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:
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.