Spin Cycle: Marlins Owner Campaigns in Defense of Fire Sale

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Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria

Baseball’s biggest snake oil salesman is speaking again. But at this point his words are falling on deaf ears.

Two days ago, Miami Marlins manager Jeffrey Loria has penned a “Letter to Our Fans”, taking out a full-page add in three of southern Florida’s biggest daily newspapers to offer an explanation for the club’s most recent fire sale of talent. You can read Loria’s letter in full here.

Now he’s defensively snapping at members of the media for asking tough questions and claiming that Miami still boasts  championship-caliber players. The claim is ludicrous, and fans have a reason to be upset.

Last season was supposed to usher in a new era for South Florida baseball. The Miami Marlins opened the season in a new ballpark, with a new name, with a new logo and new team colors. And supposedly, they opened the season with a front office committed to a new philosophy, one that valued winning over earning and would be willing to compete with other big-market franchises for top flight free agents.

That was the promise made to Marlins fans when Loria was overseeing the construction of Miami Park, the team’s new $634 million stadium – 80% of which was paid for by taxpayer dollars.  Loria did put his money where his mouth was for one season. The Marlins lured in big name free agents like shortsop Jose Reyes, closer Heath Bell and starting pitcher Mark Buehrle. But just one year later, the team has already shipped off all of the players named above plus a whole lot more, slashing their payroll from $90 million to what is expected to be an Opening Day payroll of less than $45 million.

Loria has scoffed at the notion that his moves were about money and that he has broken his promise to fans.

“I fulfilled my promise to in the new ballpark last year,” Loria told reporters. “It didn’t work. So what do you do?”

You continue to try to reward those fans whose taxpayer dollars funded your new stadium. You continue to try to put a winning product in that stadium each year. You don’t gut your roster for the sake of saving dollars.

Look, the Marlins stunk last season. In fact, they were rotten. The front office spent the offseason stockpiling high-priced and high-profile free agents, only to watch as the team sputtered to a 69-93 record. It was obvious that some things within the organization needed to be shaken up, but the payroll purge performed by Miami this season has gutted the lineup and almost guaranteed the team another 90-loss season.

Let’s just look at the guys Loria has decided to part ways with since Opening Day 2012:

SP Carlos Zambrano – $19 million
SS Hanley Ramirez – $15 million
SP Josh Johnson – $13.75 million
SS Jose Reyes – $10 million
SP Anibal Sanchez – $8 million
RP Heath Bell – $7 million
SP Mark Buehrle – $7 million
C John Buck – $6.5 million
2b Omar Infante – $4 million
3B Emilio Bonafacio – $2.2 million
RP Randy Choate – $1.5 million
1B Gaby Sanchez – $483k

And it isn’t just the trades themselves that make fans angry. It’s how Loria goes about making them. Would be franchise player Jose Reyes spoke out recently that just two days before he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays, Loria promised Reyes he would not be traded and suggested he buy a house in Miami.

The only marquee name not traded away this offseason was outfielder Giancarlo Stanton. He made just $480,000 last season. Is there any secret as to how he survived the purge?

Loria defends his team’s moves as “bold” and claims that criticism of them is nothing but a “vicious cycle of negativity”. But who can be blamed for skepticism considering the payroll slash move is old hat for the Marlins franchise?

This is not the first fire sale in franchise history. It’s not even the second. The Marlins dismantling their World Series Championship rosters after the 1997 and 2004 seasons. Loria would tell you that the team did so out of necessity; logic would tell you it was an attempt to cash in. Fan excitement is at its highest after a championship, which means more people are likely to come out the ballpark. The more people, the more revenue. The less payroll, the more profit.  So to maximize profits, Loria slashes payroll.

Fan excitement can also be peaked by the opening of a new ballpark. So after “fulfilling” his promise in 2012, it’s reasonable to believe Loria hopes to fill full his pockets in 2013. The math is simple. If the novelty of a new stadium brings more patrons through the turnstiles or (and more accurately) more corporate dollars, lowering the payroll brings Loria more dough.

Season ticket sales are plummeting. Miami has sold just 5,000 season tickets for the upcoming season. Loria continues his attempt to spin things, arguing that his trades were a restart, not a fire sale. His fan base refuses to buy it.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times? Marlins fans simply aren’t going to let that happen.

About Matthew George

Matthew George graduated from the University of Kentucky in 2008 with a bachelor of science in journalism. He spent three years writing sports for the Kentucky Kernel, the university's daily paper, and served as assistant sports editor. After undergrad, Matthew attended Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University where he earned his juris doctorate. He is now admitted to practice law in Kentucky and Indiana.

4 thoughts on “Spin Cycle: Marlins Owner Campaigns in Defense of Fire Sale

  1. All the consequence of not landing Albert? They weren’t competing for the series anyway. Fire sale vs. restart – there is a difference? I think not.

    • The difference comes when you ask taxpayers to pay for a new stadium and in exchange promise to give them a good product, and spit in the face of that promise. Loria stands to profit of the new stadium the community mostly paid for, and in after one season of a decent payroll, he’s now putting a team out there with the lowest payroll in baseball. And if he wants to build, like he says, why hasn’t he even tried to sign Stanton, the last remaining star?

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