Being a Marlins fan has meant always having to say you’re sorry. We’re sorry for randomly winning two championships while teams with much more ardent followers have gone without. We’re sorry for having a team when more deserving cities don’t. We’re sorry for not going to the games. We’re sorry for our ridiculous new stadium. We’re sorry for our lazy, immature shortstop. We’re sorry for LeBron — I’m not quite sure why, but we’re still sorry. There were always two things in baseball that fans of every other team agreed on: Marlins fans don’t really exist, and those who do exist shouldn’t, because the team should just be contracted. For most of the Marlins’ time in the league, its fans have been seen as even less respectable versions of the spoiled gangs you’ll find at Yankees or New England Patriots games.
But this week, when the Marlins decided to ship all of their good players to Canada in exchange for two coat hangers and an old book, I had people apologizing to me. I felt pitied, like a fan of the Cubs or Indians (the Marlins defeated both the Cubs and Indians in the playoffs en route to their two championships — sorry). Marlins fans seem to have bounced from one pole of fandom to the other. On the one hand, there are all those things that we have to be sorry for. On the other, we have one of the worst owners in sports and we just gave all our good players away again, only this time it came on the heels not of a title but of a season in which we finished 12 games under .500.
I don’t feel like a Cubs fan, though. The Marlins have already accomplished more than most teams ever have, so being a Marlins fan is what I imagine it’s like to be Richard Branson. We don’t fear the death of the franchise (and this feels like something close to it) — after all, it’s lived a very full life.
The Marlins were supposed to be turning a corner into respectability, with free agents and a star manager and promises from the ownership that they were committed to building a winner. But then there were the backloaded contracts, which meant that the notoriously cheap franchise wasn’t actually putting its money where its mouth was re: investing heavily in the team — it was just promising to do so down the road. There were talks with Albert Pujols about a long-term contract that broke down over the Marlins’ refusal to give him a no-trade clause.
The trade was, as this site put it, “a huge middle finger” to Marlins fans, but it wasn’t that surprising of a twist. Marlins fans are long past the “shame on you” part of the relationship with the team. We’ve accepted the absurdity. Would you be surprised if the Marlins won the NL East next year? Not really, right? Miami doesn’t deserve either pity or contempt: It’s a sitcom franchise, not unlike the New York Giants, who are constantly tumbling comically down the side of a mountain and landing in the Super Bowl. You never know what sticky situation those crazy kids are going to get into next, but you know it’ll be all right in the end.
When Fox Sports’ Jon Morosi broke the news that Reyes was included in Tuesday’s mega-trade, he added that it was “not a joke.” If there was anyone on the planet who didn’t need that clarification, it was Marlins fans. We were already laughing.