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Eddie Altamonte

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http://www.miamiherald.com/588/story/66535.html

Dan Le Batard | Marlins right on the money
By Dan Le Batard
For all the public-relations blunders and all the historic cost-cutting and all the other things that have made local baseball fans swing wildly between indifferent and indignant, the Florida Marlins are run in a manner that makes dollars and sense.
Like all home openers, Friday night was both a party and a gift -- but those things always come with price tags. And although they are supposed to be about fresh-cut grass and clear skies and happy kids wearing hope-filled gloves, one game of possibility replacing 161 of reality, the banking is always married to the baseball in this town to produce this cold bottom line, even amid all the other warmth:

No discussion of the Marlins, or their future, is ever complete without talking money.

So, yes, the Philadelphia Phillies' Pat Burrell, Freddy Garcia and Jon Lieber combined will earn more this season than all 25 of Florida's players. That's three decent Phillies, not three transcendent ones, and that's the disadvantage the Marlins have just in their division. There is a lot of overcoming to be done when the Phillies, in Friday's 8-2 triumph, started the 18 years and 126 days of experience of pitcher Jamie Moyer against a Marlins lineup that didn't have that much big-league time one through nine.

But, regardless, the young and unknown Marlins were somehow only five games worse than the eventual World Series champions of Albert Pujols last year through 162 games. And the Marlins somehow got more production last year from the anonymous players who replaced the traded Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell (Anibal Sanchez and Hanley Ramirez) than Boston got from Beckett and Lowell at a cost of $20 million more.

The Marlins, given their limitations, are run in a fiscally responsible fashion while everyone else in baseball seems to make it rain money as recklessly as Pacman Jones. Look at the Baltimore Orioles. Haven't had a winning season in a decade while giving Miguel Tejada $72 million guaranteed. Other teams spill the Marlins' payroll over the bar on road trips, but the Marlins are competing without wasting a penny, while flailing franchises such as the Cubs and Giants overspend dumbly for Alfonso Soriano and Barry Zito without the promise of anything beyond future debt.

SHREWD APPROACH

''Unemotional'' is how team president David Samson described the philosophy of trading known names and refusing to lock up even the greatness of Miguel Cabrera long-term with guaranteed money.

And, though it isn't popular, it is awfully hard to argue that it isn't smart. For example, I wrote a few years ago that the Marlins should sign their starting young pitching staff long-term. But look at what has happened since.

Carl Pavano, 18-8 with a 3.00 ERA in his last year with the Marlins, got $40 million from the Yankees. He has been all of 4-6 in the three years since.

Electric arm A.J. Burnett got $55 million from the Blue Jays. He has given them a 10-9 record with an ERA near 5.00.

The Red Sox extended Josh Beckett at a possible $42 million. He gave them a 5.01 ERA last season and allowed more homers (36) than anyone.

Brad Penny has been the best buy of the bunch, and his $25 million has only gotten the Los Angeles Dodgers a 24-20 record.

That's $162 million, folks. And you can make the argument that the young, cheap starting staff of the Marlins has just as big a future as those guys once did. Cabrera and Pujols and Dontrelle Willis were unknown once, too, you know? Ryan Howard was anonymous right until he wasn't. Who knows how good Sanchez and Scott Olsen and Josh Johnson can really be?

EASY TO ROOT FOR

So 40,397 fans cheered possibility Friday. They roared and appreciated, even as catcher Miguel Olivo blew through a stop sign at third and got thrown out trying for a creative inside-the-park home run. The fans might have fled the ballpark in the seventh when the $13 million-a-year Burrell ended things with a three-run homer to make it 8-2, but Olivo was a symbol for this baby baseball team as he rounded those bases and made the crowd rise.

Cheap. Hungry. Passionate.

And wanting and wheezing in a way that makes his lungs burn while the rest of us wonder if we, too, can get our breath taken away.
 

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