AS WEALTH continues to concentrate in the hands of a few and sports franchises become as coveted as Modiglianis, teams have in recent years passed (at hefty premiums) from mere centimillionaires to billionaires. The Dodgers and the Cubs, for instance, now belong to ownership groups bent on winning and nothing else, whatever the payroll cost. The Red Sox, Yankees, Tigers and Giants, among others, have operated that way for years. Surely Marlins fans thought this year they would be stumbling into the same spoils. The villainous Jeffrey Loria, who had run them with a mixture of false hope and fire sales, was selling the team, and the winning bid had as its public face the foremost avatar of winning in baseball: Derek Jeter.
While the Marlins were not a safe bet to become South Florida's Yankees overnight, there was even less reason to think the Marlins would send Giancarlo Stanton ... to the Yankees. But that is exactly what they did, trading the reigning MVP for Starlin Castro and prospects.
The warning signs had appeared before season's end: Conveniently timed reports emerged that the Marlins were hemorrhaging money and needed to cut payroll. A pitch deck to potential minority investors mentioned that the club would seek "player payroll discipline" for "enhanced financial flexibility."
All seemed to foretell a Stanton trade. But the idea was still hard to fathom. Why liberate the Marlins from Jeffrey Loria, only to turn into Jeffrey Loria?
There is a legitimate baseball defense for the trade. Stanton is coming off his best-ever season; Miami is selling high. The team hasn't made the playoffs since 2003. Any contention plan would have required heavy free-agent investment. Miami, though, can claim to be in a better strategic position after the trade than they were before.
To hell with all that. The worst owner in baseball was finally replaced, and his replacements waited two months before embarking on another signature Marlins fire sale. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.