It is not easy rooting for the Florida Marlins. Sure, they have won as many World Series titles as anyone in baseball, except the New York Yankees, since they came into existence in 1993. And sure, they field competitive teams each year, despite payrolls that rank consistently near the bottom. And sure, they feature one of the great young pitchers in the game, fireballer Josh Johnson, and the most promising young slugger to reach the majors in many summers, 21-year old Mike Stanton, who last year belted 21 home runs in 51 minor league games before being promoted to The Show and swatting an additional 22 four-baggers for the major league team.
The Marlins are young, talented and fun to watch. Yet something happens each year to remind us that, until they inaugurate their new stadium in 2012, they will remain second-class citizens. Last year, the team moved several of its home games to Puerto Rico, depriving the loyal 5,000 fans who regularly attend games in South Florida of a three game home series against the New York Mets. This year they are again moving a home series, but the reason is different from last year’s efforts to tap the San Juan market.
Earlier today Major League Baseball announced that the weekend series scheduled in South Florida between the Marlins and the Mariners to commence June 24 is being displaced by a U2 concert. The games will be moved to Seattle where, despite facing what will assuredly be a pro-Mariners crowd, the Marlins will be the “home” team.
What In The Name Of Love is going on here? The Marlins will travel nearly 3400 miles to the farthest point of the continental United States to face a hostile crowd and will be considered the “home” team? Let us put this in perspective. The Marlins will be the “home” team in a city they seldom visit. They will undoubtedly be unfamiliar with the area surrounding Safeco Field. As far as the Marlins are concerned they will be playing Where The Streets Have No Name – at least no name they recognize.
One could understand the management of Sun Life Stadium, which the Marlins usually call home, agreeing to host a concert on a date when there will assuredly be no conflicts, say New Year’s Day - but in the middle of the baseball season? Clearly the Marlins are being disrespected. In their present stadium they will always play second fiddle to the Dolphins (Miami will always be primarily a football city) no matter how much they Desire something different.
I keep waiting for the day when things will change, when the Marlins franchise will get the local respect it deserves. Yet, after seventeen years of waiting, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.
Perhaps the change will come next year, when the team moves into its new, retractable-roof stadium in Little Havana. Until then, however, our roving band of wanderers will have to accept the baseball gods’ decision to send them packing to a “home” in enemy territory. And, if they are swept by the Mariners in what is likely to be the Marlins’ only home series ever in the state of Washington, and miss the playoffs by a single game, they may look back with regret to the final game of the series and wonder whether, if circumstances differed, they might have been able to avoid what may become their Sunday Bloody Sunday.