Florida has two professional baseball franchises. The Tampa Bay Rays, formerly the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, are one. The Miami Marlins, formerly the Florida Marlins, are the other.
If you scrutinize what both teams have done over the past decade or so, you would probably agree that they’re on very different trajectories. The Rays have come within an eyelash of winning the World Series on more than one occasion. The Marlins, meanwhile, are a franchise that other pro baseball teams use to pad their records.
As we head straight for the 2022 season, we’ll look at baseball’s state and that of both Florida baseball teams as well.
The Miami Marlins
Getting full compensation for an injury in Florida means you have to know about the laws there. Even if you’re not a lawyer, though, you’d probably admit that Derek Jeter dealt the Marlins a devastating blow during the offseason.
Jeter was a minority team stakeholder, as he had been for several years. However, he abruptly pulled out of team ownership a few weeks ago.
The former Yankee great and Hall of Famer essentially said that he felt he did not have as much control over team decision-making as he once assumed he would. Jeter needed something to do in his retirement, which is why his signing on and joining the ownership group made sense. If the rest of the Marlins team ownership wasn’t paying any attention to one of the greatest shortstops to ever play the game, him leaving was just as logical.
Now that Jeter’s gone, Florida baseball fans have to face the prospect of another grim season. The team finished with a dismal record of 67-95 last year, dead last in the National League Central. That’s just about par for the course with them.
There’s no reason to think that the Marlins will be any better in 2022. Their team composition features odds and ends. The Mets got better in the offseason, as did the Phillies. Another last-place finish seems more than likely.
Even if the Marlins ever produce a superstar player, like Dontrelle Willis or Giancarlo Stanton, they never stay with the team for very long. Stanton was the last real reason to watch the Marlins, and he left for New York multiple years ago.
The Tampa Bay Rays
Many pundits say that professional baseball is a copycat league, and there’s a lot about the Tampa Bay Rays that’s worth copying. They seem to always find professional managerial talent like they did with Joe Madden before he left for greener pastures. They also seem to do more with less payroll than just about any other team.
The Rays organization seems to be brilliant when finding and cultivating cheap, homegrown players. They did it with Chris Archer and Evan Longoria. They did it with Carl Crawford, BJ Upton, David Price, and Ben Zobrist.
The Rays always seem to be right in the thick of the American League East, even though they play several games every year with perennial powerhouses the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. They nearly beat the Dodgers in the World Series back in 2020, even though the Dodgers payroll dwarfed that of Tampa.
You could make the argument that only some controversial pitching decisions in Game 7 of the 2020 World Series cost the Rays the franchise’s first championship. Much like you can count on the Marlins being garbage again this year, you can probably rely on the Rays to be right there with Boston and New York as the 2022 regular season kicks into gear in just a few days.
Baseball’s State as the Season Begins
The collective bargaining agreement process that finished up just a few days ago left a bad taste in many fans’ mouths. Many seemed to feel like Major League Baseball, in general, needed to read the room.
The pandemic is not over, and even though ballparks allow full attendance again going into the 2022 season, fans can vividly remember all those empty seats and missed games during the abbreviated, 60-game 2020 campaign. Baseball lifted everyone’s spirits when it came back for a couple of months in the late summer of 2020, and many spoke on social media about how it was one more thing among many that they had missed.
To see players and owners arguing with each other seemed to make some fans furious. It’s just the millionaires arguing with the billionaires, some said. That might be somewhat of an oversimplification, but essentially, that was correct. Both sides had plenty of time to get on the same page before they started losing regular-season games, but they came very close to allowing that to happen.
Baseball will kick off on April 7th, only a few days later than was originally anticipated. Probably, the collective bargaining process did not cost the game any permanent fans. Anyone complaining right now will likely forget all about it once we’re a few weeks into the season and start progressing from the cold, wintery April days to the balmy late summer ones that form the sport’s arguably most enjoyable stretch.
As for the Rays and Marlins, you’re probably going to see more of the same that you’ve seen for the past ten years or so. The Rays seem able to do so much more with less than the hapless Marlins. Now, the team from Miami doesn’t even have any added prestige from Jeter in the front office.
The Marlins ownership can’t very well say that they cannot win with a much smaller payroll because the Rays seem able to do it every year. Teams in the Marlins’ division and outside of it will likely pummel them, much like the Reds, Orioles, and Tigers fans have learned to expect from their squads.
If you live in Florida and you’re a baseball fan, it’s usually feast or famine, depending on whether you call Saint Petersburg or Miami home. This year should be no exception.