BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
The 2011 Baseball Winter Meetings have turned out to be a place where trades and free agent signings have taken place.
It also appears as though it was the coming out party for "The Miami Marlins."
When I think of the name of this franchise, it seems like I can use the song by Whitney Houston "One Moment In Time." Child Stories start out "Once Upon A Time."
In the 1980's, "The Miami Marlins" used to have a front office consisting of the late Sonny Hirsch and his assistant Larry Bluestein. Hirsch died of a heart attack on March 26, 1999 at the age of 65. The Florida State League Marlins played at the now demolished Miami Stadium.
One of their prospects in the San Diego Padres farm system was named Benito Santiago. Occasionally, I would go to Miami Stadium and in this declining area, a crowd of 100-200 people used to show up for a game at the 13,000 seat venue.
I used to see a lot of games between the Marlins and Fort Lauderdale Yankees at Fort Lauderdale Stadium. One of my best memories was when the Marlins and Yankees played a doubleheader on a Sunday Night in Fort Lauderdale that lasted until 3 am. All of us in the press box were ordering food at midnight.
Hirsch, Bluestein and I were talking baseball all night as we would whether the constant rain delays.
Last Sunday, my old colleague Dan Bluesten and I talked about whether these Marlins could be successful in Miami at the old Orange Bowl site.
I reminded Dan that Miami stepped up to the plate and built the Marlins a stadium. Palm Beach and Broward Counties had their opportunity to bring Major League Baseball but decided to pass. The construction cost of the Marlins stadium was $515 Million. It is the third smallest stadium in MLB by official capacity and the smallest by actual capacity as it holds 37,000.
Yet during the Winter Meetings, the Marlins signed closer Heath Bell to a three-year $27 Million contract. They added starting pitcher Mark Buehrle for four years, $58 million and shortstop Jose Reyes with a six-year contract worth $106 million. The three signings were for $191 million.
No Thanks to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the Marlins were unable to add the other two fish to their new start in Dade County. They offered Albert Pujols a 10-year deal worth $210 Million and starting pitcher C.J Wilson six-years for $80 Million which would have been worth another $290 Million.
This is definitely not the same franchise that has six winning seasons in it's 19-year history which does however include two World Series Championships and two Fire Sales, notoriously known for having one of the lowest payrolls in MLB playing at Joe Robbie Stadium.
The hiring of former Chicago White Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen was brilliant.
I predict that if the Marlins draw between 15,000-25,000.
The new stadium will be at least close to 50% full instead of the embarrassing crowds at Joe Robbie Stadium. I find it amazing that the Marlins did win a pair of World Series at Joe Robbie Stadium. But the new stadium with it's retractable roof will definitely address the rain issue therefore eliminating delays and rainouts.
If you're a Chicago Cubs fans, it must be agonizing to see the Marlins with two titles in 19 years while you've endured 103 years of frustration.
But if the Marlins can become consistent winners in their new stadium, this would energize their fan base so that these people can finally identify with their players enabling them to finally build a tradition. For the past 19-years, all fans can do is continue to buy scorecards because of the massive player turnover. It will be interesting to see how many more jerseys are sold with the stable core of players on the squad.
If this happens, Hirsch will be able to smile in heaven and be thankful that his dream of major league baseball became a reality in Miami. It's being played at a location where he was the play-by-play announcer for the Miami Hurricanes for 30-years at the Orange Bowl where the "U" won five National Championships of it's own.
I've never viewed South Florida as a good sports town because if you don't win, they won't support.
Yet in this case, there is hope for long term stability on the diamond as Major League Baseball has found a home near South Beach.
I'll definitely be watching these Miami Marlins, yet deep down inside, I'll never forget the old Miami Marlins, that were guided by my late friend Sonny Hirsch. I hope you're resting in peace Sonny.
Scott Morganroth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and his blog can also be seen at www.scottsports33.com.
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