I don't like to mix politics into my writing too much, but there was a video making the rounds last month that I can't get out of my head. Chris Matthews is interviewing a throng of people about the upcoming presidential election, and he interviews someone who claims Barack Obama is a communist. What's a communist? Well, study it out. No, seriously, Matthews asks: What's a communist? The response: Study it out.
You don't have to be on the left side of the political spectrum to find that amusing/horrifying. It's a bizarre response to a request for more information. But after it outlived its five-second Internet half-life, I figured I wouldn't think of it again.
Then Jeffrey Loria said this:
"We finished in last place. Figure it out,'' a defiant Loria said.
Say, Jeffrey, about the part where you prepared for years for the re-branding of the franchise, keeping your own free agents and signing new ones to huge deals, what was it about the six months of baseball that made all of those meticulously laid plans worthless?
Last place. Figure it out.
Well, what about the damage this could cause to the Marlins' public perception, especially considering the new, taxpayer-funded ballpark?
Last place. Figure it out. Even better, study it out. Just study it out.
Yet when I study it out, I'm not sure if pointing to the standings, saying quod erat demonstrandum, and throwing a smoke bomb before you escape through the skylight is really proof of anything. It sure looks like the Mariners are active in the rumor jungle, and it's not like they're trading Felix Hernandez or even Jason Vargas just to shed payroll. The Red Sox are looking to dust themselves off after a last-place season, and not only are they likely to be active in the free-agent and trade markets, they were even interested in the very players the Marlins were offering.
I think what Loria was trying to say was something like this: Look, when the Marlins are in last place, it's different from other teams. We can't afford to throw good money after bad. It's an all-or-nothing franchise. The experiment failed, so we're going into super-thrifty mode and building for the future, just like before. We aren't going to win, so why try? It doesn't matter if we alienate the fans because the fans aren't coming regardless.
Is that about right? Seems accurate. And that's why I don't understand this:
The Marlins have no intention to trade their All-Star right fielder (Giancarlo Stanton). According to a source, the slugger pretty much remains untouchable, at least for 2013.
The reasons to keep Stanton on a normal team are myriad. But go through the reasons, one-by-one, for the Marlins to keep him. Does he stay because he makes the team better? Nope. I mean, he makes the team better, but the Marlins don't really care about contending this year or the next.
Does he stay to give the fans at least one star player and fan favorite for whom to root? Can't be the real reason. The fans that show up after this would show up if the Marlins were starting replacement players during a lockout. The damage has been done from a PR perspective, and one star on the team isn't going to help ticket sales that much.
Does he stay because the Marlins might be worried his trade value is down after the injuries last year? It would be hard to imagine Stanton's trade value being much higher than it is right now. Every team would line up to spirit him away. Six-packs of prospects. Prospects holding other prospects that were holding other prospects that were holding the first set of prospects, like an M.C. Escher print.
No, he's staying because he makes close to the league minimum, which means the Marlins don't have anything to lose keeping him around. All the other stuff helps, of course. He's something of a draw, and he makes any team better. So if he's making close to what Jake Smolinski makes, where's the urgency to trade him?
The urgency is in the what-ifs. Stanton's still a young player, which means there are what-ifs. Heck, he's a baseball player. Forget about the young part. If you go back and look at the best players from three years ago, you see a lot of sad tales. Say, is that Hanley Ramirez at #3? By waiting to trade him, the Marlins ended up with the #96 prospect in baseball in a deal instead of what they could have had years ago. Tim Lincecum is an enigma now, and Justin Morneau hasn't been the same since his concussion. Justin Upton isn't a superstar yet, Carl Crawford is an albatross, and Grady Sizemore is a shell of what he used to be. That's just the first half of the list, and those are just the players who were under 30.
It's possible that Giancarlo could increase his trade value. It's possible the Marlins start to contend sooner than expected.
It's probable that he'd bring back a wheelbarrow filled with the best young players right now, though. And seeing as the Marlins aren't planning on doing much for the next three years, well, that's a pretty sweet, risk-free deal.
But I'm probably out of the put-yourself-in-the-place-of-the-Marlins game for a while. It's a good way to be wrong, and it hurts the brain. We've all studied this one out for long enough.