Jerry Crasnick, the well mannered and open-minded ESPN journalist, has published a strange reaction to the new, record-breaking contract Giancarlo Stanton just signed with the Marlins. For some reason he thinks the deal makes no sense. I know this is not a Phillies story, but let's see if we can decipher what that reason is. It'll be fun! (Crasnick in bold, G8 in regular typeface.)
Giancarlo Stanton's 13-year, $325 million contract with the Miami Marlins is terrific news for him, his accountant, agent Joel Wolfe, the capitalist system, Marvin Miller's legacy and baseball fans in small markets who refuse to accept the premise that their teams are simply feeder systems for the behemoths in Boston, Los Angeles and New York.
Hey, well, that's excellent. Even though I'm a fan of a presently sleeping behemoth, I recognize the value of parity in the league and I'm glad for the hard-up Marlins fans that such a generational talent will play for them for so long and get the money he deserves (relatively speaking) to do so. This all sounds wonderful. Good article, Jerry, a feel good piece. Thanks!
Oh. You have more to say. More afterglow?
But if you buy the proposition that the Stanton-Marlins marriage signals the beginning of a new era of commitment, vision and building toward something enduring in Miami, we have $409 million in stadium construction bonds to sell you.
That's decidedly unglowy. Why do you have to rain on everyone's parade like that? Not just the Marlins fans' parade, but Marvin Miller's and Joel Wolfe's and small market fans' and the whole fucking capitalist system's! The capitalist system wants its parade damnit! You better have a good reason.
Some megadeals -- like the recent $240-250 million contracts for Robinson Cano, Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera -- seem destined to look worse once time passes and the recipient's bat speed begins to deteriorate. But there's a difference between shortsighted spending and economics by smoke and mirrors. Stanton's agreement feels wrong out of the chute, in a way that transcends scouting judgments and knee-jerk arguments about "greedy" players and clueless owners.
I think his point here is simply that the Marlins cannot afford the Stanton deal and won't be able to put enough of a supporting cast around him to compete; hence, "economic smoke and mirrors." But what in that paragraph actually supports that claim? Cano, Pujols, and Cabrera signed their deals after they turned 30. The Cabrera and Pujols deals both felt wrong out of the chute. They felt wrong because decline was imminent if not already happening and yet they were being paid for their prime production. In contrast, half of Stanton's deal covers his peak years. The Stanton deal feels better out of the chute than any of those other contracts because Stanton is likely to be worth the investment over the course of the whole deal whereas those others are not (well, maybe Cano). Sure, smoke and mirrors, but those comps lend no support.
Pick an adjective: Stunning. Mystifying. Ill-conceived. This deal checks all the boxes.
Jealous. Wistful. Disappointed. Those are the adjectives I picked to describe my reaction because the Phillies did not have the chance to lock up Stanton long-term and won't be able to sign him as a free agent for at least 6 years (the contract has an opt-out clause).
And it's not because of Stanton's career trajectory or the wisdom of committing almost a third of a billiondollars to a player through his 37th birthday.
And now Crasnick has gone off the rails. If the above two reasons are not at least part of the reason the contract is stunning, mystifying, and ill-conceived, then what reasons could there be?
The doubt revolves more around the people writing the checks than the athlete cashing them.
You'd have to be a shameless Marlins homer (are there any?) to deny that Jeffrey Loria's ownership group is credibility-impaired. That's the result of a track record that put Loria's popularity quotient in South Florida at somewhere just above Fidel Castro's, according to a 2012 Miami Herald poll.
OOOHHHH, SNAP! Marlins fans don't exist! If a slugger signs a contract and no one is around the cheer it, did he really sign the contract? The Marlins new stadium has been so empty Mike Fiers couldn't hit anybody in it!
