The good news for Miami Marlins fans headed to spring training? There are no more "super premium" games on the Grapefruit League schedule.
The bad news, of course, is everything else for the few dozen faithful of Major League Baseball’s most irrelevant franchise.
It’s not even Opening Day and the Marlins are making fools of themselves, which isn’t necessarily ahead of schedule. The Sunshine State’s pathetic baseball franchise is up in arms because the Red Sox arrived at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla. on Thursday with a lineup that looked more like something you’d see while sipping on a Del’s in Pawtucket.
The MLB spring training rules stipulate that travelling teams field a lineup with a "minimum of four players who were regulars on the previous year’s major league team or who were platooned on the previous year’s major league team on a regular basis, or who have a reasonable chance to be regulars on the major league club’s squad during the upcoming season. Each of those regulars, excluding pitchers, must play a minimum of three complete innings."
The only two players in Boston’s lineup Thursday with any major league experience Thursday were Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Ryan Lavarnway.
The Marlins were 62-100 a year ago, which means nobody was looking up to them except the 111-loss Houston Astros. Only Tampa Bay (18,645), which fielded a playoff team, had a worse average attendance in 2013 than the Marlins (19,584), despite a new ballpark for which the franchise fleeced Miami-Dade County to pay the majority of the bill. Some $376.3 million, plus another $132.5 million from the city of Miami proper.
So, when Marlins executives were reportedly "outraged" over the Sox’ presentation, according to the Florida Sun-Sentinel (whose Juan C. Rodriguez called the matter a "gross violation"), the reaction has to be taken with a certain level of amusement. After all, what the hell do the Marlins know about a major league lineup?
Let’s cut through the BS, OK, Miami? This wasn’t about the "rules." It was about perception, a trait we all assumed you had surrendered the positivity to long ago anyway.
The Marlins installed a pricing tier structure to this spring’s games at Roger Dean Stadium. Looking to make an extra buck via fans off travelling teams, or their own fans who just want to remember what major league baseball looks like; Miami raised prices for games against the Tigers, Mets, and Nationals, classified as “premium” games.” Prices for those games went from $28 to $32 for field box seats, $26 to $30 for loge, $15 to $20 for bleachers, and $8 to $12 for standing room only.
The Red Sox’ arrival in Jupiter was dubbed a "super premium" game. Tickets were priced $8-$12 more than regular games.
Because the Marlins were trying to siphon their patrons based on empty expectations, the Red Sox lineup must have surprised some in the front office who probably expected David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, and heck, maybe even Jon Lester to make the two-and-a-half hour journey across the dregs of Florida. The box office made the assumption that they’d have prime time appearances on their hands, and when they ended up with an early-morning infomercial, they reacted the way they always seem to do when there’s a mix of egg and embarrassment dripping from their suntanned mugs: They complained to MLB.
If the Marlins had static ticket prices, you think there’s any way they have a problem with what transferred? No way. Is John Farrell supposed to fill the bus with particulars that will make the Marlins and their fans happy, because, you know, SUPER PREMIUM?
As it turns out, 6,427 fans showed up, short of a sellout for the 7,000-seat capacity ballpark. "At least the Marlins were considerate enough to wear their full regular season home whites to give the game a semi-major league feel," Rodriguez wrote. Losers.
This kind of reminds me of the 2005 NFL preseason when the Carolina Panthers were out for "revenge" against the Patriots for their Super Bowl loss the previous February in Houston. When Podunk gets a taste of the big time, it can be intoxicating to the point of drunken embarrassment. Since they can’t provide a star-struck atmosphere, might as well take advantage of your fans when it comes to you.
The MLB mandate about fielding a proper team in spring training is sort of akin to jaywalking. Nobody is ever going to call someone out for disregarding the rules. Except when you’re the Miami Marlins, and you make promises you can’t keep or expect to rely on. In other words, status quo.
I’m sure the Red Sox are devastated that they spoiled the party in Jupiter on Thursday. Maybe once the Marlins franchise is something relevant in Las Vegas or Portland, Ore., while Miami’s deplorable palace sits uninhabited and mortgaged, we’d care a bit more.
The Marlins visit the Cardinals on Friday. St. Louis has also instituted the "super premium" sales option this spring. Miami, however, is just another "regular" game.
Maybe the Marlins can whine about that too.