Folks, there are times in life when inexplicable things happen and you just need to re-evaluate your life and the sports teams you root for. When that existential crisis comes, and it will, you need to surround yourself with people of wisdom – or at least someone who is very tall. (Tall = Trustworthy… sorry it’s Science).
It’s been that kind of a week here for all of us in South Florida. Our beloved baseball team, The Marlins, have once again broken our hearts and given us the ol’ Three Stooges eye poke by trading away all our best, most popular players. To help us sort through our feelings and deal with the fallout of this most recent debacle, please welcome back the very wise and tall, Mr. Rick Hunter.
By: Rick Hunter
As a native South Floridian, and life-long baseball fan, I remember life without a local Major League Baseball team. That all changed when Charlie Hough threw that first knuckleballed “strike” into Benito Santiago’s mitt in April of 1993. The years since have had their share of highs (two World Series championships) and lows (a strike that cancelled the 1994 World Series, a pitcher deported for playing under an assumed name, another former pitcher serving prison time for attempting to kill five men with a machete and then pouring gasoline on them, Scott Stapp’s “Marlins Will Soar”).
All things being equal, as a fan, one can live with the occasional attempted murder/burning and trouble with INS for an average of one World Championship a decade (thinking of you, Cubs fan… thanks for Bartman, by the way).
But as much as championship success has defined the Marlins, so has the regular purging of its roster. Marlins fans have had to suffer not one, not two, but three fire sales – the last one of which has pushed this baseball fan over the proverbial cliff.
The most recent roster purging leaves Miami with only two players left from Opening Day 2012’s starting nine. After the 2001 season, Jeffrey Loria – an art dealer from Manhattan and former owner of the Montreal Expos – assumed ownership of the Marlins and has run the team like a histrionic despot ever since. The list of grievances is long, and includes firing managers because of personality differences, fraud, deception, general mistrust, and hiring a former Creed singer to pen a theme song. It’s enough that it has driven me to previously unimagined actions. Specifically testing the waters of free-agency.
This is not an impetuous decision. It is one that has required thoughtful and deliberate action. At its heart, it’s not something I chose myself… the Loria regime has driven committed fans like myself into exile. (This is the part where I would liken my experience to the plight of Cuban exiles in Miami, but that would trivialize the genuine pain of the exile community… and I’ve seen what’s happened in the past when the Marlins mingle too closely with Castro.)
So yes, I and millions hundreds like me have been exiled from our beloved home. I am a free-agent fan. I cannot support Jeffrey Loria and his cabinet of fawning sycophants any longer. In fact, I am calling for the immediate overthrow of the Loria regime. In the spirit of peaceful revolutions led by luminary dissenters such as Václav Havel, I desire no bloodshed or violence. No burning effigies through the streets of Little Havana. The sanctions have to be economic.
Please note: this is no reactionary boycott. However, in order to (hopefully) hasten the overthrow of Jeffrey Loria, I am choosing to be cut off from my beloved Miami Marlins. No attending games at the new ballpark. No watching games on TV or online. No listening on the radio. No reading about the Marlins online. Nothing that will help Jeffrey Loria line his pockets with the money of innocent victims.
As such, I’ve had to consider where I will rest my temporary residency during this exile. Once Loria is overthrown, I will return to the team in full, but until then, I hope to hold a green card as the fan of another team. I have given it much deliberation, and have compiled a list of sixteen requirements for my temporary team. They are as follows:
1. Team has to have some history
2. Preferably one of the original teams. This narrows the list down to the Cubs, Reds, Braves, White Sox, Red Sox, A’s, Yankees, Twins, Orioles, Indians and Tigers
3. Preferably still playing in its original city. This eliminates the Braves (Boston, then Milwaukee before Atlanta), A’s (Philly, then KC before Oakland), Twins (née Washington Senators), Orioles (the current Orioles were the original Milwaukee Brewers), and the Yankees (the current Yankees were the original Baltimore Orioles – confused?)
4. Must be located in a city that knows, respects and appreciates baseball (tied to #1, this eliminates most, if not all expansion cities). I already live in a city that doesn’t know, respect or appreciate baseball… I’m looking for a temporary alternative
5. Preferably a city I’d like to visit. This is difficult, because requirement numbers four and five are almost mutually exclusive. But if there’s some synergy, it’s a plus
6. A good ballpark is a huge plus
7. Preferably some amount of championship pedigree (I’m defining “championship pedigree” very loosely to mean it would be nice if the team was World Champs at least once). Even the Cubs would make the cut in this case
8. But not too much or too recent championship pedigree, so as not to be a carpetbagger. This would disqualify the SF Giants
9. Can’t be new (either by relocation or expansion). I’d sooner sell my soul than root for the Rockies or D-Backs
10. Must have a cool hat, with a cool uniform a plus. If I’m going temporarily all-in on this team, I will wear its colors with pride. But if I’m wearing them with pride, I have to be able to wear them with a modicum of self respect. And the cool hat has to be in a color that you can wear without looking like a clown (e.g., the Oakland A’s have my favorite uniform in baseball, but there’s no way I’m wearing a green hat with a yellow bill around town). Also, it has to be a real, on-field hat… not one of the myriad alternate caps they don’t wear in a game
11. Can’t have a racist nickname. I don’t want to have to make an apologetic for my new team’s nickname. Even worse, I would hate to have to buy a new hat if they changed their name
12. Can’t be in NL East. I’m not turning on my true love and rooting for a mortal enemy that I’ve hated for the past 20 years. This requirement has ramifications, too, since the Nationals’ navy hat is a glorious chapeau
13. Preferably in the AL. This is related to #12. I don’t really hate anyone in the AL other than the Yankees, so it will make for an easier transition. Granted, the AL has the DH which is an abomination, but I have to compromise somewhere
14. Team can NEVER have switched leagues. This is absolutely unacceptable. Milwaukee and Houston, you should be ashamed of yourself
