Worse, Huizenga found he hated watching his awful team play. "I can't sit at a game and watch a team not win," he said about last year's Marlins. "If we're going to have this thing, we're going to win. We have to decide if baseball is going to work here. If we cut the payroll, I wouldn't be happy. I want to be a winner. If you're not going to be happy, you might as well get out."
So, contrary to his instincts as a businessman, Huizenga began to gamble. Once, he thought his business smarts and restraint could serve as a model for the rest of baseball's free spending owners. "It was naive of me to say that," he said last week. "It was naive of me even to think it." He signed outfielder Moises Alou, manager Jim Leyland, third baseman Bobby Bonilla and righthander Alex Fernandez to lavish contracts. In the end, the Marlins won and their owner lost. "We had to go out and spend the money and find out once and for all: Is this going to be a baseball town? We've got to find out," Huizenga said. "Well, we did find out, unfortunately. We found out that in this stadium, with the rain, people still didn't come. More came, but not very many when you think about it."
An hour after the pennant-clinching game in Atlanta, Huizenga and his closest business associates gathered for a picture on the grass at Turner Field. Suddenly someone suggested they run the bases, and they all took off. There for a moment was an idealized image of this Marlins season, the line between money and the game blurring, bottom-liners cut loose on the base paths. Ask, and Huizenga will gladly show off a few Polaroids of the moment, with him looking goofy and gleeful in the middle of the pack. But when asked whether this World Series run has softened his attitude about selling, Huizenga backs off only slightly. No, he hasn't changed his mind, but "I am going to give it some thought as to what else we could do—if anything."
There is, of course, the thought that this World Series has lured the fan Huizenga has wanted all year. "Maybe we had to make believers out of them, and now we've done that," says Fernandez. "We've gone all the way to the big dance. It's going to help us not only this year but in the future. I think the fans are pulling in behind us."
But as they came streaming down the ramps of Miami's Pro Player Stadium after Game 1 last Saturday night, it was impossible to say. They smoked cigars, blew whistles, waved flags. A man carried a pumpkin on his head. They looked like any group of happy fans in any American ballpark, screeching for their team. Then again, this was the South Florida fan on the move, and who can predict what he might do next year? Around here, you can't even be sure about next week.