 1997 World Series championship team.)
Holding the All-Star Game amidst the glitz, glamour and star power of South Beach is exactly the sort of setting MLB should seek—especially when the popularity of the sport is on shaky ground with a community that feels spurned.
Perhaps MLB didn't want to risk holding its showcase event in an area holding a grudge against its local team.
Even if it's two years from now, holding the All-Star Game in Miami could bring attention to how the Marlins have conducted their business in recent years. Why rip off a scab and focus a spotlight on an embarrassing situation MLB would prefer to ignore?
But this certainly has the appearance of a statement from Selig and MLB. Building a new ballpark is usually awarded with an All-Star Game. But if a team's ownership brings shame to the sport, it's not going to be allowed to profit from an event that's supposed to be a celebration.
Ultimately, Selig approved the Marlins trade with the Blue Jays because he didn't really have any choice. As unseemly as shipping all of their expensive players to Toronto may have been, Miami was hardly the only team to have ever traded high-priced talent for prospects.
From a baseball standpoint, the Marlins arguably made a good trade. Miami received two of the Blue Jays' top 10 prospects, as rated by Baseball America, in outfielder Jake Marisnick and pitcher Justin Nicolino. Infielder Adeiny Hechavarria and pitcher Henderson Alvarez were also highly regarded young players.
Though the trade took the Marlins out of contention for the near-future, Loria and team president David Samson could argue that they were making the best moves for their baseball team. Ownership and the front office just had no benefit of the doubt with fans, reporters and analysts because of their previous salary-dump transactions.
But if Selig were to veto the Marlins-Blue Jays trade, who's to say that he shouldn't have also overturned the deal between the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers? Boston unloaded $260 million from its payroll to a team whose payroll appeared to be unlimited under new ownership.
How could the Red Sox be allowed to overhaul their roster and payroll while the Marlins doing something similar was prohibited?
Yet Selig may have found a different way to penalize the Marlins. Depriving Miami of the 2015 All-Star Game doesn't compromise the competitive integrity of baseball, nor does it dictate how owners should run their respective franchises.
This decision does, however, stick it to Loria. If there's any MLB owner who deserves some sort of reprimand, it's him.
Selig apparently found a way to put Loria in a corner. Maybe when the Marlins owner gives Miami the team it deserves—the team the city was promised—he can yield the benefits of his new ballpark.
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