Originally created 05/18/98

Marlins gutted like my big fish

Last December, I snared a 12-pound mutton snapper while trolling off the Miami Beach coast, a fish story I don't mind sharing.

What startled me, though, was how this scrumptious fish was prepared for consumption. Its head was lopped off, its scales were knifed off, its insides gutted with vengeful jubilance.

After observing the latest gutting of the Florida Marlins, it harkened me back to that December afternoon when dad reached in and yanked the heart, bones and soul of my prized catch.

For this is what you have in Miami, a defending World Series champ the owner has decided to gut to bare-bones minimum. Don't bother trying to defend your purchased championship. Don't even care about fickle South Florida fans cringing.

These Marlins have been razed, and baseball is the entity inhaling the most fumes.

From the World Series seventh game starting lineup, just two remain: shortstop Edgar Renteria and second baseman Craig Counsell.

First dealt was Moises Alou. Then Kevin Brown. Then Al Leiter and Dennis Cook. Then Robb Nen. Devon White and Tony Saunders were left unprotected for the expansion draft. Darren Daulton retired.

Now, in a move that shrieks of surrender, the Marlins have shipped their three best remaining players -- Gary Sheffield, Bobby Bonilla and franchise-first draft pick Charles Johnson, along with Jim Eisenreich -- to the Dodgers for hobbled-knee catcher Mike Piazza and Todd Zeile.

Piazza should rent, because by the All-Star break, he'll get shipped for a multitude of minor leaguers. Zeile should opt for the Daulton route and retire so as not to suffer.

Baseball is suffering after witnessing the Marlins make a mockery of the game.

Pick an adjective: despicable, deplorable, incomprehensible, outrageous, ludicrous; they all could describe the Marlins in the last seven months.

I personally like Sheffield's choice of rotten.

That's what these fish and its owner, shyster Wayne Huizenga, are. They're rotten to the core.

What should worry baseball's caretakers (who exactly are these people anyways?) is that fans use the Marlins as the archetype for everything wrong with the game, a carry over from the 1994 strike. That's why baseball is the former national pastime and why fans who treated box scores as religion have now found a new faith.

Why should fans invest one fleeting moment about baseball when it allows an owner the heavy-handedness to implode his own franchise, changing the balance of power to create a juggernaut in another city?

It's not like the Marlins are unique in this player dumping phenomenon. No, they're just the latest and the most aggravating because they're allegedly defending their title.

Charlie Finley trade to sell his Oakland A's superstars for cash after they won three straight championships in the early '70s. The Pirates dumped Barry Bonds, Doug Drabek and Bonilla earlier this decade. Don't forget the Padres unloading Fred McGriff and Sheffield for songs.

Never before did I think I'd type these words, but thank goodness Ted Turner owns the Atlanta Braves.

There, I said it.

Do you think Turner would approve trading Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Chipper Jones for the lint in your pocket and some grout to be named later?

Turner understands simple baseball economics: To make money, you've got to spend money. Huizenga claims to have lost $35 million during the Marlins title run, so to alleviate his debt, he became the gutting owner.

And now baseball from Augusta to Arizona suffer. It only takes one bad apple to ruin the bushel.


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