The Miami Marlins ticket office people are total professionals

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Out of pure curiosity and, I will admit, an impish desire to stir up trouble, I called the Miami Marlins season ticket office a few minutes ago to see what, in light of the latest fire sale, the party line is among people trying to sell Marlins season tickets.

Figuring it has to be a rough morning for these guys, I played it straight up, merely inquiring about tickets, ticket prices and the like and didn’t try to give anyone a hard time. I wasn’t wanting to fool anyone, either. Just to see what sort of pitch was ruling the day.  I did claim that I was interested in getting information about ticket pricing and availability, but did not say I was poised to purchase. I mostly just wanted to hear what they’re telling people today.

The upshot:  the folks in that office are total pros. Honest. No baloney, but still doing their jobs and anticipating what is bound to be a lot of negative fan reaction.

The woman I spoke with was very pleasant. She talked up the ballpark and the experience of going to Marlins games and the enjoyable nature of baseball in general.  There were no over-the-top claims of team quality or hard sells to be found.

Towards the end of the call I said that I noticed the news about the trade last night and asked if that had led to a lot of negative reaction. She was honest and said, yes, they’ve gotten some angry calls today and that some people were not renewing tickets (though this was not connected to the trade; just that, in general, not everyone was renewing, which is obvious). She mentioned that there was a staff meeting about the trade this morning to let everyone know about the latest news.  She said that it’s understandable that some people are going to be upset, but that there were some good young players coming over in the trade so that, from a baseball perspective, there is a lot to be optimistic about.

And all of that was true.  It was quite refreshing actually. No b.s. coming from them at all.  She followed up with a friendly email, again, noting that while some people are understandably having a hard time getting enthused, it’s a good time to get tickets.

If only the top of that organization was so honest, professional and pleasant.

Free agents who sign with new teams are not disloyal

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Most mornings my local newspaper is pretty predictable.

I know, when I navigate to its home page, that I’ll find about eleventeen stories about Ohio State football, even if it is not football season (especially if it’s not football season, actually), part 6 of an amazingly detailed 8-part investigation into a thing that is super important but which no one reads because it has nothing to do with Ohio State football and, perhaps, a handful of write-ups of stories that went viral online six days previously and have nothing to do with anything that matters.

Local print news is doing great, everyone.

I did, however, get a surprise this morning. A story about baseball! A baseball story that was not buried seven clicks into the sports section, but one that was surfaced onto the front page of the website!  The story was about Michael Brantley signing with the Astros.

Normally I’d be dead chuffed! But then I saw something which kinda irked me. Check out the headline:

Is Michael Brantley “leaving” the Indians? I don’t think so. He’s a free agent signing with a baseball team. He’s no more “leaving” the Indians than you are “leaving” an employer who laid you off to take a job at one of its competitors. This is especially true given that the Indians made no effort whatsoever to sign him. Indeed, they didn’t even give him a qualifying offer, making it very clear as of November 2 that they had no intention of bringing him back. Yet, there’s the headline: “Michael Brantley leaves Indians.”

To be clear, apart from the headline, the article is unobjectionable in any way. It merely recounts Ken Rosenthal’s report about Brantley signing with the Astros and does not make any claim or implication that Brantley was somehow disloyal or that Indians fans should be upset at him.

I do wish, though, that editors would not use this kind of construction, even in headlines, because even in today’s far more savvy and enlightened age, it encourages some bad and outmoded views of how players are expected to interact with teams.

Since the advent of free agency players have often been criticized as greedy or self-centered for signing contracts with new teams. Indeed, they are often cast as disloyal in some way for leaving the team which drafted or developed them. It’s less the case now than it used to be, but there are still a lot of fans who view a player leaving via free agency as some kind of a slap in the face, especially if he joins a rival. Meanwhile, when a team decides to move on from a player, either releasing him or, as was the case with the Indians and Brantley, making no effort to bring him back, it’s viewed as a perfectly defensible business decision. There was no comparable headline, back in early November, that said “Indians dump Brantley.”

Make no mistake: it may very well turn out to be a quite reasonable business decision for Cleveland to move on from Brantley. Maybe they know things about him we don’t. Maybe they simply know better about how he’ll do over the next year than the Astros do. I in no way intend for this little rant to imply that the Indians owed Brantley any more than he owed the Indians once their business arrangement came to an end. They don’t.

But I do suspect that there are still a decent number fans out there who view a free agent leaving his former team as some sort of betrayal. Maybe not Brantley, but what if Bryce Harper signs with the Phillies? What if Kris Bryant walks and joins the Cardinals when he reaches free agency? Fans may, in general, be more enlightened now than they used to be, but even a little time on talk radio or in comments sections reveals that a number of them view ballplayers exercising their bargained-for rights as “traitors.” Or, as it’s often written, “traders.” I don’t care for that whole dynamic.

Maybe this little Michael Brantley headline in a local paper that doesn’t cover all that much baseball is unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but it’s an example of how pervasive that unfortunate dynamic is. It gives fans, however tacitly, license to continue to think of players as bad people for exercising their rights. I don’t think that belief will ever completely disappear — sports and irrationality go hand-in-hand — but I’d prefer it if, like teams, athletes are likewise given an understanding nod when they make a business decision. The best way to ensure that is to make sure that such decisions are not misrepresented.