Friday, March 03, 2006

Don't Let the Door Hit You on the Way Out

Miami is going to lose their baseball team after the 2007 season. This is the team that has brought South Florida its only professional sports championships in the past 30 years. Do you think that anyone in Miami cares? Do you think they're sweating at the prospect of losing the Marlins? Absolutely not. They aren't even in the conversation to save the team. Local officials have summarily dismissed the Marlins requests for a new downtown stadium. The only time that anyone in Miami cares about the team is when they are in the playoffs. And I mean in the playoffs. A playoff race does not count. They would play in front of fewer than 10,000 fans during day games when they were in the middle of the playoff race last year.

The $64,000 question is how did we get here? Miami was supposed to be a no brainer for baseball. The weather is great, there's a large baseball loving Hispanic population, the local teams have many loyal supporters, it seemed like Baseball would be an instant hit. It only took the Marlins 5 years to win their first World Series. Red Sox and White Sox fans waited for over 80 years to get a World Series victory.

The team was dismantled and suffered through a horrible season after winning in 1997 and perhaps most will point to that as the reason that the team was never embraced. The ownership did not build on the championship and perhaps alienated their most loyal fans. Since '97 when they were fifth in the NL in attendance, they have failed to finish higher than 14th out of 16 in any season. And they have in fact finished 15th for six out of the past seven years. I know that there may be some lingering bitterness over the fire sale of '97, but this team won the World Series in '03! They have been in contention for a wild card or division title for the past two years. This has made very little impact on the "fans' in South Florida.

I've heard lots of reasons why Baseball has not been successful in South Florida, including that there's just too much to do. I guess the people in NY, Chicago, LA, Dallas, San Francisco, San Diego, etc, have nothing to do in those boring cities. How they long for Baseball to take them away from the endless drudgery that is their allotted city. I don't think that anyone can come up with a definitive reason of why Baseball failed in South Florida. My suspicion is that Miami is filled with transplants from other places. Whether it's snowbirds from up north or Immigrants from the south. Most show up with team affiliations already ingrained. They simply are not looking for another team to embrace. They will make the occasional trip to see a live baseball game, but there's no passion. TV now allows everyone to follow his or her favorite teams.

The only real team that South Florida supports is the Dolphins. They seem to be immune from the whims of the transitory population. Trust me on this one. I remember when no one cared about the Hurricanes, or the Heat. It seems that if it's the trendy thing to do, people in Miami will hop on for the ride. But they are just as eager to hop off when the ride's over. Sure, they'll support the Marlins in the playoffs, but they really can't be bothered during the regular season.

Miami really doesn't deserve a Baseball team. There are other markets that will support this team. Markets where Baseball means something other than being at the cool place to be seen by others. It's sad because it'll be a while before MLB tries to put another team in Miami. A whole generation of Miami kids will have to travel to Tampa to see Major League Baseball (and I'm not going to make any crack about the quality of baseball in Tampa). Miami isn't going to miss the Marlins. It'll just wait for the next cool thing and jump on for the ride.

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