Analysis Not Necessary: The Miami Marlins Fire Sale of 2012
As a Marlins fan, shame on you, under the momentary delusion surrounding the new ballpark and the flurry of free agents signings last winter, for thinking that Jeffrey Loria, David Samson and Larry Beinfest were interested in building a competitive ballclub in this market.
Shame on city leaders for leveraging a community's future to hand these individuals a community asset they aren’t capable of responsibly managing.
Shame on Major League Baseball for abetting the demise of the sport in a major market by facilitating the transfer of Loria’s slash and burn style south of the U.S.-Canadian border.
Then again if you’re a Marlins fan you should have already developed immunity to the farcical nature of this organization. You’ve cloaked yourself in the type of cynicism that comes from years of lies, distrust and arrogance so much so that this latest insult merits nothing more than a shrug of the shoulders and a trite refrain like “eh, what else did you expect?”
Ownership will make the case that attendance at the new stadium was well below expectations. That for all that they’ve done to appease, satisfy and grow the fan base, they can’t sustain the business based on current revenues. This should be viewed for what it is, more deception from masters of that particular art form.
Attendance wasn't what we expected, they’ll cry. Fact of the matter, the Marlins finished 18th in Major League Baseball in total attendance in 2012. Two clubs below them in attendance, Baltimore and Oakland, made the playoffs. Some of the other clubs in the bottom half like Toronto, Arizona, Tampa Bay, and the White Sox have managed to consistently field competitive teams despite struggles at the gate.
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The free agent signings from last year didn’t pan out, they’ll whine. That was a baseball mistake, one for which not a single person in the club’s true decision-making core has lost their job over. Bring in an overpriced, overrated loudmouth manager (but he’s a Latino) to lackadaisically attempt to rudder a collection of misfit parts, turn on the lights and book us for a date in the World Series. That IS about the depth of the rationale used to justify last winter’s spending spree.
But trying to make any sense of this is truly an exercise in futility. Truth is, Loria, Samson and company don’t care.
They don’t have to burden themselves with inconveniences like sound arguments to justify their baseball moves. Integrity? Ethics? Puh-lease. Those who run the club are doing what they’ve always done: lambaste the community for not supporting the team while simultaneously slashing payroll and putting failing products on the field to take advantage of baseball’s revenue-sharing dollars. Then they conceal the truth about how much money they're pocketing.
Or now that they got what they could never get out of Montréal, a publicly donated stadium, they can sell the team and make out like robber barons. After all Loria bought the Marlins in 2002 for $158.5 million thanks in part to a $38 million interest free loan from the league, Forbes now estimates that the franchise is worth $450 million.
That’s operating under the pretense that a buyer would willingly inherit the considerable weight of the organizations baggage. From a practical standpoint, the club’s farm system is decimated and any free agent would be wise to stay far, far away. Other teams view the club with diminishing levels of respect and baseball fans and commentators alike make the Marlins an almost daily punch line.
From a business standpoint, Loria’s legacy might ultimately be the destruction of the Marlins brand. Unfortunately even two World Series titles in 20 years are overshadowed by a short but traumatic history of bad trades, bad attitudes, contentious stadium negotiations, ugly home run features and fire sales.
What happened to the naming rights on the new park? What corporate sponsor will now want to be associated with the field of shams?
As it stands, the team wearing those “new” Marlins uniforms next year will be nothing more than minor league impostors in a major league park. Which seems appropriate considering the impostors in the front office, vulture capitalists posing as baseball businessmen.
Giancarlo Stanton, the only Marlin who’d be a lock in any other Major League lineup, is probably currently asking his agent to dig deeply into his current contract to find him a way out of South Florida. As evidence from his immediate Twitter reaction to the Toronto trade, Stanton is no more excited about a return to Marlins Park as the fans are to filling it next spring.
Not that any of that really matters. The noise now from Marlins fandom, the groaning and the griping, the discussion board mobs. The media storm surrounding another fire sale. The grumbling within MLB and from other organizations that Miami’s house is truly a dysfunctional one. That’s all meaningless, inconsequential chatter to Loria et al, like the drowned out sounds of the clattering city beyond their new glass palace.
The Orange Bowl sat at the current site of the new Marlins stadium for 71 years before neglect and time resigned it to obsolescence. The edifice now planted there, an unfortunate reminder of a sports-related political blunder on the cityscape, hides behind its gleaming white stucco walls and cobalt-glass windows; a rotten core.
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