A funny thing happened on the way to the Land of Oz …
Baseball’s Winter Meetings have yet to take place, but already the big top has been blown off the tent. The meeting of the league’s top executives , ownersand members of the league hierarchy to discuss the vagaries of the game and then to negotiate deals that will see the movement of several players, many of them likely being rewarded with major contracts will be set into motion.
Over the past five years there can be no denying the Miami Marlinshave been one of the worst performing teams in Major League Baseball (MLB). The very fact that the Marlins have at no time in their history has ever won a divisional title or place higher than second within the NL East should tell you a great deal about the organization, in spite of their having won two NL Pennants and two World Series titles . The last of those postseason series’ coming in 2003 . Since then, things have steadily rolled downhill for the franchise, along with a succession of managers and turnover in front office executives.
The big news’ story of the month within the game of baseball, was the audacious move by the Miami Marlins in signing Mike Stanton to a long-term deal. Stanton signed what is now believed to the largest contract in professional sports’ and quite clearly the biggest in baseball history. Stanton signed a thirteen-year $325 million contract, averaging $25 million a year . Though I do not expect the floodgates to be opened by this deal , it does now place a great deal of pressure on other teams in similar position, looking to sign one of their marquee players. Miami for a number of years has been on the lower end of the payroll scale, albeit in 2013 , they sought to remedy the situation when they splurged on signing some major free agents in an assault on trying to win the NL East that season as well as the World Series title . They failed miserably in both attempts , with then manager Ozzie Guillen providing more entertainment away from the field of play, than was provided by the team during the entire season .
MLB is definitely not known for its financial frugality among its big-market teams and when left idle to their own devices teams in the small-market tend to prove how incompetent they are. The Miami Marlins have become the epitome of that, along with their instate rivals the Tampa Bay Rays and that is with due respect shown to the acumen of former Rays’ general manager Andrew Friedman , whose departure from the franchise to take on the more high-profiled role as a SVP & Head of Baseball Operations with the Los Angeles Dodgers caught just about everyone off-guard including senior executives within the Rays’ organization. With the recent departure of Joe Maddon to become the manager of the Chicago Cubs , Tampa is now left in a quandary. Throw in the departure of their AL Rookie of the Year, pitcher Jeremy Hellickson and you could say it’s back to business as usual for the Rays. Their off-season annual ” fire sale “ is just about to begin.
Now while the Miami Marlins’ fans can only be pleased with the outcome , the signing of Mike Stanton to a long-term deal , the question has to be asked , what type commitment and sacrifices will have to be made by this ball-club? Financial resources for the Marlins are not enormous and we have seen repeatedly the actions of this franchise over the years during their triumphs and letdowns. Jeffrey Loria has proven to be no different from one his predecessors H D Wayne Huizenga, whose ownership the Florida Marlins were well-chronicled. Huizenga’s gutting of the team that won the franchise’s first World Series title left the fans in dismay and utter disgust, has since been repeated by Loria.
As the incumbent owner of the Miami Marlins , I have no real reason to believe Jeffrey Loria will remain a man of his word. Deceit , deception , lies and an un-willingess to show transparency concerning the inner workings of the Marlins along with the alleged brow-beating of the Miami City Council leading to their capitulating , in the ball-club’s wishes to have the city finance the building of Marlins Ballpark , where undue pressure was brought to bear by former commissioner Bud Selig, really does cast a light on how Loria and Major League Baseball likes to conduct its business. Unfortunately, those same character traits are not shared or instinctive with Tampa Bay Rays’ owner Stuart Sternberg who continues to whine like a spoiled brat, because he cannot get his own way. Michael Hill and Mike Redmond will now seek to bolster the Marlins’ roster during this off-season , but they will also have to deal with trying to resign a number of their impending free agents as well players whose arbitration rights they might want to expedite quickly.
Mike Stanton had an excellent season in 2014 , where he was one of the most productive members on his team as well as in the NL and MLB overall. His second place finish to Clayton Kershaw in the NL MVP race was of no great surprise, considering the astonishing regular season by the Los Angeles Dodgers’ pitcher, who also added the NL Cy Young Award to his trophy case for the third time in his career. I believe their might be at least two more Cy Young Awards waiting in the wings for Kershaw, who has to be seen as the best pitcher in baseball without a doubt. Granted his postseason forays for the Dodgers left a great deal to be desired. The team’s malaise was nothing new and simply part of their DNA over the past two years. Don Mattingly’s players seem to be great during the regular season, but they become a deer caught in headlights once the postseason comes around , as witnessed in 2013 and then again during baseball’s end of season ritual. Let’s just say this Dodgers’ team cannot even hit or pitch their way out of trouble . even if they were being aided by the mishaps of their opponents during the postseason.
