It’s hard to understand sometimes what motivates people. Theoretically, this should be easier in sports; the goal should be to win a championship. That’s why a GM will spend hours on the phone hammering out trades and signings. It’s why a guy like Miguel Cabrera will move to a position he’s really not that great at to accommodate a new slugger. It’s why fans come to the ballpark. And for the Marlins, it’s why fans won’t come to the ballpark.
By now, we have Mark Attanasio pretty well figured out. He likes to win, and he’ll spend a lot of money to make that happen. Back in 2006, Attanasio and Doug Melvin handed Jeff Suppan the largest contract in franchise history, believing they were just a veteran pitcher away from the postseason. Since then, Yovani Gallardo, Ryan Braun, and Rickie Weeks are just a few of the Brewers handed big money to play in the Cream City. As Attanasio says every year when I renew my tickets, the team aims to be an annual contender. And fans have rewarded the team with big attendance numbers every season since 2008.
We generally take this for granted. But contrary to examples set by the Brewers and Tigers, some owners do not care about rings or even winning baseball. This has long been true of the Marlins. The Players Association has been after them for years for not spending enough on players, despite receiving a not insignificant amount of money through revenue sharing. The blockbuster trade that sent most of the Marlins’ recognizable players to the Blue Jays this week also sent over $163 million in guaranteed commitments. That is no accident. Next year, Loria will have one of the lowest payrolls in baseball, one of the most uncompetitive rosters, and a pocket full of other teams’ dough.
Our sister site Fish Stripes summed it up best:
"We can stay away as long as we want and as much as we want, but Loria will not lose enough money to make up for the fact that he will earn enough on revenue sharing and savings on contracts traded to come out ahead. For Loria, a long-term plan is not necessary for his profits to continue, which is why he and his front office have yet to have one come to fruition at any point in their reign."
Brewers fans may be justifiably critical of signings like Jeff Suppan and Eric Gagne and Randy Wolf (and maybe, heaven help us, Ryan Dempster in the future), but there’s a distinction to be made here. These are bad signings for the right reason. These gambles may have completely failed, but they were made with the good-faith belief that they would help the team earn a championship. They didn't, but the team has been closer these last years than at any time since 1982.
It’s entirely possible that the Brewers could have been sold to an owner like Jeffrey Loria, who only spends in anticipation of selling. Imagine that; no MVP Ryan Braun. No drafts that produced standouts like Yovani Gallardo and Jonathan Lucroy. No trades for Zack Greinke or Shaun Marcum. No playoffs. No chance of success. That’s worth remembering the next time the Brewers hand out a big contract that we just know will blow up in their faces.