Saturday, November 17, 2012

What a difference a week makes

Jeffrey Loria, owner of the Marlins
I take a week off from Late Innings and look what happens! The Toronto Blue Jays land themselves in not one huge controversy but two.

Huh? Controversy?

Yessir. We may all think that all they’ve done is to completely revamp the team, turning it into a potential World Series juggernaut, but let’s look behind the curtain a bit and see what else is going on.

In mid-season last year, the Red Sox did a classic salary dump, shipping several high-profile, high salary players to the Dodgers. It was very unpopular in Boston as it was viewed the team had thrown in the towel on the season and decided to go for last place in the Eastern Division. Was anything heard from Bug Selig about this? No. The trade went through right away, not a bump in the road.

Commissioner Bud Selig
Twice after winning the World Series, Miami has conducted a fire sale of expensive championship players at the height of their value to potential buyers on other teams. The Miami fans were livid. Did Bug Selig take any extra looks at these trades? No. They went through with nary a peep from the baseball commissioner.

Now this week, Jeffrey Loria has done the same thing again, but this time without the World Series trophy in his office. The huge deal with the Jays was announced on Tuesday and it still hasn’t received official approval from Selig. What’s going on? You really can’t believe that it’s all because Reyes is holidaying in the mideast, can you?

Miami was the recipient of a great deal of taxpayers largesse recently when Loria talked the city into providing most of the finances in the building of a new stadium for his club. How he managed this, we’ll never know. This is the same man who crumbled the Expos franchise in Montreal, greasing the skids for the team to wind up in Washington. He has proven himself to be not trustworthy several times in the past. And they’re surprised he’s proving untrustworthy once again?

Now, after a dreadful season where the Marlins, touted last winter to be World Series bound, wound up in the cellar of the NL East, the team is selling off almost all their high-priced talent. A few were traded during the season, notably Heath Bell, their closer, and now six more have supposedly been traded to the Jays. Yes, Loria has once again reneged on a covenant he made with the City of Miami and his team’s fans: to bring them a winner. Yes, they’ve one played the first year in their new playpen paid for mostly by the taxpayers. And yes, they had a truly disastrous season. But why is Selig putting the brakes on this trade at this time? The Marlins and the Jays just did in one move what Loria was planning to do anyway. What’s different?

Two things: Selig wants to at least appear that he’s concerned and possibly willing to do something about a deal that makes not only the Marlins and Loria look awful to their constituency – and all of the baseball world – but I don’t think he’s too happy about the Jays suddenly giving themselves a very good chance to finally return to the postseason.

It’s no secret that MLB would like to get the Jays franchise out of Canada, in much the same way the Expos move to Washington was engineered. It would make it easier for everyone concerned, south of the border. The American game would once more have all its major league teams in America. Teams wouldn’t need passports to play a weekend tilt north of the border. (For those readers south of the border, this is more for players to get back into the States, rather than entering Canada.)

In the end, what can Selig do but approve the trade? Both teams’ dealers are big boys who understand the business of baseball. Bug can’t approve part of the deal. It’s going to be all or nothing here. Additionally, he really can’t stop it without an awful lot of tough questions being asked about where he was and what he was doing when Boston did the same thing with Los Angeles – in mid-season, no less – to a contending team! So ultimately, I don’t think he’ll want to go there. Loria did nothing different than Red Sox owner John W. Henry, who, interestingly, was the previous owner of the Marlins and presided over their first fire sale.

As for the second controversy, word got out yesterday that the Jays had come to a two-year agreement with infamous “drug addict” Melky Cabrera, suspended by the league for 50 games and then dropped by the Giants at the end of the season because he was caught using testosterone.

Melky Cabrera
Will Cabrera use performance-enhancing drugs again? I doubt it. The risk is too great. I believe the Jays made a good signing here and addressed another of the needs of the club: a quality player in left field. Even though he’ll probably not put up the kind of numbers he was putting up last season, Cabrera should be a definite upgrade to what the Jays’ were looking at. They got him for very little and he could make a big difference to the final results next fall.

An interesting fact with Melky is that his power numbers weren’t that impressive last season when he was on the juice. All the testosterone in the world won’t help you to see the ball better and bump your batting average up to the league-high levels where he had them.

If he can keep hitting the ball with the frequency he did last year, Cabrera will be a huge help to the Jays offense. Unless he totally bombs out as a player, it’s a good signing. Cabrera certainly has something to prove.

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