Dear Bruce Sherman: Miami Marlins fans would welcome Miami Dolphins scenario

So far this offseason, the Miami Marlins owner continues to ignore how much the short-term matters to his customers.
Arizona Diamondbacks v Miami Marlins
Arizona Diamondbacks v Miami Marlins / Jasen Vinlove/Miami Marlins/GettyImages

As another Miami Dolphins season came to an end Saturday night without a playoff victory, I couldn't help but think of the Miami Marlins.

And not just because that's been a winter tradition of South Florida sports fans for nearly the entire 21st century, a tradition almost as old as the one where those same fans typically turn their attention from baseball to football the moment the calendar flips to August. No, this time there was more to it. As I sat there pondering every what-if, every scenario that might have let the Dolphins advance, and trying to figure out where this Super Bowl or bust season went wrong ... I came to a startling realization:

Almost every Miami Marlins fan would kill to be in the position Dolphins fans are in right now.

Four winning seasons in a row? Two trips to the playoffs in a row? The team's best players almost all returning for another run? In other words, what Marlins fans have been dreaming of for their entire existence.

If only someone would tell that to Marlins owner Bruce Sherman.

Without question, changes needed to be made with how the Miami Marlins draft and develop offensive talent. Every new dollar ownership has invested into the organization's front office and infrastructure is likely a step in the right direction towards the best chance Miami has ever had of seeing sustainable success on the field. Well, the best chance ever, provided you accept as a given the club's payroll constraints.

The problem is that, at least so far, the focus this offseason has been entirely long term and off the field. The Miami Marlins are the only team in baseball not to sign a free agent to an MLB contract. It's the kind of approach that would almost make sense for a rebuilding team with no hope of contention in 2024. Except, of course, for the fact that all of the rebuilding teams with no hope of competing in 2024 have already signed MLB talent. More important than that, though, is the fact that the Marlins roster is very much capable of contending right now, having just done so in 2023. They are halfway to realizing that long-time Marlins fan dream of consecutive playoff apperances, something that has never happened in team history. Even putting together consecutive winning seasons has only happened twice.

Time and again now during his ownership tenure, Sherman has acted as if he is completely unbeholden to the franchise's past. Only his tenure matters. Once a new business is plan is put in action, it's all about the future. It's a practice that is completely sound in, say, asset management, and undoubtedly served Sherman very well as he built his fortune in that particular investment arena. The only problem is that the success of that plan requires a certain amount of patience and rationality on the part of the investors. While those qualities might exist in abundance in the business world (I did say might), they are in pretty short supply when it comes to your average professional sports fan.

That's a problem for Mr. Sherman, and it's a problem that is only further compounded by the fact Marlins fans are anything but the average professional sports fan. Investment analogies go out the window here. Instead, the football kicking history of Charlie Brown and Lucy best portrays the relationship between Marlins fans and their ownership. Every time fans believe things could be changing ... and, well, you get the picture. Sherman is welcome to view his fans as investors that need to trust his vision.

He just needs to realize that Marlins fans are investors that were beaten up for their lunch money as children, and grew up only to be taken in by multiple pyramid schemes before arriving at his doorstep.

Trust must be earned here. Marlins fans have to be shown things will be different, not just told. What just might be the most maddening part of this situation was that, at least while the games were being played, the 2023 season kind of accomplished that? Sherman's GM hire made good trades. Sherman's manager hire was excellent. Sherman added payroll at the deadline to push his team over the top. He checked every box he could have fairly been expected to check.

Only to put himself firmly back on square one before Halloween, and to do so by bringing all the ghosts of Marlins past back into the light. Trade rumors. Lack of on-the-field spending. Awkward arbitration decisions. In short, the three most dreaded words that can be uttered about Miami's baseball team: Same Old Marlins.

Again, everything else that has been done has been great. Refreshing. Necessary. It will almost certainly pay off with good players. This isn't to denigrate any of that.

But for all of that to matter, for all of that to be part of a pattern of continued and building success, there need to be fans showing up, spending money, and paying attention.

Not doing anything to add to a young roster that, lucky or not, just made the playoffs? That just might be one yank of the football too many.