Friday, December 02, 2005

Florida Trades Billy the Marlin To Cubs

The Florida Marlins’ purge of high-priced major leaguers continued today as the club dealt longtime mascot Billy the Marlin to the Chicago Cubs.  In return, Florida will receive Ribbee, the mascot of the Cubs’ AA affiliate, the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx.  Yes, that is the actual name of the team.  Seriously.


The deal is the latest in a number of financially motivated moves made by the club in the offseason.  Second baseman Luis Castillo was traded to Minnesota on Friday, on the heels of other recent deals that sent Carlos Delgado, Mike Lowell, Josh Beckett, and Guillermo Mota out of south Florida in exchange for prospects.  Centerfielder Juan Pierre and catcher Paul Lo Duca could also be traded during next week’s winter meetings in Dallas.  Still, new manager Joe Girardi remains optimistic, as long as Dontrelle Willis can pitch every game and Miguel Cabrera can cover the entire outfield.


Trading for Billy carries some risk for Chicago.  He was born in the Atlantic Ocean, and it remains to be seen whether his effectiveness will carry over to Lake Michigan.  Also, some skeptical fans have noted, “Dude, they’re named the Cubs!  What sense does it make for them to have a fish dancing around?”  Cubs officials countered that a fish is a perfect symbol for the organization, as the club has been swimming upstream for nearly a century.


Most importantly, the Cubs lacked a mascot at the major league level and have the financial resources to take on a high-priced veteran.  Based on his size alone, Billy should make a big splash in Wrigley Field.  On the Marlins’ website, he is listed at 8 feet tall and 250 pounds, in bare fins.  He is quick to note that he has passed all drug tests with flying colors.  Also, as a member of the 1997 and 2003 World Series winners, Billy brings much-desired championship experience to the North Side.


The Marlins are sad to part with Billy, who has been with the franchise since it began play in 1993.  However, the club’s financial predicament, exacerbated by its failure to obtain approval from Miami and Dade County officials on a baseball-only stadium deal, leaves no room for sentiment.  The franchise is seriously considering relocation options, with Las Vegas being the front-runner.  Such a scenario made Billy fearful that he would have to share the infield with dancing Elvises and Rat Pack impersonators.  As a result, the iconic Marlin agreed to waive his no-trade clause.


Meanwhile, Florida is excited about the potential of Ribbee, the highly touted bear who dazzled in the Southern League.  Marlins officials feel that Ribbee has huge upside and can already contribute on the major league level.  They added that Ribbee will be in a low-pressure situation, performing in front of smaller crowds at Dolphins Stadium than he did at Pringles Park in Jackson, Tennessee.  Baseball insiders are already convinced of his immense talent.  One observer speculated that down the road, the Cubs could regret this deal even more than the 1964 trade of Lou Brock to the St. Louis Cardinals.


Billy the Marlin’s departure leaves the University of Miami’s Sebastian the Ibis as the dean of south Florida mascots.  Reached for comment, Sebastian tearfully expressed the view of so many fans in the area.  “He was a true original.  Whenever I see some other oversized fish performing silly antics and enduring pratfalls, it just won’t be the same.”