The case of Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton just goes to prove that it only takes one fool with a whole lot of money to mess up Major League Baseball.
In this case it's Marlins Owner Jeffrey Loria who bought his entire franchise in 2002 for $158 million before fleecing voters of South Florida into building him a new ballpark on the grounds that it would make the club competitive.
Loria made a run at former St. Louis Cardinals superstar Albert Pujols before inking Jose Reys, Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle to huge contracts prior to the 2012 season. Before the end of that campaign, all three had been sold off in the third major fire sale of Loria's ownership.
On paper, the Marlins' payroll for 2012 was $101 million. But it proved to be unsustainable and the club sagged to $50.5 million in 2013 and $45.8 million last year. Fans have stayed away in droves, despite solid play in 2014 from a cast of youngsters. They drew 1.7 million, 27th out of baseball's 30 clubs.
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So now Loria apparently plans to light a fire under fans and regain their confidence by trying to get their lone marquee position player, Stanton, to sign a contract of up to $320 million over 12 years.
If winning baseball is what draws fans to a ballpark, is this the best way for Miami to proceed? It's going to be tough to assemble a decent supporting cast around Stanton when he's earning somewhere between a third and half of the Marlins payroll.
The initial reaction is that this signing would set Miami up for a fourth fire sale in a decade. But the truth is that it's going to be really difficult to get another MLB club to take this contract two or three years down the line when Stanton is 28 or 29 instead of 25. It's the classic Colorado Rockies deal with Troy Tulowitzki. The club kept him for his prime years and said he'd be a Rockie for life. Now that he's 30, Colorado thinks another team will take the gargantuan contract they gave Tulo and be saddled with diminished production from an aging player who is making top dollar.
I'd be careful before I signed on the dotted line if I was Stanton. This is a contract that could not only guarantee that he'll never be on a competitive team. It could be a deal that bankrupts his club, kills baseball is South Florida and makes sure he never sees all of the cash for which he sold his baseball soul.
But when someone offers you $320 million to play baseball, how do you NOT take it?