There are few slimier figures in professional sports than Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria.
From taxpayer-funded stadiums to broken promises to fire sale after fire sale, the few fans who can call themselves Miami diehards can't possibly take much more.
On Monday, the team reached a new low by throwing paying customers out of the park for voicing their displeasure with the team, management and direction of the franchise (Joe Capozzi of The Palm Beach Post).
A group of fans calling themselves "Rage Against the Marlins," spent the early part of Monday evening walking around the stadium, holding signs and wearing t-shirts voicing their displeasure about the state of the team and management.
In what will surely turn into a "he said, she said" incident, the group was thrown out of the stadium.
Per Capozzi, Marlins management claims the group was thrown out for "creating a disturbance." However, the group claims that didn't happen—they never had the opportunity to take a sip of alcohol, identification was never asked for inside the stadium and security claimed the action came from above.
The wronged fans runs a website called RageAgainstTheMarlins.com. On it, they described the incident.
We were drawing no more attention to ourselves than anyone else casually walking to our seats, people wanted pictures with us and thought the sign and our shirts were awesome, how was that our fault?
Finally we were so calm with the cops it was unreal, they even said, "Its not us its from above, if it was up to us you guys would go free, because you have done nothing wrong"
So to make it sound like we got kicked out because we would not calm down and not show ID is a lie. David Sampson also implied that we had drank too much but we hadn't even gotten to our seats. We had no time to drink!!! Not like we would pay for drinks there anyway. I wish we could go to court over this.
If true—there's little reason to take Loria or team president David Sampson's word—it represents another black eye for the franchise just months after trading away almost all of last winter's free-agent signings, and the revelation of a stadium hoodwinking the likes of which professional sports has never seen.
At some point, commissioner Bud Selig has to step in and take control of the fiasco that has become the Miami Marlins franchise.This incident could give him a reason to insert himself into the inner workings of the Miami front office and start asking bigger questions about the future of the franchise.
In all sports, winning is the great equalizer. Despite an outstandingly inconsistent message and approach from all ownership regimes in the Marlins franchise history, the team has won a pair of World Series since 1993. With a knack for developing young talent and a current Double-A team that could be the best across minor league baseball, Miami could win again before too long.
This time, though, the fans may not return. Public relations is at an all-time low in Miami.
The last thing Loria and Sampson should be doing is removing paying customers from the building.
Unless they were truly a disturbance to the other fans—not just an embarrassment for upper management—they should be fully refunded for their time, tickets and transportation/parking to the game.
Bud Selig has taken varying approaches to stepping on individual owners' toes for the betterment of the game.
Most famously, he drove the removal of Frank McCourt in Los Angeles. Aside from McCourt's obvious shortcomings as an owner, he was dishonest and did not take advantage of the potential of the Los Angeles baseball market. The process led the Dodgers to a new ownership group that certainly has.
On the other hand, Selig has allowed the Wilpon family to continue running the Mets in the midst of losing millions in the Bernie Madoff scandal. What has been generously described as a rebuilding effort by Sandy Alderson in New York is more accurately a salary slashing due to a hole in the Wilpon's collective wallets.
Loria isn't quite as removable as McCourt, and far richer than the Wilpon's in the current ownership climate.
Yet he remains an uncomfortable member of baseball's ownership circle. It's impossible for Selig to drive him out of power over an incident with fans, but righting this wrong can be a precursor to a closer eye and more Selig involvement in Miami.
Loria can claim he makes moves in the interest of competing, the win-curve and long-term viability.
Regardless, he comes off disingenuous at every turn.
Selig knows that as well as the fans who were escorted out of the building in Miami on Monday evening.
At some point, Selig will have to change the status quo or lose a baseball city forever.
Should Bud Selig act against Loria on behalf of the sport?
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