As I alluded to earlier the floodgates may not necessarily open up with players being offered overly large contracts, but the Marlins have now set a precedent where it will prove hard for any team not be able to meet a free agents’ requests. With the likes of high-profiled sports’ agents such as Scott Boras , Sam and Seth Levinson of Aces Inc Baseball , Dan Lozano , corporate entities such as LSW Baseball , CAA , the upstart IMG and sports’ management agency Roc Nation Sports, all vying to make deals on behalf of their clients. It is easy to understand why general managers such as Brian Cashman, Brian Sabean , Dave Dombrowski , Billy Beane , Sandy Alderson , Michael Hill and Jerry Dipoto are never operating from a position of power. They will more often than not overpay for a player , rather than actually showing some real acumen.
Having won their third World Series title in the past five years the San Francisco Giants are now seated among the elite dynasties of the game. Make no mistake, this is a dynasty , albeit a quiet and unglamorous one. Brian Sabean might just be the best general manager in the game today. His guile and an eye for talent , his acumen in the free agency market, have not only made the Giants a success , but they have laid down a blueprint that a number of teams are now likely to follow. Furthermore , Sabean is not one to neglect his farm system and then seek to implode those affiliates , as he sees the lower rungs of the organization as a treasure trove of future talent. In the aftermath of their most recent success this franchise will now seek build upon their most recent achievement.
San Francisco Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy and his entire managerial staff are likely to return for next season , but opportunities may well arise where one or two of his assistants will be offered the opportunity to interview a vacant managerial position. Beyond that, the question now becomes what are the integral pieces to kept on this roster and can the Giants afford to pay what is deemed to be “fair market value”? The fly in the ointment was the outrageous contract signed by Mike Stanton and offered by a team, that two years began shedding their high priced players like driftwood being cast away, because it was of no further use. Miami remains a small-market team, with grandiose schemes and big-market ambitions. They are a baseball team that rarely sell out their home games in a venue , which remains sparsely attended. The flip side of that coin are the San Francisco Giants and their ravenous fans and fan-base nationwide. They have the success and a legacy which has been quietly built upon over the years.
The Giants’ 2012 World Series MVP infielder Pablo Sandoval will be looking to get paid commensurate to his status and in line with the top active contracts active within the organization . As an impending and unrestricted free agent Sandoval knows he can go elsewhere and quite possibly obtain long-term contract making him financially secure. Yet, the thought remains with the player being such a part the team’s postseason success , it would seem idiotic for the Giants to let him go , knowing he is not only a clubhouse favorite but also a leader on and off the field. Beyond that , take into account his productivity and being able to come up with some clutch hitting , it places Brian Sabean in something of a dilemma .
If Sandoval does return to the Giants in 2015, along with the core elements of last season’s roster, then San Francisco have to be seen as a prohibitive favorite for the NL Pennant this upcoming season. Granted, they are likely to face a stiff challenge from the St Louis Cardinals , Washington Nationals , Los Angeles Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates , Milwaukee Brewers and Cincinnati Reds .
Alex Rodriguez’s return to New York Yankees and their lineup for 2015 cannot come around fast enough for many of the ball-club’s fans . The player’s last appearance in a Yankees’ uniform was uninspiring and simply confirmation that Rodriguez is now past his prime. The Yankees’ third baseman having spent the entire 2014 Yankees’ schedule under suspension will look to reinvent himself on and off the field of play. With the retirement of Derek Jeter after a two-decade long career with the franchise. One could surmise, Brian Cashman sees Rodriguez as the “face of the Yankees” moving forward. I firmly believe the organization erred in not tearing up Alex Rodriguez’s contractas they were quite within their right to do so. Incompetency, in their repeatedly mishandling of the players transgressions , breaking the league’s substance abuse policy, spoke volumes as to the numerous reasons why baseball’s policy has no real teeth to it and the complete lack of leadership from Bud Selig and his successor Rob Manfred. Rodriguez’s contract remains intact , albeit , he lost in excess of $23 million, having not played for the New York Yankees this past season .
Joe Girardi and his staff will certainly look to Rodriguez , Mark Teixeira , Jacoby Ellsbury , Carlos Beltran, Brett Gardner, Brian Robertsand Brian McCann to give the Yankees’ more ‘pop’ to their offense where the team was found wanting last season. The Yankees’ pitching was left somewhere in between the depths of mediocrity and the ‘bowel’of Hades .
The Yankees’ free agents for this upcoming season include veteran Ichiro Suzuki , unlikely to return next season, with Dave Robertson , Hiroki Kuroda , Chris Capuano, Stephen Drew, Heath Bell and Chase Headley are several of the players Brian Cashman will have to make decision upon their possible return to the New York Yankees. Cashman has shown very little faith in the organization’s farm system and he is unlikely to do so for years to come. With their failure to make the postseason and decidedly ignominious finish in the NL East the pressure will be on the front office to do something drastic to bring this franchise back to some semblance of respectability. Last season the acquisitions of Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Ichiro Suzuki were meant place the team at the forefront of the AL but their play nowhere near good enough to remotely place them in control of their own destiny.
