The city of Miami will have itself a $350 million dollar empty lot next season.
Rarely, if ever, do I choose to write about baseball. It's not that I don't like the game; it's just that there are people here who are far better at it than yours truly.
But every now and then, a subject is so important—or so ridiculous—that the urge strikes.
By now you know the particulars: Virtually every player with a pulse on the Marlins' roster is heading north of the border. And while it's a great day to be a Blue Jays fan, it's a bad day to be a baseball fan.
Now, don't get me wrong—I don't begrudge the Blue Jays one bit. For them, this deal was a no-brainer, and makes them instant contenders in the rough AL East—a position they haven't been in for about two decades.
The real villain here is the man behind the Marlins: Jeffrey Loria.
It was Loria who for years in Miami complained that the reason his payroll and his teams weren't competitive year in and year out was the lack of a new ballpark, and all its accompanying revenue.
Both Loria and officials from Major League Baseball banged the drums, arguing that baseball in Miami would die without the new stadium. Mind you, Loria had no designs to pay for the stadium himself—after all, that's what the taxpayers of Miami are there for, right?
I just want you to know that if you decide not to make a decision tonight, that will be the death knell for baseball in Miami
This statement rings with a bitter irony today, now that we have heard the death knell for baseball in Miami, less than a year after the ballpark was finally opened.
The County finally approved the deal, agreeing to use taxpayer money to cover the majority of the cost—a total of a little under $350 million dollars.
At the time, Loria was effusive in his thanks to the County, crediting them with "saving" baseball in Miami.
Obviously, it was not saved for long.
With the ballpark set to open this past April, the Marlins were more active in free agency than they ever had been in the past. After all, with a new ballpark, a new name and a new image, it was time to make a splash.
And they certainly did, signing big-ticket free agents Jose Reyes, Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle. They were also in on the market's biggest prizes in Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, before those players signed with the Angels.
Coming into the season, you had good reason to be optimistic about the long-term future of an organization which, despite its two championships, has always struggled to attract a loyal fan base.
When the team struggled on the field, especially given their expectations, it was natural for changes to be considered and made. But this is altogether different.
What the Marlins organization—and primarily Jeffrey Loria—have done is perpetuated a fraud on the city of Miami, Major League Baseball and their fans.
And ultimately, and perhaps most importantly, they are now dead to the city of Miami and its people. Even the most diehard Marlins fans cannot countenance this move.
Perhaps the best way of looking at it is how Michael Cramer, the former President of the Texas Rangers and director of the sports and media program at the University of Texas at Austin, told Businessweek.com:
It looks like they just looted the city. It doesn’t smell right, but as a business person looking at that team, I probably would have been real tempted to do the same thing
This wasn't a fire sale—it was a blatant, naked money grab from an ownership group whose stadium is already paid for by the working stiffs who work and spend money in the city, and who, quite frankly, could care less about what people think.
He's already executed the swindle; the city is on the hook, and he's once again sitting pretty.
Don't forget, Loria has a history of shady dealings. Many people forget the circumstances surrounding his brief ownership of the doomed Montreal Expos.
It would have been better for baseball, and for Miami, if the County had not approved the stadium. That would've either forced the sale of the team, perhaps to an owner who is as concerned about winning as the bottom line, or perhaps the team would have moved.
Either outcome would have been ultimately better than the travesty that has been perpetuated through this trade.
Think for a second about the effect this has on the organization's ability to be competitive going forward. And also think of the reverberations this will have for other small-market teams who might be looking for ballparks in the future.
What high-profile free agents in their right mind are going to seriously consider Miami after this move? This is further inflamed by reports this week that both Jose Reyes and Mark Buerhle received verbal assurances from the Marlins that they would not be dealt if they signed with the team.
So if you're a free agent, are you going to consider Miami when you know that if the team decides they need to once again shake off all their players like a dog does with fleas, you could wind up in Kansas City?
Absolutely not—and this is a fact acknowledged today by Marlins President of Baseball Operations Larry Beinfast:
It'll be a factor. I don't think we're happy about this at all. I understand there may be some disdain in the marketplace. We won't know until we get into those negotiations with free agents. It's definitely not great for the club, and we're going to have to deal with it.
Disdain is putting it mildly. This is a franchise who found a way to reduce their already ludicrous lack of credibility with their fans and with baseball as a whole.
No player is going to want to go there, and no fan is going to want to pay money to sit there and watch them play.
While this is certainly bad for the Marlins and the city of Miami, there are implications that go beyond this specific case.
Say you're a small-market city going forward, and your local team wants a new ballpark funded by taxpayer dollars—an issue currently being faced by the Oakland Athletics.
Are you not going to look at the Marlins as a cautionary tale? This is not to imply that the A's, or any other owner, would do what Loria did. But it's a realistic concern, is it not?
What type of assurances are you going to look for to ensure you don't get swindled like Miami did?
Because that was exactly what this was—a robbery. It was deal that cost a city a ton of money, which they will have a heck of a time recovering, and which ironically killed what it was intended to save.
Rest in Peace, Miami baseball.