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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

None of Your Business

Kyle Drenon

Baseball is a business.  Sometimes tough calls have to be made, but some owners are making decisions that spread talent like peanut butter on untoasted bread, ripping holes in the integrity of the league.

SI’s Joe Sheehan recently predicted a World Series win for the Blue Jays in 2013 and heavily touted the Dodgers as the team to beat in the NL.  Makes sense.  Both teams loaded up over the past year and look poised to dominate in the respective leagues. Jays and Dodgers fans must be psyched with their owners.  They haven’t been relevant since Joe Carter and Kirk Gibson.  So Jays and Dodgers fans needs to show some appreciation to the two men who brought them back to the forefront: Jeffrey Loria and John W. Henry.

These two guys have a history.  Loria and Henry were part of the Expos-killing coup that landed Henry in Fenway and Loria in Florida.  These guys made another “genius” baseball move in dumping lucrative contracts from failing teams in 2012.  Sure, baseball is a business.  It has to turn a profit.  But isn’t it embarrassing to give up like that?  Isn’t it a little shameful to suck at your job to the tune of $420MM combined? Can't the fans expect better?

A scene from the Winter Meetings:

Loria:  John, look out here comes Sabean.

Henry: Too late, he saw us.

Sabean: Hey guys! How are we doing? You want some gum?

Henry: Huh? Uh, sure.

Sabean: (pulls gum back) Aren’t you gonna offer me 7 years and $142MM first?

Loria giggles.

Sabean: I’m just joking with him, Jeff.  Speaking of jokes, Heath Bell.

Other execs should be mad at these two.  The dumped deals effect other teams, not just the Jays and Dodgers. Every team that plays them has to deal with their do-overs.

The Jays were a bottom-dweller for years in the ultra-competitive AL East.  Despite a slight improvement in 2012, it was still laughable to think that they’d jump the gap and become the favorite to win the toughest division in baseball.  Anthopoulus probably thinks he needs a sit down with Oprah.  His history as a GM had looked a lot like the desaturated failures of an infomercial, and now he has the handful of All-Stars he needed to make Rogers Centre more than a Fall venue for Paul Anka. 

Guggenheim money and Magic Johnson might lend a few excuses to the Dodgers, but not many.  Other than making Zach Greinke the richest hurler on the market, they haven’t done much.  Brandon League, Hyun-Jin Ryu, J.P. Howell are nice additions for the bullpen, but far from sure things.  The Dodgers got charitable donations from both of the MLB pawn shops.  Their manager didn’t even notice when Nate Eovaldi and Scott McGough stopped coming into work.  Probably because Mattingly had to decide whether third or short was a better place for an All-Star former batting champ.  Hanley Ramirez might not be hitting .320 anymore, but he’s still an elite option on the right side of any infield in the majors.  Then there’s the big one.  The Dodgers must’ve been hesitant at first.  You mean we get Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto?  And you want James Loney and some prospects? I dunno. Can we have $11MM in cash too? 
I’m sorry, I thought you said ‘Yes’.  Ned Colletti had to cancel his Dave Wannstedt look-alike appearance to finish the paperwork.

The Marlins are no stranger to fire sales. Loria famously dismantled a WS winner weeks after taking home the hardware.  So, no surprise here.  The surprise comes in Loria’s response to the taxpayer’s of Miami.  He completely stood behind his own mountain of bullshit.  Miami hates him as much as Fidel Castro.  I would too.  The dude schemed Miami into a $2.4 billion dollar agreement that will take the city 40 years to pay off.  And in that brand new stadium, you tell 400,000 Miami residents that you just sold any chance of contention in only year two? 
Rebuilding?  Already?  We just built.

Henry’s Sox had an embarrassing season, too.  Aside from the $260MM mulligan, Sawx skipper Bobby Valentine made a Glen Beck-like ass out of himself on a nightly basis for most of the season.   He even drove away fan favorite Kevin Youkilis.  Wait, maybe that was a salary dump, too. 

The worst part about the massive dumps is that Henry and Loria have each won World Series titles.  It’s not as if they are completely inept.  They both have rings.  For the moment, we’ll forget about the Hanley Ramirez trade, that essentially gave Boston its WS core.  They both are capable of building contenders.  But, baseball is a business right?  If you aren’t winning, it’s time to rebuild, and in the process, if you happen to hand over a few league titles, that’s just a business expense.  And hopefully you don't lose too many customers (fans) in the process.

If the Jays and Dodgers make it to the Series, Loria and Henry are the guys they have to thank for it, and as fans we get to witness two middle-of-the-road squads face off with other teams’ players starring in the show.  Baseball is a business, sure.  But at what point do you stand by and let opportunistic owners sell their mistakes to get back in the black?  If we see Toronto and LA in late October, I guess we’ll find out.

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