Anatomy of a Firesale

By Gus Bode

The one word baseball fans hate to hear around their team, but love to hear about their rivals.

For those of you who don’t know a firesale is, it is when your team decides it won’t be competing this year or next and in order to save money trades away all of the expensive players to contending teams.

Being a fan of the Florida Marlins, I feel I am an expert when it comes to firesales.


The Marlins underwent one of the most disgraceful firesales of all time when it auctioned off its 1997 World Series Championship team.

By the end of the next season, the Marlins had sold off starting pitchers Kevin Brown, Al Leiter and Livan Hernandez; bullpen arms Robb Nen, Jay Powell, Felix Heredia, Jay Powell, Ed Vosberg and Dennis Cook; and fielders Gary Sheffield, Moises Alou, Devon White, Bobby Bonilla, Edgar Renteria, Craig Counsell, Jeff Conine, Charles Johnson, Jim Eisenreich, Greg Zaun, Kurt Abbott and Alex Arias.

For those of you who are no good at math – like myself – that comes out to 21 of the 25 players on the roster during the World Series lacing up for new teams by the end of the next season.

Now, even though the Marlins payroll is still relatively small, new owner Jeffrey Loria, formerly of the notorious penny-pinching Expos, feels the team needs to be torn apart.

Players such as Cliff Floyd, Ryan Dempster, Brad Penny, Luis Castillo, Preston Wilson, Derrek Lee, Vic Darensbourg, Eric Owens and Julian Tavarez are bring actively shopped around to the highest bidder.

In an ironic twist, two of them, Floyd and Dempster, have been rumored to be going to the Expos.

Being that my favorite team is on the verge of its second firesale in a five-year span, I have compiled a list of five necessities to executing a successful firesale.


Any owners thinking of having one should start listening now.

1. Trade away your most popular players first.

This step is vital because if you trade away the most popular players right away the fans won’t care as much when the rest go.

They will already hate the owners and will be partially numbed when the rest are shipped out of town.

The Marlins worked this one perfectly in 1997 when it shipped Alou to the Houston Astros a few weeks after its victory parade.

This time around, they are likely to do it again with Dempster, the team clown. The 25-year-old ace is best known for his Chris Farley impersonations that he has shown on programs such as The Best Damn Sports Show Period when he acted out the motivational speaker.

2. Always get the worse end of the deal and when possible, send your most expensive players to the New York Yankees.

This is another one the Marlins did well, trading the likes of Brown and getting just Lee and two pitchers who barely made it to AAA in return.

Sending the players to the Yankees isn’t necessarily needed for a firesale.

Everyone knows the Yankees just buy whatever overpriced player they want anyway, so this is just a way to make things easier on everyone.

3. Ask the fans to be patient while all the mediocre prospects you received in return develop into mediocre professionals.

Just about every team’s fans have heard this one.

“We just need to be patient. We have a young team, and it’s going to take these guys some time to realize their potential.”

Yeah they need time, but the fans also need time to sit on their couch eating the night away as a bunch of rookies go out and try to hit a Pedro Martinez fastball or try to sneak a change-up past Sammy Sosa.

4. Once the team starts to actually produce on the field, raise your ticket prices and ask the city to build you a brand new state-of-the-art stadium.

This is when the owners and general managers try to sell the fans on how the team has such a bright future and how they need to increase revenues so they can afford to keep the players long-term.

Teams will threaten to trim payroll or move if they aren’t granted a new stadium and attempt to hold the franchise for ransom.

Even though the stadium may be perfectly fine, owners can always find a way to complain about one thing or another and say they can’t stay competitive under the current circumstances.

5. When the players are due for a raise, trade them away and return to step No. 1.

Even if they do get the new stadium, cheap owners such as Loria don’t want to pay players too much money when that cash can go straight to their own bank accounts.

This is when they decide they need to scrap the current team and start over from scratch.

They’ll tell the fans they’re keeping an eye open towards the future, and that the moves are in the best interest of the team.

This is when fans climb the nearest building and jump in hopes of ending the madness.

However, before you head out to Mae Smith or Neely Hall, I also have five ways a fan can overcome the firesale and keep some semblance of sanity.

1. Only buy jerseys without names on the back.

As long as your jersey doesn’t have a name on the back, that player can’t be traded.

You’re never going to hear about …. being traded to the Yankees or Expos.

As long as the franchise still exists, the nameless jersey will still be accurate.

2. Take signs to the ballgame that read, “Fan traded to [insert name of most recent trade partner] for a package of hot dog buns.” Put signs in empty seats and trust me, there will be several.

It’s a way to protest the way the owners and general managers seemingly could care less about the fans.

Nothing is more embarrassing to an owner than turning on the TV and seeing his stadium filled with signs calling him out as an uncaring tightwad.

Besides, you never know, you could end up on Sportscenter or some other TV sports show for your cleverness.

3. Take up voodoo and make little dolls of your team’s owner and general manager and grow into a daily routine of torturing the dolls as often as possible.

This helps you take out your aggression without having to beat up little kitties or old ladies in wheel chairs.

Plus there’s always the chance you might actually get the voodoo thing right and inflict some serious pain on either the owner or the GM.

Not only would that erase some of the pain of watching your favorite team go into the crapper, fellow fans might consider you to be their new god and build a statue outside of the stadium dedicated to you.

4. Develop a drinking habit to help numb the pain.

This is in case you can’t figure out the voodoo and need some other way of dealing with the pitiful performance of your squad.

The players might actually seem to be good if you’re watching the game while plastered.

Hell, why do you think the Chicago Cubs sell out every game?

The fans don’t know their team is horrible because they’re trashed.

5. Have the same mentality as that of a Cubs fan. “Just wait till next year.”

This is the final step and one you can use year after year after year.

No matter how pitiful your team is, as long as you say wait till next year, there is always hope, even if it takes a century to return to being a championship caliber team.

If these steps don’t help, you can always turn to either the WNBA or watch World’s Strongest Man reruns until the NFL rolls back around.

Reporter Jens Deju can be reached at [email protected]