Friday, November 25, 2005


The Marlins are having another fire sale, just in time for Black Friday. Shaved: $30 Million. Also shaved: any confidence that the team will still play in Miami after the 2008 season.

This smacks of serious familiarity.

Before the spring of 1993, I didn't give the stroke of a dead dog's dick about baseball. I was still buried in American Football, Jordan and the Bulls, following Arsenal in the FA Cup, and taking baby-steps into Hockey Fandom with the Blackhawks in order to get on the nerves of my Redwing-fan friends. That was back when Chicago won games.

Then Florida...specifically a baseball team. And I declared myself an inaugural fan of these new Marlins. Partially out of sheer disbelief that pro athletes can thrive in an environment offering 1) Intense heat and humidity, and 2) A population largely made up of people from other states who bring their favorite teams with them. It seemed like a recipe for disaster...and I bought a couple of hats, made fun of my team on the radio, and waited for the joke to get funnier and funnier.

Expecially given that Wayne Huizenga was the owner. This was going to be a wild ride.

How true that was. Barely beating the Mets to stay out of last in the division that first year, the Fish went on to the cellar the next year, 4th again in '95, and tried to retool for '96. They brought in a new manager, and a great pitcher who had defected from Cuba named Livan Hernandez. I watched him on TV, and realized this kid had a shot to do some real damage.

1997. Seven nights in October, most of which I saw from work. Livan was the MVP as the Fish beat the Tribe in the freakin' World Series...just five years into their existence. And then, Wayne claimed he was hemhorraging money (which turned out to be a load of crap) and sold everything good about the team off to the rest of MLB. Kev Brown goes to the San Diego Pod Race. Robb "Automatic" Nen goes on to close for San Fran. Alou goes to Planet Houston. Bonilla to the Dodgers.

The team got gutted like an Elk fighting a Velociraptor.

I started flirting with other teams after that. It was trendy to love the Cubs, so I picked the White Sox. I followed the Twins briefly, the Mariners, even the D-Rays. I maintained my hatred of the Yankees, and still wore my Marlins hat. The Fish strung together a run of losing seasons after the Series win, and were eventually sold to someone less evil, John Henry.

In 2003, at the beginning of the season, enough was enough. Jeff Torborg, who I kinda liked despite his struggles so far that season, was replaced by a fossil named Jack McKeon. I dug into a bit of baseball history to learn about the guy, since my baseball knowledge was barely a decade old...and abandoned the team. A 72 year-old manager, in today's game, was a death sentence that I wasn't sticking around for.

I followed the Twins for the rest of the year.

Lo and behold, the Marlins eeked out the Wild Card spot. And the rest is history. They pounded the Cubbies in the NLCS, and then beat the hated Yankees in the World Series...perhaps just to spite me, perhaps to maximize my lack of enjoyment.

2004 dawned, and I felt I couldn't go back to the Marlins without looking like the ultimate sports hypocrite. So I continued to put the Fish behind me, and dove into the White Sox...and the Expos, because I really felt bad for Montreal's team. It was obvious that their city didn't want them, and that the League was going to move them.

Rumors floated that the Expos would move to Las Vegas, where I was born. I was excited at the possibility...and then they went to DC instead. I stuck with them anyway. The Nats had a great season, despite the odds and the bad second half. And Livan is there, reminding me of what passes for The Old Days with me.

This week, there are rumbles that the Fish will head for Sin City. I love the Sox. I love the Nats. But put a team in Vegas, and I'll be the most loyal little puppy the NL has ever seen. I've waited my whole life for a real pro team in any sport to call my birth city home.


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