- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

Classy Pitcher 1, Team Tasteless 0

R.A. and Matt, three days of this ‘n’ that.

Not the most inspiring slogan, but we’re not the most inspiring team unless R.A. Dickey is continuing his magical season or Matt Harvey is launching his promising career.

Tonight it was the former, with Dickey his usual masterful self, supported by the enlivened bat of Ike Davis and tidy defense from Andres Torres and David Wright and Daniel Murphy. (Yes, that Daniel Murphy.) R.A. won his 17th [1], going all the way. He should get six more chances to win three more games — in fact, circle that series three weeks from now, against these same Marlins at Citi. I’ve got a feeling.

The only shame was that R.A. had to win No. 17 surrounded by the Super Mario green walls and ultra-blue fish tanks and vomiting-Eurotrash uniforms of the Marlins, the tackiest franchise in the history of sports [2].

I called them that back in April, and I’m not backing it off by the width of a hair on Greg Dobbs’s chinny-chin-chin pubes.

What’s more, back then I double-barreled my assault on the Marlins with a bitter eruption and a snarling prediction that Team Tasteless and pestilent owner Jeffrey Loria would soon return to their usual cheapjack ways. By “soon,” I meant “two or three years.” In fact, it was two or three months. With a fifth of the season left to go, the Marlins are in last place, have held a fire sale, and are playing to the usual mix of enemy fans and empty seats. In their first year in the new park they sought for so long and lied to half of South Florida to get, the Marlins are third from the bottom in NL attendance.

Bud Selig must be very happy.

Ah, Selig. You can argue all night about what the history books will ultimately say about his reign. Selig played a key role in launching a labor nuclear war, which his side lost, and since then has presided over a generation of peace. He expanded the playoffs this way and that way and every damn way, making a mockery of a 162-game season but also (it must be admitted) ensuring pretty thrilling final weeks of those seasons. He was blind to PEDs, but has belatedly taken part in helping ensure a cleaner game. He is painfully slow to force change (just ask the A’s) and easy to mock, but behind the scenes he’s patiently pushed a group of fractious, childish rich men towards consensus. He’s not an easy man to champion, but he’s also not so easy to dismiss. His legacy as commissioner will be … complicated.

Well, except for one thing that I find hard to forgive. And that’s his cynical plot to contract the Minnesota Twins and the Montreal Expos.

Selig’s contraction plan depended on Carl Pohlad, the horrible skinflint owner of the Twins, and Loria, the New York art dealer who bought the Expos in 1999. Loria’s Expos played the 2000 season without English-language broadcasts while the owner tried to strong-arm Montreal into a new stadium deal; when that failed, the Expos were ticketed for the contractioneer’s ax. The plan fell apart when the Metrodome’s owners won a court case forcing the Twins to honor their stadium lease, after which Pohlad held up Minneapolis for the bulk of the funding for a new stadium. The Expos wound up as the wards of MLB after a complicated bit of faintly obscene congress that saw John Henry acquire the Red Sox and sell the Marlins to Loria, who in turn sold the Expos to MLB. Loria took the Expos’ entire staff and even their office equipment to Miami — I wouldn’t be surprised to hear he personally yanked the thumbtacks out of the walls. MLB, needing two teams for its contraction plan, was stuck with the Expos and so kept them in a kind of baseball coma — when the team had the temerity to enter September 2003 as wild-card contenders, MLB wouldn’t pay pennies on the dollar to let them have September call-ups. Two years later the Expos became the Nationals [3], who promptly unretired the Expos’ numbers and began pretending they never existed.

Selig’s legacy will be complicated, but he should be embarrassed by that part of it. Which leads me to a theory that I kind of like — that the Marlins are Selig’s karmic comeuppance. Because honestly, this is¬†the team he should have plotted to contract — a dismal franchise in a state that’s only interested in March baseball, a franchise with a succession of repugnant owners, a history of purchased World Series and cynical fire sales, zero identity and half-assed fans who can’t even show up for the first 81 days of an empty, overpriced spectacle, which you’d think life in Miami would have more than prepared them for.

Loria, Selig’s designated grave robber, now sits in a near-empty stadium, his dead eyes skittering from his fish tanks to his ludicrous outfield sculpture to the members of his last-place team that he hasn’t sold yet. Good. There’s no franchise or owner more deserving of such misfortune.