- Hardcover: 314 pages
- Publisher: Mcgregor Hill Pub (March 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0965384683
- ISBN-13: 978-0965384681
- Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.2 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 19 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,441,967 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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If They Don't Win It's a Shame: The Year the Marlins Bought the World Series Hardcover – March, 1998
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From Kirkus Reviews
Freelance sportswriter Rosenbaum offers a breezy look at possibly the least successful champions in team sports history. Despite being in a large media market with a baseball-mad fan base, the refuse-hauling and video-rental tyro Wayne Huizenga's Miami-based Florida Marlins had trouble drawing and sustaining interest. Prior to the '97 season, Huizenga bet the farm, spending $89 million in contracts to get the best team money could buy. Huizenga signed a manager, Jim Leyland, who led teams to three division titles in the early '90s; some hefty bats, problem child Bobby Bonilla, and the quiet superstar, Moises Alou; and a couple of good arms, including Livn Hernndez and Alex Fernndez, to round out an already strong pitching staff. Standing in the way of the Marlins success were a few obstacles: first, the Atlanta Braves, National League champions for four of the five previous years. The second, and to Huizenga the most formidable, was Pro Player stadium, a venue woefully ill-suited to the realities of baseball in the late '90s. Simply put, the stadium was pitifully short of amenities such as deluxe concessionaires and luxury boxes that were deemed essential to garnering corporate support. Perhaps most damning of all, however, was the lack of a roofa must for keeping southern Florida's summer rains out. By building his team, he hoped to bring in fans, and in turn obtain financing for the new baseball stadium that could make the Marlins profitable (writes the author, ``If they come, maybe they'll build it''). During the season, the Marlins battled to a wildcard playoff spot, getting leadership from the unlikeliest places, notably from Bonilla. Despite finally vanquishing the Braves, winning the World Series, and being embraced by Miami's diverse communities, the Marlins still finished millions of dollars in the red (and no closer to a new stadium), thus necessitating a fire sale to dump star player salaries. An unflinching primer of sports economics and its new definitions of success. -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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But the Marlin's beat the odds in 1997 and won it all. Dave Rosenbaum's day-by-day account of this remarkable season is fun to read but too often not insightful. The subtitle says pretty much what the conventional wisdom is about the Marlins' success. As Rosenbaum demonstrates, the Marlins owner, Wayne Huizinga, invested heavily in the team to stock it with both established stars such as Bobby Bonilla, Gary Sheffield, Kevin Brown, Al Leiter, and Moises Alou, and young and talented players such as Edgar Renteria, Livon Hernandez, and Luis Castillo. He also brought in Jim Leyland to manage the team, a successful field leader who had taken the Pittsburgh Pirates to the playoffs in 1990, 1991, and 1992.
Huizinga spent a reported $89 million in player salaries that year. It was a lot of money for 1997, although it doesn't seem so high compared to current MLB franchise payrolls. Accordingly, Huizinga was criticized for "buying the World Series," a characterization that was no more appropriate in this case than in the New York Yankees dynasties of any time when their payrolls were much larger than most other teams. Certainly, no one said the Boston Red Sox bought the World Series in 2004 when they finally won it with a $127 million payroll, $57 million shy of the New York Yankees but still $15 million higher than any other MLB franchise. What made Huizinga different, perhaps, was his crass approach to that championship season. He announced that it was his intention to win it all, bringing in a lot of fans and building support for a new baseball-only stadium that he hoped would make the Marlins profitable in the long term. When this did not prove out, no sooner did the team succeed than Huizinga began a fire sale of stars, shedding payroll and allowing the Marlins' 1998 edition to finish last in the National League East with a 54-108 record. By 2000 only three players remained from the World Championship team and by 2002 the Marlins were rumored as one of the MLB teams being considered for "contraction," which would have been too bad, because in 2003 the team won its second World Series.
Dave Rosenbaum, a reporter who covered the Marlins in 1997, tells in excruciating detail the story of the 1998 "Cinderella" season and how it unfolded. He gives an insider account, in many respects from the level of the clubhouse. It is a good read--long on narrative but short on analysis--but worth the time.
The cast of characters are as motley as any you might find in a baseball clubhouse. Rosebaum, in the tradition of John Feinstein's, "Play Ball: The Life and Troubled Times of Major League Baseball," points outs the dichotomy between the game boys play and the business men participate in. Although the World Series ring is the prize, money is the focus. Which player can command what salary, and for how long.
Rosenbaum treats us to the behind-the-scenes look at the Marlins, for better or worse...as players and as men. Though, we see Marlin manager Jim Leyland as the benevolent baseball man, Rosenbaum portrays him as a kind of manic-depressant personality. Trying to reconcile the personas may prove challenging, but perhaps we know as fans of baseball, that winning the big games requires many emotions from the manager.
Following teams around and writing about the experiences is nothing new to baseball bibliography, but Rosenbaum provides an enlightening look at a team destined to win, and destined to be torn apart at the baseball seams.