15. Spring Training in Florida. Basic… I need to be granted some access to my team.
16. Personal tie to the team is a plus. For example: why would I switch allegiance to the Twins? I wouldn’t… I have no reason. I’ve never been to Minnesota, I’m not related to anyone from Minnesota, and I don’t want to go to Minnesota. If I wanted to go there, I could just look in the mirror, since they all look like me anyway. What a horrible place to live. You’re the only state who voted for Mondale. “Forget” you, Twins.
After compiling the above list, here’s my line of thought as it relates to each team:
1. Toronto Blue Jays – they’re in Canada, and they’re too new… disqualified
2. Baltimore Orioles – Pro: good history, great hat, like-able Con: not in original city, name prone to misspelling. Serious contender, nonetheless
3. Tampa Bay Rays – seriously? Rays are the one team lamer than the Marlins (although I’d love their ownership and if I lived in Tampa I’d be all over them… but Tampa sucks***)
4. Boston Red Sox – I used to like the Sox, but their fans became intolerable after 2004
5. New York Yankees – Evil Empire
6. Cleveland Indians – racist… seriously, have you seen their hat?
7. Detroit Tigers – Magnum P.I. factor = coolness quotient raised. They fit all the qualifications except being located in a non-tourist desirable heckhole
8. Minnesota Twins – no
9. Kansas City Royals – I’d rather get George Brett’s hemorrhoids than be a Royal fan
10. Chicago White Sox – ballpark sucks… just a tiny bit less horrible than Joe Robbie Stadium… great city, though
11. Houston Astros – two strikes: 1) original name was way cooler (Colt .45s), 2) switching to AL beginning in the 2013 season
12. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – Worst name in the history of sports… makes their city’s other entry (Mighty Ducks of Anaheim) a distant second
13. Oakland Athletics – can’t get over that hat factor… also, they moved. Twice.
14. Seattle Mariners – mehhh
15. Texas Rangers – hard to root for anything from Texas
16. Atlanta Braves – NL East
17. Washington Nationals – see #16
18. New York Mets – see #16, #17… also, Madoff
19. Philadelphia Phillies – see #16, #17, #18… also, Philly fan is too intense (e.g., batteries thrown at Santa)
20. Milwaukee Brewers – switched leagues… also, Bud Selig
21. St. Louis Cardinals – wife’s a die-hard Cub fan… no good for marriage
22. Chicago Cubs – Cubs will always be a team I like, but not love (like the girl who is kinda good looking, and is fun to be around, but she’s not the one you’d ever marry)
23. Pittsburgh Pirates – serious contender… I had a Pirates oil-can hat in the ’70s, Roberto Clemente is one of my all-time favorites
24. Cincinnati Reds – another serious contender
25. Arizona Diamondbacks – next
26. Los Angeles Dodgers – a serious contender… already own a Brooklyn Dodgers hat, Jackie Robinson a major plus, too
27. San Francisco Giants – very serious contender… two recent World Championships are a negative, though… I couldn’t claim them for my own, since I had no part in helping the team earn them
28. San Diego Padres – mehhh (see #14)
29. Colorado Rockies – stupid
While I respect the choices of other knowledgeable baseball fans, my choice remains just that: my choice. I know others who have chosen to remain with the Marlins. They have every right to do that. I wish them the best, and will not begrudge them, if or when they are finally able to escape the torment of their abuser. I know some may agree with my hypothesis, and choose to root for another team than that which I have chosen. To those also, I wish them the best.
So after much deliberation, I’ve decided to rest my fan hood with…
The Detroit Tigers.
They check off all the boxes (except the non-desirable heckhole one). My dad was born in Detroit and lived there until he and his parents moved to Fort Lauderdale in 1950, so I have some reason for choosing them. Also, their hat is bad-a$$. Especially the road hat with the orange “D”. They have had some recent success, but they haven’t won it all since 1984, so it’s not a total bandwagon jump. Their GM and Manager are former Marlins who delivered us our first World Series, as are several Tiger players. And finally, they play Spring Training three hours away in Lakeland, Florida, so I can make an annual road-trip.
Until Loria sells or is forced out, Go Tigers!
*** Editorial Note: Busch Gardens is delightful