After Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria traded five of his team's best players in a $160 million salary dump, the presumption was that the city and its fanbase would be outraged.
How could Loria do this to the community and its fans—especially after the $515 million cost of the new Marlins Park in South Beach was funded largely by local taxpayers?
The snarky among us may have wondered just how many Marlins fans Loria may have alienated with his filleting of the team's roster. The Marlins weren't exactly known for drawing big crowds before moving into their new ballpark. In 2012, Miami ranked 18th out of 30 MLB teams in total and average attendance, according to ESPN.com.
However, a recent poll by The Miami Herald of 400 Marlins fans provides an indication of just how unpopular Loria is in Miami after his most recent talent and salary purge from his ballclub. According to the survey, 90 percent of those polled believe the Marlins owner has permanently disaffected a majority of the team's fanbase.
Is 400 fans a representative sample? Again, some may snicker and joke that 400 was the most that the pollsters could find for their survey. Perhaps the results would be even more definitive if, say, 1,000 fans had been polled.
But maybe 400 people is enough to prove a point. Personally, I'd had enough of polls about two weeks before the presidential election. Yet in those surveys, 800 to 1,000 people are supposed to represent how the entire country is thinking, so 400 is probably a suitable number for Marlins fans.
Still—perhaps we should get Nate Silver on this, just to be sure.
What the polled confirms is that fan outrage isn't just rhetoric. This isn't just a few loud callers on sports talk radio or furious typers on message boards and blogs. It's not even national MLB columnists getting indignant on behalf of a persecuted fanbase.
The people who were surveyed were real fans of the Marlins, many of them actual season ticket holders.
To put it in the words of Miami's superstar outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, they're pissed off. Plain and simple. (By the way, isn't it great that it's been nearly two weeks since the Nov. 13 trade and Stanton's infamous tweet hasn't been deleted? That's a statement in itself.)
One fan said he didn't trust Loria or his "little Napoleon," believed to be a reference to team president David Samson. Samson should show up to spring training in a Napoleon outfit next year. OK, maybe he shouldn't.
Another said Loria lied to Miami and is not living up to the promises he made after trading all of the players worth watching.
Perhaps the most poignant comment was that Loria doesn't understand "the responsibility that comes with the public trust and the ownership of a professional sports team."
Doesn't that remark really say it all? Loria asked the people of Miami to buy in—literally—to a new era of Marlins baseball. The ballpark was new, the uniforms were new, the manager was new. The team signed new free-agent talent and paid top dollar to get those players.
The Marlins were no longer going to be a feeding system for the rest of MLB while gorging on profits from revenue sharing.
That is, until four months into the 2012 season when it became business as usual at Marlins Park. Hanley Ramirez was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez were dealt to the Detroit Tigers. What happened to building a contender?
Then the team pulled a publicity stunt by signing Adam Greenberg to a one-day contract so he could get the one at-bat he never received in the major leagues. Nice gesture, perhaps, but wasn't it really an attempt to get the Marlins back in the spotlight during a terribly disappointing season?
After the season ended, manager Ozzie Guillen was fired. So much for a star Latino skipper that could reach out to the local community. Of course, Guillen killed that himself by complimenting Fidel Castro in an area largely populated by Cuban-Americans.
None of the Marlins' plans were working out.
Loria finally pulled the plug on whatever hope there was for a new era of Marlins baseball by trading Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, John Buck and Emilio Bonifacio to the Toronto Blue Jays.
Basically, any player that made a considerable salary was shipped up north to Ontario. Reyes and Buehrle signed as free agents with Miami yet were dealt less than a year later, a stunning reversal of fortune for two major-league veterans who surely thought they were signing up for something far different.
Buehrle echoed the thoughts of shell-shocked Miami fans in the days following the trade.
"Just like the fans in South Florida," Buehrle said in a statement published by USA Today, among other outlets, "I was lied to on multiple occasions."
With that quote, Loria should have excellent luck signing new free agents to fill his roster for next season. Of course, if he pays enough, he'll find some players. But the Marlins owner doesn't seem very interested in paying for them. That's always been part of the problem.
To be fair, spending big got him a last-place team this season. So Loria's quick trigger was understandable on some level. But not when he has no benefit of the doubt with Miami fans—or MLB fans, in general.
Marlins fans are like Charlie Brown lining up to kick the football, knowing that Lucy is going to pull the ball away at the last moment, sending him careening into the air.
"This time, you can trust me," Lucy said, much like Loria said last winter to his fanbase. Only Lucy fooled poor Charlie Brown yet again, resulting in another hard landing on his back.
But this time, Loria may have truly pushed Marlins fans and the Miami community too far. Perhaps they will now hit him where it hurts the most by refusing to fill his pockets with their money. Even if this latest effort results in a winning team, will they trust Lucy teeing up that football again?
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