In baseball, success is relative. What is a successful franchise? One that wins the World Series? One that consistently posts winning seasons? One that regularly sells seats?
Baseball is a business, and business is about making money. So, a successful franchise is one that makes money. That answer is incomplete, however, because it doesn't address the nature of the moneymaking. There are different ways to make money. A business can aim for a constant, steady return, or it can shoot for rapid high profits. It can seek to establish itself as an income generator or as a place from which one can rely on not losing money. (The business-entity equivalent to a 5% A.P.Y. CD, I suppose). Baseball Widow isn't an M.B.A.; she doesn't know the optimum way to exploit the fact that one is lucky enough to own a baseball team. What she does know, however, is that the Marlins aren't doing anything right.
After two barely .500 seasons under Jack McKeon, the Marlins restructured--trading away almost all major-league talent and slashing payroll to about a quarter of what it was. (The entire Marlins roster will make less this year than Mike Hampton will make for not playing!)
Baseball Widow is all for fiscal responsibility, but the Marlins have, if you'll pardon the pun, gutted themselves. We're talking about the youngest franchise ever to win a World Series, and the only wild card to do so--and they did it twice! Two World Series Championships in a dozen years, each followed by a winner-sells-all roster dump. This is not greatness--in business or in baseball.
Compare the Marlins to the Chicago Cubs, who despite a century-long drought, will sell-out every home game this season--and this is the third consecutive year that they will do so. That's success. There are no rumors that the Cubs will move, no fears that they will trade away their talent, and, let's face it, no real concern for whether they will win or lose 'cause there's always next year for the Cubbies. . .not so for the Marlins.