Of course, Crasnick is right about Loria's credibility. He has betrayed the Marlins fans' trust in the past and seemed more interested in extracting profits from the organization than spending revenue on the team to produce a winner. But why exactly is this relevant to the Stanton deal? It would have to be because the deal is just a ploy. Loria is trying to win fans back by committing to a long-term contract with a fan-favorite but has no intention of trying to win with him. So, the fans should not get excited about the signing and the potential for the Marlins to become a competitive team. I just can't buy that Loria is this stupid. Any cursory study of attendance patterns tells us that attendance strongly correlates with winning and is hardly affected by keeping fan-favorites or superstars around on a losing team. Moreover, when Jose Fernandez returns from TJ surgery and some of the young Marlins develop, the Marlins should be a competitive team. Right now they are not that far away from being a wild card contender. They have now guaranteed they will have a (the?) preeminent slugger in his prime during an excellent window to compete. What does Loria's credibility have to do with any of this? He might be a greedy scumbag and he might continue to use this MLB franchise like a piggy bank, but right now this signing looks very good for the Marlins. The fans should be thrilled. And they should also continue to look askance at Loria. These are not mutually incompatible. There is nothing to be mystified about here.
Oh shoot. I jumped the gun here. It turns out you are going to make this point for me:
The ultimate trust-buster, of course, was Loria's behavior during a flurry of activity two years ago. After selling fans in South Florida on the need for a new stadium with a significant public-financing component to keep the franchise viable, the Marlins spent $191 million on free agents Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell. Then all it took was a 93-loss season for the team to change course, send Buehrle, Reyes and Josh Johnson to Toronto in a 12-player trade, and hack the payroll from $107 million to $24 million.
In hindsight, the sell-off worked out a lot better for the Marlins than it did for the Blue Jays. Miami stockpiled young talent, got lighter on its feet and is now better positioned to compete moving forward. The Marlins have a talented front-office team led by president of baseball operations Michael Hill and general manager Dan Jennings, and it's understandable that they would want to keep their linchpin player in the fold. They still remember the pain associated with packing Cabrera off to Detroit in a trade for prospects Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller seven years ago.
If a team is going to set a professional sports record for handing out cash, there are worse recipients than a 25-year-old slugger with a killer work ethic and the desire to be great. And if Stanton's future flashed before his eyes when he took that Mike Fiers fastball in the face in September and prompted him to take the money now rather than pursue the big free-agent dollars later, hey, he's only human.
First of all, the ultimate trust-buster was Teddy Roosevelt and I won't stand for any other opinion, consarnit. Second of all, as Jerry observes, that trust-busting trade worked out a lot better for the Marlins. Why is that? Because the Marlins now have a young core to build around, and the players they gave up have not been all that great for the Blue Jays. At the time of the deal, Loria was harangued for being anti-competitive. But maybe the Marlins' front office was just savvier than the media and fans realized. Just to recap, that trade has made the team more competitive now and probably did not prevent them from competing at the time. This signing further enhances their ability to compete. But Loria is a dick; so the deal makes no sense. Beautiful.
The article is long and it would get repetitive to respond to all of it. He goes on to argue that the young core will get expensive and then the Marlins will refuse to keep it around and Stanton will become a "one man band." (Notice: this part of the argument is about revenue generation and not Loria's credibility.) Maybe. Or maybe the franchise will bootstrap higher revenue by competing with its young core, thus enabling it to keep some of it around long-term and make other moves to extend the window of competition. The vagaries of counterfactuals are not a good basis for "Stunning. Mystifying." I won't get further into it.
But here's a final chestnut of non-sense:
Through the years the list of doubters in Loria's willingness to stay the course included none other than Giancarlo Stanton, who has had his share of disagreements with the organization. When Stanton wasn't rattled by the Marlins' decision to fire hitting coach John Mallee in 2011, he was taking to Twitter to express how "pissed off" he was about the Blue Jays trade.
By buying into Loria's new "vision," Stanton has effectively forfeited his right to complain, grouse or otherwise critique the organizational direction. By taking the money, he has accepted the proposition that the Marlins can somehow pay him and summon the resources to build a winning team around him.
Because when a worker accepts fairly negotiated pay for his labor that worker submits to the ideology corollary: I agree with everything my employer does and have no thoughts of my own, especially about how the organization I work for might run better. Taking money from someone means taking their opinions too. Yes, my liege.
What are the Marlins going to do if Stanton complains that the organization is not trying to put a competitive team on the field? Fire him?
Epilogue: Crasnick at least has a sense of humor about it.
A #Marlins fan called me a "lazy moron'' in response to Giancarlo Stanton column. Where does he get off calling me lazy?— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) November 18, 2014