I Like Turtles: Marlins Do the Small Things Right

Jeffrey Loria ExposThe turtle survives not by any particularly noticeable natural ability. Not on account of its strength, speed, or any other tangible asset. Indeed, no great poetic alliterations or epics are dedicated to the turtle. No great works of art. The turtle survives because of its awareness. Once it is threatened, it withdraws into its protective shell and allows its predators to attack, waste their energy, and then give up and walk away. When one looks at Jeffrey Loria, one can’t help but think of a turtle. His facial features seem to suggest those of a turtle – and this isn’t to say this is a negative quality. Think of the nature of a turtle – they are cautious, slow. When attacked, they retract within their shell. They hide.

Think about the Marlins and their recent moves. The rumbling for years has been that Hanley Ramirez was a prima donna who could sink a clubhouse. Finally, after a couple of seasons he was dealt. Then the rest of the players acquired last season were dealt. The turtle withdrew in his shell and he won’t be coming out until the coast is clear again.

Let’s face it, it wasn’t the spending of the money that was the problem. It was the allocation of the money on players who didn’t perform. The most glaring of these examples is John Buck and Heath Bell. So the turtle, feeling the shadow of a threat pulled the trigger on a deal.

I Like TurtlesYet, there is something the Marlins always seem to do well, and that is comb through other’s trash and find gems. Like a turtle, they, too, live close to the ground. Dan Uggla was a Rule 5 pick. Dontrelle Willis. Jorge Cantu. Todd Jones. Justin Ruggiano. They always seem to find guys who can contribute after being written off. They also seem to find guys who can over-achieve within a defined role. John Cangelosi, Darren Daulton. Lenny Harris. Mike Mordecai. Wes Helms.

Right now the Marlins are adding again using small parts. Nick Green, Matt Downs, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Austin Kearns. They’re bringing back Ryan Webb. They signed Mike Wuertz to a minor league contract.

This is the true nature of this franchise. They will not be able to spend their way to the top – they seem almost uncomfortable with this spotlight. They are more comfortable with tinkering, tweaking. Gradually building. No big sweeps, no high risk, high reward. They are a cautious bunch, moving slowly like the turtle. The difference is that they can afford to keep the players they built up – such as a Giancarlo Stanton. They can retain the players that they had to deal in the past – like Mike Lowell, Josh Beckett, MIguel Cabrera, and even Dontrelle Willis.

So liken the Fish to a reptile. In Loria they have the nature of a turtle, a deliberate and cautious creature that will not venture a short term risk for long term security. Expect the Marlins to continue to tinker and build. Yet once they get to the top, expect them to hold it through caution and great awareness.