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A Blast from the Past


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I ran across this in Google and found it strangely reminiscent of what we are going through today. Deja vu (all over again).


Huizenga threatens to throw back costly Marlins

Associated Press



MIAMI -- Smoking cigars and gulping champagne, the Florida Marlins basked

in a noisy clubhouse celebration and shrugged off an uncertain future.


Wayne Huizenga might turn off the cash flow that built the world champion



"We just won the World Series," rookie Craig Counsell said. "I'm going to

enjoy this until somebody tells me not to."


Wayne Huizenga may soon give the word: The party's over.


The billionaire owner is threatening to break up his team, complaining that

he lost $34 million this year even though the Marlins won the World Series.

Unless taxpayers build a new ballpark for the world champions, Huizenga

said, the team payroll will drop below $20 million next year from $54

million this season.

That means Gary Sheffield and Alex Fernandez, who have no-trade clauses in

their contracts, could be the only millionaire players returning next

season. And Fernandez, who faced surgery Tuesday to repair a torn rotator

cuff, may be unavailable in 1998.


Only the Pittsburgh Pirates were below $20 million this year. If the Marlins

drop to that level, salaries for Sheffield ($10 million in 1998) and

Fernandez ($7 million) would leave less than $3 million for the other 23



Kevin Brown? Moises Alou? Bobby Bonilla? Jeff Conine? Robb Nen? Devon White?

Al Leiter? All could be gone if Huizenga follows through on his threat.


The manager might be gone, too. Jim Leyland, who fled Pittsburgh because of

the tight budget there, has said a drastic payroll reduction could prompt

him to leave the Marlins after just one season, but he doesn't plan to work

elsewhere in 1998.


"If I'm managing, it's going to be in South Florida," Leyland said.


The prospect of Huizenga dismantling the Marlins probably will be applauded

around the country. Widely viewed as a checkbook team rather than a

storybook team, the 5-year-old Marlins are unpopular champions beyond South

Florida, and particularly in cities that have waited decades for a World

Series title.


Just ask fans in Boston and Chicago.


Or Cleveland.


The Marlins finished off the Indians in dramatic fashion shortly after

midnight Monday, when Edgar Renteria's two-out, bases-loaded single in the

11th inning completed a 3-2 victory in Game 7.


Florida won because Huizenga has committed $175 million to long-term

contracts since the end of the 1996 season. Now he wants to cash in on the

euphoria of Miami's first professional sports championship since the 1972-73

Dolphins won back-to-back Super Bowls.


Huizenga put the Marlins up for sale in June, but he said Saturday he'll

keep the franchise if taxpayers build him a new ballpark that could cost

$350 million or more. A stadium with a retractable roof to eliminate the

threat of rain would improve attendance, increase team revenue and allow the

Marlins to remain competitive, Huizenga said.

"If we get a new stadium, then we can have a higher payroll," he said.

Huizenga said he'll meet soon with local politicians, but his chances of

winning their support are uncertain. And with the expansion draft just three

weeks away, decisions about the team payroll must be made soon so the

Marlins can plan their 1998 roster.


Next year, Florida will likely be without White, 34; Leiter, 31; Darren

Daulton, 35; and Conine, 31, who has been with the Marlins since their first

game in 1993. Bonilla and Brown could also be gone. Less likely to depart

are Alou and Nen.


"I think this is going to be a real solid club for the next five years,"

Leyland said. "We got pretty good reviews in the minor leagues this year.

This organization looks real healthy to me with the combination of what we

have and the guys ready to step in."


But what the Marlins have may not be around much longer. Built to finish

first, they might not be built to last.


It leaves me wondering when was the last time a team had an on-field salary of less than $20M.

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