As word of a staggering eight-player trade reverberated around the walls and halls and dancing fountains of Opryland on Tuesday, it was hard to make your brain comprehend this absolutely true fact:
The Florida Marlins won the World Series more recently -- in fact, much more recently -- than the Detroit Tigers.
But here we are, just four years after Dontrelle Willis, Miguel Cabrera and the Marlins unleashed a champagne waterfall inside the visitors clubhouse in Yankee Stadium. And any minute now, there won't be a single teal-clad human being left who can reminisce about one pitch of that World Series.
They'll all be gone. Every one of them. At least they will be as soon as the Marlins get around to announcing that they've traded Willis and Cabrera to Detroit for a six-player package headed by stud prospects Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller.
The Tigers? They're now an official baseball superpower.
They're headed for a $120 million-plus payroll. They have a lineup deeper than the Grand Canyon. And they can run five starting pitchers out there who have each worked 200-plus innings in at least one of the past two seasons.
"I'll tell you what," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "There are a lot of American League pitchers getting real nervous -- and we're one of them."
But the Marlins? They're about as unrecognizable as any team in America -- maybe even more unrecognizable than the Pawtucket Red Sox.
"What's their payroll going to be?" one baseball man wondered Tuesday night. "Six million bucks? Eight million?"
Hey, excellent guesses. As best we can tell, their highest-paid player next season is going to be closer Kevin Gregg. He made $575,000 this season (less than the Yankees paid A-Rod every four days). And he's actually arbitration-eligible.
Or it might be Miller, even though he's only 22 years old, was pitching for the UNC Tar Heels as recently as two years ago and owns exactly 74 1/3 innings of big league experience.
Miller signed a major league contract out of college, so he's scheduled to make $1.325 million if he's in the big leagues next season, which will practically be Johan Santana money compared to the rest of that roster.
"There's no way," one agent said, "that the average salary on that team is even going to be close to $500,000."
That's the state of your 2008 Marlins, folks. Whoever they are.
We need to remember at times like this that the Marlins are a team that always makes great trades, that always makes excellent talent evaluations, that always has a plan. But we also need to acknowledge something else:
That plan now leaves them with virtually zero identity. Let's see now. There's Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla and … uh … OK, we're stumped.
And even more importantly for the future of the franchise, you wonder where this plan will leave their endless campaign for a new ballpark, now that they no longer can say they want to build it for Willis and Cabrera to lead them back to the glory days.
Until Tuesday, it seemed highly unlikely that the Marlins would dare to trade both of those men in the same offseason -- let alone the same deal. But once the Tigers checked in and indicated a willingness to talk about both Maybin and Miller, everything changed.
Just a few hours of haggling later, this deal was done.