Four days after winning the World Series, Florida owner Wayne Huizenga and president Don Smiley called Dombrowski and manager Jim Leyland to a meeting with one topic on their minds: dismantling the Marlins. Dombrowski was told to cut the payroll from $53 million to $25 million because Smiley, who is putting together a group to buy the team, cannot afford to carry the losses that all the deep-pocketed Huizenga did.
"We all feel bad," Dombrowski says. "It's not a pleasant experience. But you can't sit around feeling sorry for yourself. It's not what I prefer. But this is what I do. I work in baseball. I meet the challenge."
Only Connie Mack's sell-off of the 1914 Philadelphia Athletics comes close to matching the swiftness and thoroughness of the Marlins' plans to raze a champion. The wrecking ball swung first on Nov. 11 when Dombrowski sent Alou to the Astros for three minor leaguers 10 minutes before the 2 p.m. deadline for making deals. (There was a moratorium on trades until after Tuesday's expansion draft.) Last Saturday, Dombrowski predicted that he could announce three or four other deals following the draft. According to sources, among the trades he was working on were deals to send Brown to the Cardinals for a couple of young pitchers, Sheffield to the Mets for outfielder Bernard Gilkey, and righthanded closer Robb Nen to Boston for two prospects.
Meanwhile, Houston, which in 2000 will open the kind of baseball-only park the Marlins covet, emphatically stamped itself as a team headed upward—even with an all-righthanded-hitting lineup. Never in the franchise's 36 years had the Astros traded for a player of Alou's All-Star caliber. Houston also remained in contention to re-sign Kile, who was fielding offers from the Diamondbacks, the Padres and the Rockies.
Davey Johnson resigned from the Orioles on Nov. 5, instead of waiting a few weeks lobe fired, so that he could be considered for other managerial openings. But the mushroom cloud from his battle with Baltimore owner Peter Angelos may keep him from starting next season with a job. According to a highly placed source, Blue Jays general manager Gord Ash, having clashed with ousted manager Cito Gaston, is cool toward hiring Johnson for fear of similar difficulties. Ash is less worried about a stressful relationship with his other three finalists: Larry Bowa, Tim Johnson and Buck Martinez. Davey Johnson has not been mentioned for the other remaining managerial opening, with the White Sox.