With the 2014 payroll commitment of baseball’s thirty teams topping $3 billion ($3,000,000,000 for the second year in succession. The two teams at the top of the heap, were the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees. At a time when the game’s financial disparities so glaring there has been little to suggest baseball has the wherewithal to get its own financial house in order. The team owners and hierarchy have failed miserably in reigning in team expenses and yet owners are either seething because they cannot their own way in trying to deceitfully have municipalities to finance their venues.
Billionaire and millionaire owners unwilling to go out and do what is necessary in showing their real business acumen, to obtain private financing, rather than repeatedly have the public funds being used to finance such endeavors. It will be interesting to see the moves made by teams during this off-season the guile used by agents, seeking to have their clients be rewarded with the best contract possible. The sheer lunacy of MLB and the antics of the players leave a great deal to be desired and it will continue to be that way for the foreseeable future.
Picture gallery .
With the salaries and contracts now on the rise within the game of baseball and no clear sign from the league hierarchy they show any initiative in reining in team expenses or have any idea how to so. What direction do you believe the game is likely to take and can the executives who preside over the game really deal with the issues which adversely effect baseball ?
Picture and slideshow details below.
(1) Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria is seen here with Mike Stanton . The Marlins’ player signed a thirteen-year $325 million deal which will pay him $25 million annually. The deal is the highest paid contract in North American sports’ history . Loria and Team President Michael Hill believed it incumbent the organization retain the Stanton for their viability and long term future. AP Photo/ Matt Holmes ..
(2) Los Angeles Dodgers’ SVP & Head of Baseball Operations , Andrew Friedman is seen here alongside team President Stan Kasten . Friedman whose departure from the Tampa Bay Rays took just about everyone by surprise, has now moved to an organization where the resources of the baseball franchise far exceeds anything remotely close the Rays have at their disposal. With Friedman’s departure also came Joe Maddon leaving to join the Chicago Cubs as their new manager. Matt Silverman succeeded Andrew Friedman as the Rays’ general manager but the ball-club has to name a successor to Maddon . Getty Images North America / Paul Hughes … …
(3) ATLANTA, UNITED STATES : Florida Marlins manage Jim Leyland (L), general manager Dave Dombrowski (C), and team owner Wayne Huizenga with the National League Championship Series (NLCS) trophy after their 7-4 victory over the Atlanta Braves 14 October in game six of the NLCS at Turner Field in Atlanta, GA. The Marlins advanced to the World Series a with the win. AFP PHOTO/Robert SULLIVAN …
(4) Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout left , winner of the 2014 ALMVP and the Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher and NLMVP recipient Clayton Kershaw . Both players invariably made the postseason , but their teams failed miserably . Trout and the Angels fell to Kansas City Royals 3-0 in the ALDS . Kershaw and the Dodgers fared no better, losing to the St Louis Cardinals in the NLCS where his postseason performances were miserable with the posting an ERA in excess of 7.50 . AP Photo/ Tim Martin …
(5) Jeremy Hellickson of the Tampa Bay Rays an AL Rookie of the Year for the franchise in 2011 was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks. This seems to be a customary ploy with the ball-club on annual basis , further emphasizing the organization’s lack of resources and the emphasis of year-to-year cost cutting . AP Photo / Matthew Donald … …
(6) Scott Boras a prominent MLB sports agent, seen here in front of the facade of his company Scott Boras Corporation. Boras has negotiated contracts worth in excess of $4.7 billion in the last six years . Feared around the league as one of the most fearsome and ruthless agents in all professional sports. Boras puts the characteristic trait down to the fact he works hard for his clients and to their benefit.. AP Photo / Robin Thomas …
(7) CHICAGO, IL – AUGUST 05: Alex Rodriguez (13) of the New York Yankees speaks to the media before the Yankees take on the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on August 5 , 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. Rodriguez was forced to miss the entire 2014 season after league mandated suspension . Rodriguez will return to the Yankees’ lineup in 2015 hoping to make a solid contribution for the team. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images …
(8) Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates who over the past two seasons has been one of the primary factors in the ascent of the Pirates and top-five finishes in each of the last two years of the NL MVP voting. McCutchen hopes to lead the ball-club to another postseason berth in 2015 and deep run in the postseason playoff schedule. as well as the winning of a second NL MVP Award with the Pirates. Getty Images/ Adrian Parker ….
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Shake it off , shake it up and down .
A few light touches makes the scenery all the more appealing don’t you think ?