The Marlins: Where Good Vets Go Bad

Mike Cameron is the second respected veteran the Marlins have—for all intents and purposes—fired for off-field issues.

A month ago, Wes Helms was released as a middleman in the reining in of Logan Morrison; now Cameron was dumped for the wide-ranging and unexplained “conduct detrimental to the team”.

No other details have been disclosed as to what Cameron did to warrant a release with two weeks left in the season; it’s generally a courtesy that players like Cameron will be allowed to retire gracefully rather than endure this.

By this I mean a story that’s going to metastasize until both sides are heard as to what really happened.

Since the Marlins have yet to explain, here’s some speculation from mein own head:

He was spending too much pre-game time on MySpace.

LoMo got into trouble with the organization for his candor and overuse of Twitter and was sent down to get him in line. I agreed with the move; LoMo needs to understand that he’s not a veteran on the club; he’s basically subject to the whims of the front office and has to be subservient while he’s laying the foundation to his career. Was Cameron MySpacing too much? Was his elder statesman status extending to the dying MySpace?

He failed to bow in a courtly manner to David Samson.

Perhaps the notoriously touchy team president Samson (son-in-law to owner Jeffrey Loria) wasn’t treated with the proper reverence by the veteran center fielder; he ran and told his daddy-in-law and Loria released him immediately to show Cameron and the rest of the organization who the boss is.

He’s somehow responsible for Josh Johnson‘s shoulder injury.

Johnson needing Tommy John surgery in 2006 was lain at the feet of former manager Joe Girardi for reinserting Johnson in a game against the Mets after an hourlong rain delay.

Of course it’s ridiculous, but these are the Marlins.

He was unable to converse intelligently with manager Jack McKeon on the presidency of Herbert Hoover.

McKeon’s 146-years-old; Cameron’s 39. What did they expect from the guy in terms of an oral history?

I’m only partially kidding.

I have no idea who leaked the story that Cameron was released because of intra-team issues, but why was it necessary? What could he possibly have done to inspire the club to embarrass him in this way just as he’s hinting at retirement in the final two weeks of the season?

Unless he did something totally out of character for a player who’s been respected and liked everywhere he’s been (and he’s a journeyman’s journeyman), what was the point?

I was totally on-board with both the releasing of Helms and the demotion of LoMo. If Helms—who wasn’t contributing on the field—was advising Morrison to blow off team functions and Morrison listened to the harebrained advice, the Marlins were well within their rights as employers to punish both men for it.

But this?

I don’t want to comment directly because it’s quite possible that Cameron did do something to warrant being released for conduct detrimental. It’s hard to believe, but possible.

Regarding the Marlins organization itself, I’ve long been an admirer of the way they’ve run their franchise. As much as Loria is called one of the worst owners in sports, to me he’s run the team as a successful business. He won the World Series in 2003; he’s decisive way in changing managers if he deems it necessary; the team wins within a budget and is profitable; he’s aggressive when the opportunity to win is there; and he’s getting a new ballpark with public funding.

This is a smart businessman.

However, going back to last winter, the Marlins betrayed much of what made me admire them.

They altered their strategy by spending capriciously on a mediocre catcher in John Buck; they shunned their bullpen-building practice by trading for veterans Ryan Webb, Edward Mujica and Michael Dunn in an opposite manner than what they’ve been successful with in the past of finding a load of young and/or cheap arms and patching a bullpen together; they made a rushed and stupid trade in dumping Dan Uggla on the Braves for two players you can find everywhere, Omar Infante and Dunn; and now it’s being said that Loria and Samson are going to take a more active role in the construction of the team.

That’s a questionable strategy considering the smart baseball people they have in place with Larry Beinfest leading the way.

Before there was a haphazard sense of urgency that the team was expected to win independent of obstacles.

The dysfunction was part of the function.

And it worked.

But now they’re veering into a direction that is concerning and the Cameron release adds another ingredient to the toxic brew that has sabotaged a club that has a lot of talent, is underachieving and seemingly blowing up from the inside.

It’s not good.

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