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In another example of Baseball as business, The Miami Marlins seem to have woken up from their spending spree spring and are doing whatever they can to get some of their money back. For the first time in years, the Marlins front office opened up their checkbooks and went after big-name, high –priced, high-profile players. With a new stadium, new name and new logo, they wanted to show everyone they were serious about putting together a competitive team this year. So after picking up all-star shortstop, Jose Reyes, they added Mark Buehrle and closer Heath Bell to their already above average bullpen. On top of that, they brought in Ozzie Guillen, a fiery, loud, competitive manager to try to mold all of the pieces together into a playoff worthy team.

At first, it seemed to work. The Marlins spent most of the first 2 ½ months in contention for the division lead. And then reality set-in, in the form of a 17 out of 20 game losing streak in July. And it seems that now the management has decided they no longer want to be on the hook for some of the money they put out earlier, knowing that they aren’t going to be heading into the playoffs, and watching the attendance in the new ballpark start to dwindle.

First they let go of Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez. Two of the top contributors to the little success the team has had this year. Next came the release of Hanley Ramirez. A $15 million/year, .240 hitter. But he has been the face of the Marlins for the past 5 years. Yes, he hasn’t been playing like the rookie of the year, batting title, base stealing all-star he was in the past, but he was still a big part of the franchise. But business is business, and the Marlins were able to unload him, and his huge salary to the Dodgers. Now it looks like Josh Johnson is on the block to be sold off next. This is even harder to explain to my kids because he’s been an all-around good guy. A top-notch pitcher. Never one to be questioned on his dedication to the team. Yet the Marlins seem eager to unload him, and his big money contract.

Once they let go of Giancarlo Stanton, the team that my boys have grown-up with will be gone. Even my wife, who is a good sport about watching games with us and talking baseball at the dinner table, has a hard time understanding why all the players we have been talking about are getting shipped off so quickly these days. She had finally gotten to know all of the players names. I hope the Marlins feel good about saving a few bucks now, even if it means losing some of the fans they were hoping would buy tickets to fill that new stadium up. After all, if they don’t want to spend money on the team they put out on the field, why should we spend money to watch them?


 
 
Sometimes that could be a good thing to hear. Sometimes things are going so well, it seems like everything is working in your favor. Well if you are a Marlins fan, seeing the rash of injuries that has plagued the team this season, that rain seems like a typical South Florida hurricane.

The latest storm came through with Josh Johnson shutting down his season early with a sore back and shoulder. At times throughout the season, J.J. was on the fast track to Cy Young accolades. He was rolling along with the lowest ERA in the business. He tweaked his back in early August and that was the beginning of the end for him (along with the playoff hopes of the Marlins organization).

Here is a quick run-down of the other players that have had their seasons cut short: (Some injured. Some traded. Some just stupid)

Ricky Nolasco - Knee injury
Jorge Cantu - Traded
Cody Ross - Traded
John Baker - Elbow injury
Ronnie Paulino - Stupidity (suspended 50 games for violating leagues performance enhancing drug policy by taking a "diet Pill")
Brett Hayes - Separated shoulder

That is a serious list of players down for the count. Time to take a deep breath and just wait for the season to be over. Things have got to get better next year!

 
 
If you've been a fan of baseball for awhile, or sports for that matter, you come to figure that there are clearly some rules that are unwritten but are usually very well understood by both the fans and the players.  Early in the summer, my boys and I read "The Baseball Codes," that goes into great detail about some of these sorts of things, among them retaliation.

I bring this up today because during last night's game between the Marlins and the Nationals, this code came into play not once, but twice. For a little background, on Tuesday night, the National's freak-of-the-week and all around trouble maker, Nyjer Morgan, took out Marlin's catcher Brett Hayes in what could've been described as just a good, hard-nosed play. That is if it were just about anyone else. In the past week, Morgan had taken out another catcher in a dirty play, threw a ball at a fan's face and was seen on video yelling at a Marlin's fan.

So last night, in what is clearly part of the "baseball code," Marlin's pitcher Chris Volstad defended his catcher by placing a pitch right onto Morgan's hip. Morgan took his base and went on to steal both second and third bases, even though his team was down by 11 runs. Evidently, Volstad wasn't too happy about it, so when Morgan came back up in the sixth he threw another pitch at him except this one didn't connect - it went BEHIND Morgan's back. Well that was enough to throw Morgan into a tizzy and charge the mound in what became a bench-clearing brawl with Marlin's first baseman, Gaby Sanchez getting in one of the best "clotheslines" on Morgan I've seen since watching Hulk Hogan back in the 80's.

My thought on this, though, is that it shouldn't have happened at all. Volstad was "justified" in hitting Morgan once. But that is where I think it should've stopped. You just don't get to go for two in that scenario. Given Morgan's already ugly week, he will be getting most of the press for what transpired, but I don't think Volstad should be let off the hook completely. An eye for an eye. One for one. No double-dipping allowed.
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Growing up watching baseball in the 70's & 80's, I think being a fan was a lot easier than it is today. As a kid, I used to follow the Milwaukee Brewers. But even more than that, I was rooting for the guys that were there year in and year out. Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Cecil Cooper, Gorman Thomas, Sal Bando to name just a few. It got to where you could watch those guys, know the lineup, see them at various autograph signings or personal appearances each season. Definitely not the way it is today.

As I mentioned yesterday, the Marlins let Cody Ross go to the Giants. For my kids, this was a huge bummer and sort of hard for them to understand. They've watched him over the last couple years. They've also had a few opportunities to meet him and every time he has been a great example of generosity and kindness. Just the kind of player you want representing your team in the community. So when you try to explain to the kids that the Marlins decided to let him go in an effort to save a few bucks they didn't quite get it. This came just a month after they let another great guy in Jorge Cantu, who had been one of the top players all season long, go for a minor league pitcher.

"It's a business, guys. Nothing personal." Except that to the young fans out there, it is personal. Sad to see a guy like Cody get away. We only wish the best for him and his family on this new chapter in his baseball career. We appreciate what he did for the Marlins, and for the example he set for my boys on how to behave even when you are a big-time baseball player. Thanks, Cody.

 
 
Watching the Florida Marlins these days has given our family some opportunities to discuss things that don't necessarily happen on the field. A chance to talk about some of the things good (and not so good) that goes on in professional baseball.

As we were headed out of town on Friday, we got word about Ronnie Paulino failing a drug test and getting suspended for 50 games. This means he will miss the rest of this season as well as the first 11 games of next season. We have discussed steroids in our house before, most recently when A-Rod hit that magic number of 600 career home runs.  It wasn't much of a celebration of this accomplishment as it was just another tainted mark on the game by an admitted steroid user. But with Paulino it was a little different. He didn't go through years of denial, or flat-out lies about what he did. He explained that in order to keep his weight in check, he used a diet pill that ended up containing a banned substance. 

Well, here's the thing boys, when you get paid thousands upon thousands of dollars to play baseball at the professional level, you need to know exactly what you are taking when it comes to supplements so this sort of thing doesn't happen. Not to mention the fact that when you are a professional athlete, if you see know you are having a hard time controlling your weight, you get your butt into the gym. You talk to the trainers that the team provides to help set up a proper diet. You work that much harder. You DON'T just look for a magic pill! This is your job! People dream about becoming professional baseball players. Do whatever you need to do to be in the best shape possible so you can make the most of the talent God gave you.

A couple of days later, the Marlins announced that they had let Cody Ross go to the Giants. Yes, kids...baseball at this level is a business. We'll talk more about that tomorrow. Now go eat your vegetables.