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Can somebody post Buster Olney's article . . .


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he plan the Marlins have formulated might be based on sound economic philosophy. It could be that in trading Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell, Carlos Delgado, Luis Castillo and Juan Pierre, they might be in a better position to contend for a championship in a few years. Perhaps a pitching prospect they get in a deal with the Rangers will develop into the next Josh Beckett.


But there is always a larger price when you go about the business of conducting a fire sale in baseball, and the Marlins are barreling down that course.


Both the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Dallas Morning News are reporting today that the Rangers have agreed to kick in one of their top pitching prospects to make a Josh Beckett deal happen. The Red Sox have a pitching prospect to deal, but not the established player to match a Hank Blalock, as Tony Massarotti writes.


I shared coverage of the Padres in 1993, and as they discussed trading Gary Sheffield and Fred McGriff and Greg Harris and Bruce Hurst, I was familiar with some of the young players they considered, as a loyal reader of Baseball America.


Scouts loved the strong arm of a converted infielder named Trevor Hoffman, and when the Padres swapped Sheffield for Hoffman and a couple of other prospects, it seemed like there was a chance Hoffman could be an effective reliever for years to come. When San Diego swapped Harris in a package to Colorado and got back a minor-league catcher named Brad Ausmus, a baseball geek like myself could recognize that it wasn't as one-sided a trade as it might appear on paper.


But what I did not fully comprehend, as someone relatively new to covering Major League Baseball, was the enormous damage that was done to the Padres' franchise by the San Diego fire sale. By dumping Sheffield and McGriff and Tony Fernandez and other expensive players, the Padres broke an implied covenant with the fan base, because they were, in essence, making it clear to the whole industry: We are not trying to win.


The last months of the 1993 season was ugly, with some games physically attended by hundreds -- rather than thousands -- of fans. Some days, Jack Murphy Stadium felt like a high school field, with the shouts of one or two loud fans heard throughout the park. It wasn't until the team was sold a year later that the Padres began to rebound, and even after success in 1996 and 1998, the fans never seemed to fully trust the situation, which delayed the club's effort to get a new ballpark. It was if they kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, and have been very slow to trust since then.


The Montreal Expos went through a fire sale once baseball resumed at the conclusion of the 1994-95 strike, and as we know now, they never recovered. The Marlins unloaded most of their stars after winning the World Series in 1997, and like the Padres, their recovery didn't come until after there was a change in ownership.


Marlins executives Jeffrey Loria and David Samson have been frustrated in their attempts to get a new ballpark, and they wouldn't choose this course unless they faced some serious financial concerns. It's their business, and they have the right to run it how they see fit.


But the process promises to inflict damage on the franchise that the Marlins will have to overcome in the future, and raises more questions about the team's long-term viability in South Florida.


If the Marlins deal Beckett, they want a top pitching prospect in return. Dave Hyde defends the Marlins' decision to cut payroll, saying there simply aren't enough paying fans.


The Mets could benefit from the Marlins' fire sale, but not necessarily by landing Carlos Delgado.

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