Cubs ace Ryan Dempster threw a water cooler in the Chicago dugout after he was pulled in the seventh inning during a 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
NEW YORK — The Marlins are trading stars, just like they did following their championships in 1997 and 2003. Team president David Samson says this exodus is different.
“A fire sale I guess comes after a World Series victory,” he said Wednesday. “I don’t know how you would call it a fire sale to trade players of team that’s underperforming so spectacularly. So for us, we are just doing everything we can to win more games.”
Former NL batting champion Hanley Ramirez became the latest player to leave, traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday with left-handed reliever Randy Choate for right-hander Nathan Eovaldi and minor league pitcher Scott McGough.
On Monday, the Marlins sent pitcher Anibal Sanchez and infielder Omar Infante to the Detroit Tigers for pitching prospect Jacob Turner and two minor leaguers.
“When we put the team together, none of us had any idea that we would be underperforming en masse,” Samson said during a telephone interview. “It’s not just one player. It is all players. So one of the hardest things to do is look in the mirror and say that we didn’t get it right, and that’s what we did. We want to restructure because we want to win games.”
As the team prepared to move into its new $634 million retractable-roof ballpark, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria hired Ozzie Guillen as manager last fall and committed $191 million in a five-day span during the offseason to sign All-Stars Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell. The team agreed to star in a Showtime reality series, “The Franchise.”
In their colorful new uniforms, the Marlins were 31-23 through June 3, just percentage points out of first place, then lost 17 of their next 20 games. They are 45-53, 13½ games out of first place and just a half-game above last.
Samson said president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest approached Loria and Samson after the Marlins lost two of three at the even-worse Chicago Cubs last week.
“He didn’t feel as though things were trending properly for us to keep the team as is and make the playoffs,” Samson said.
Miami might not be done, with pitcher Josh Johnson and Bell also trade possibilities before Tuesday’s deadline to make swaps without waivers.
“Be careful with what you think, what you say, and how you smile because you might be next,” Guillen said. “That’s the way it has to go if you don’t perform. That’s business.”
After winning the 1997 World Series, the Marlins jettisoned high-priced stars Moises Alou, Kevin Brown, Al Leiter, Robb Nen, Jeff Conine and Devon White. They won the Series again in 2003, then allowed Ivan Rodriguez, Ugueth Urbina, Derrek Lee, Mark Redman, Braden Looper and Juan Encarnacion to depart.
The 28-year-old Ramirez is hitting .249 with 14 home runs and 49 RBIs after going 2 for 4 with a triple, RBI single and walk in the Dodgers’ 3-2, 12-inning loss at St. Louis. That’s a steep decline from his big season in 2009, when he hit a league-leading .342 with 24 homers and 106 RBIs.
“I am sad to go,” Ramirez said as he left the Marlins. “This will be always be my home, but it will just be a little different.”
A three-time All-Star, he shifted from shortstop to third base this season to make room for Reyes.
“It’s sad to see Hanley go to another team,” Reyes said. “We developed a great relationship. I feel he was one of my real good friends on the team.”
After losing in Ramirez’s first game, Los Angeles remained 2 1-2 games behind NL West-leading San Francisco. The Dodgers followed a 32-15 start by losing 31 of their next 52.
“You never know what a change of scenery will do for somebody,” Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said. “We see him as one of our main guys.”
After filing for bankruptcy in 2011, the Dodgers were bought from Frank McCourt for $2 billion on May 1 in a move that led to Stan Kasten becoming team president.
Ramirez has a $15 million salary this year and is owed $15.5 million next year and $16 million in 2013.
“We’re not going to let money stand in the way of a true baseball deal. And if we can improve the club, the financial piece of it will always be there,” Colletti said. “It’s kind of a liberating thing because we’re able to make a baseball trade. We found a player that we really like, that we think can add to our lineup and at the same time show the guys who have been busting their tail for the last three months that we acknowledge how hard they’ve played and to get them the support that we can. It’s good to not have to worry too much about what it’s going to cost you from a financial standpoint. This (ownership) group is in to win.”
Ramirez started at third base on Wednesday night but will shift to his old position as soon as he is comfortable. Dee Gordon is on the disabled list with a torn ligament in his right thumb that could sideline him until mid-August and is batting only .229 with 17 RBIs.
“I look at it as he has a clean slate,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “Anything that’s happened in his past has nothing to do with me, has nothing to do with the Dodgers. It’s basically moving forward.”
Choate, a 36-year-old lefty, is 0-0 with one save and a 2.49 ERA in 44 games. Eovaldi, a 22-year-old righty, is 1-6 with a 4.15 ERA. He is to make his Marlins debut on Saturday against San Diego.
In addition to saving the money owed Ramirez, the Marlins cut Sanchez’s $8 million salary.
“The message to our fans is we signed so many players and had such a big payroll not for any other reason than to win games,” Samson said, “and it wasn’t happening enough.”