LAKELAND, Fla. — Chaos has seemingly surrounded the Miami Marlins from the time they began play as an expansion team in 1993.
There have been spending sprees, roster teardowns, two World Series titles, 100-loss seasons, plenty of empty seats and a triumvirate of controversial owners in Wayne Huizenga, John Henry and Jeffrey Loria.
Last week, it seemed Loria had a deal in place to sell the team to an ownership group led by Joshua Kushner, a 31-year-old businessman whose older brother, Jared, is a son-in-law of and adviser to President Donald Trump.
However, the deal is now unlikely to happen amid reports that Trump plans to name Loria as the United States’ ambassador to France. The Kushner family believes ownership of the Marlins would become complicated because of the potential tie between Trump and Loria.
If Loria does relocate to Paris and become an absentee owner, his stepson, team president David Samson, would presumably take control of the team.
It’s all enough to make anyone’s head spin. However, Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill smiled Thursday when asked about the situation during Major League Baseball’s Grapefruit League Media Day at the Detroit Tigers’ spring training facility.
“You just keep focused on your job and that goes for us in the front office, the guys on the coaching staff and the players,” Hill said. “It’s like we’ve told the players, it’s all just noise. It’s out of all our control so there is no sense thinking about it.”
The Marlins, of course, went through something much worse late last season when star pitcher Jose Fernandez died in a boating accident.
“We already had a very tight-knit group in our clubhouse before Jose’s death and it’s only gotten tighter in the aftermath,” Hill said. “They aren’t going to let (the ownership situation) this bother them. When you lose a leader, a teammate and a dear friend like Jose, it puts things very much into perspective.”
There had long been a sense that the Ilitch family might sell the Tigers after Mike, the family patriarch and team owner, passed away despite the team announcing a succession plan last May in which son Chris would eventually take over as the franchise’s control person.
Chris Ilitch has long been involved with running the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings as president of Ilitch Holdings and was said to like hockey much more than baseball.
However, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said the family is committed to continuing to own the Tigers following Mike Ilitch’s death last Friday at 87.
“Chris has become increasingly involved in Major League Baseball activities, attending owners meetings, starting about the time that I became commissioner,” said Manfred, entering his third season on the job. “He’s been a positive force. Obviously, he has great sports background because of the hockey side, where he’s been more involved historically. I think the Tigers are in really good hands.”
Tigers general manager Al Avila agreed with Manfred’s assessment.
“He’s a very intelligent businessman,” Avila said. “He’s very organized, very disciplined, he knows what he’s doing.”
The St. Louis Cardinals suffered a big blow earlier this week it was determined that rookie right-hander Alex Reyes, one of the top prospects in baseball, would need season-ending Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery.
The 22-year-old went 4-1 with a 1.57 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 12 games, including five starts, last season. His fastball averaged 96.2 mph and he had 52 strikeouts in 46 innings.
Reyes was supposed to compete with Mike Leake and Michael Wacha for the final two spots in the starting rotation behind Carlos Martinez, Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn. However, Reyes and Leake seemed like locks, which meant Wacha would have headed to the bullpen.
Wacha will now be counted on after going 7-7 with a 5.09 ERA and 1.47 WHIP in 27 games, including 24 starts, last season while battling shoulder problems. He was 26-14 with a 3.21 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 64 games in his first three seasons from 2013-15.
“It’s all about health for him because he’s got no-hit stuff when he’s right,” a scout from an NL team. “How he pitches is going to make a major impact on their season. They are going to need him to pitch like he did in 2015 when he won 17 games if they are going to catch the Cubs in the National League Central this year.”
Best wishes to Ron Gardenhire, who is taking a leave of absence in his first year as the Arizona Diamondbacks’ bench coach to receive treatment for prostate cancer.
The longtime Minnesota Twins’ manager is one of the more popular people in the game with his friendly nature and sharp sense of humor. That upbeat attitude can only help in his fight against the dreaded disease.