Post-Fire Sale, Marlins Are Losing Money (Seriously)

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Way back in November, after the dust had settled from the massive fire-sale trade between the Marlins and Blue Jays, we looked at the motives behind the trade (and others that helped the team cut its 2013 Opening Day payroll to around $39 million (according to the AP). We wrote:
The Marlins can profit without competing so long as they keep payroll low (the Kansas City Royals have been doing this for years). This was the team's strategy in the years leading up to the opening of Marlins Park; it is 100% more insidious now that they have opened a new stadium financed largely by local governments. The fans are legitimately outraged, and calls for Loria to sell the team are entirely justified.
But it looks like even with a bare-bones payroll the Marlins will still lose considerable money in 2013, according to a report from the Miami Herald. The Herald's Barry Jackson was able to look at (but not photocopy) ten years worth of team financial documents, and gave us the following tidbits:

  • The Marlins lost $43 million* in 2003, the season they won a World Series.
  • The team earned a combined $110 in profit from 2006-2009, when payroll was very low. That followed a four-year period in which the team lost $60 million.
  • MLB revenue sharing payments ranged from $65 million to $75 million per year through 2009
  • Loria gets paid via management fees disbursed to another company of his. The team paid $3.2 million in management fees in 2009. Loria also collects interest on money he has loaned the team (of which he is the controlling shareholder).
  • The Marlins only get $17 million per year in local TV money (their contract expires in 2020), well below contracts of even teams in much smaller markets.
  • The Marlins lost $47 million in 2012, and expect to lose money in 2013, even with a 60% reduction in player payroll.
A common theme expressed by fans after each of the team's three big fire sales (1998, 2005, 2012) is that if only the high-salaried players were allowed to stay, fans would flock to the ballpark and ticket sales would rise to the level necessary to support their payroll. That clearly did not happen in 2004 and 2005, when the core of the 2003 team was (for the most part) kept together and the Marlins continued to lose money. And last season's bump in attendance was not nearly enough to pay for the high salaries of Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez, and others. The Herald notes that David Samson recently claimed the team needs to sell over 30,000 tickets per game if it wants to break even on a payroll of $80 million. These numbers back up that claim (though MLB's national TV revenue will rise significantly this year, and the team clearly hamstrung itself by agreeing to such a cheap and long-term TV deal during the aughts).

But don't cry for Loria. His team is losing money, but Forbes values the Marlins at $520 million, over three times the $158 million price Loria paid for the team in 2002. He is vastly richer now than he was a decade ago, and he is still doing well enough that he apparently feels no pressure to sell his team and cash out.

*It should be noted that these are operating profits/losses, which by definition include some non-cash expenses like depreciation. So the actual cash earnings in those years are likely a bit higher, but that is just speculation on my part.


Rape References: A Handy Guide

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Seeing as Marlins critics can't seem to shake the impulse to invoke rape when comparing the moves (baseball and financial) made by the team over the past few years, Marlins Diehards presents a list of times when it is okay to compare anything to rape:
  • Never.
  • Seriously, don't do it.
Related: Anyone else notice that the two people guilty of these references (former manager Lou Piniella and Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado) are both dudes?

Regardless, if "swindled" is too weak a word for your taste, buy a thesaurus (or use the internet). Here are our proposed alternatives:
  • Bamboozle
  • Hornswoggle
  • Defraud (all local politicians should know this word...)
  • Bilk
  • Loria (as a verb, it means all the words above)
  • Snow-job
  • Flimflam


Putting (Preferably Warm) Bodies in the Seats

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Miami Marlins opted against spending any money on their payroll (and by extension, their win-loss record) this season, and it has put their ticket office in a bind. Turns out (stop me if you've heard this one before) fans don't buy tickets to watch crappy teams. You can imagine our surprise when we figured this out.

So the Marlins have taken the unprecedented (we think) step of putting tickets to their April 8 home opener on Groupon (funniest line from the ad: "Limit 8 per person"). Our first reaction was that if the Marlins really wanted to put fans in the seats, they could have, you know, not traded away almost every good player on their roster last winter. But perhaps fielding a quad-A team while cashing MLB's revenue sharing checks is more profitable than spending an extra $30 million on payroll and not losing the trust of your fan base every seven years.

If only Groupon was around ten years ago. In 2002, Ted and I went to the Marlins' home opener, along with 23,875 other fans (or roughly two-thirds of Joe Robbie Stadium's baseball capacity). The highlight of the night came when a Mike Lowell home run was overturned (called a foul ball instead) and fans responded by throwing their schedule magnets (that night's giveaway) onto the field. The Marlins lost 10-2. Had our tickets been bundled with a merchandise voucher (as well as a voucher for tickets to another game, as in the current Groupon deal), we could all have thrown souvenir bats onto the field as well.

Here's to missed opportunities...


Stanton Broke Something with a #Monsterdong Again

Monday, March 11, 2013

Someone is going to get killed by one of those some day...

(Previously on "Things Destroyed by Giancarlo Stanton")


Loria be Schemin'

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Hey look! Someone investigated Jeff Loria's claim that tourists, not local residents paid most of the cost of constructing Marlins Park, and it turns out he's not being entirely truthful.

Politifact has the breakdown, courtesy of the Miami Herald.
Loria is borrowing from politicians’ playbooks here: He cherry-picked a fact that puts the situation in the best light while omitting a thorough explanation. On the surface, he is correct: Much of the public funding for the stadium came from hotel bed taxes largely (though not entirely) paid for by tourists.

But these are still tax revenues that belong to the taxpayer, and if it didn't go to the Marlins, it would have gone to some other public purpose to benefit those taxpayers. He also ignores that the county will be paying off that debt for decades. His implication that locals can shrug their shoulders at that public cost, and dismiss it as coming from the wallets of out of town tourists, is disingenuous.
There is an opportunity cost to building a bauble of a stadium, but can we really expect a guy who gave a $27 million contract to "proven closer" Heath Bell to understand what opportunity cost is?

Not that it matters. Loria has already won (and MLB revenue sharing money will keep the team from losing much - if any - money in the ensuing years, so he is pretty incapable of being punished). We can stop buying tickets and merchandise, but that likely still won't be enough to make Loria feel anything resembling regret.


Looking Back at Four Years of Mirth

Friday, March 8, 2013

This here blog is celebrating its fourth anniversary this weekend. We've updated our banner, with a return to the empty stadium motif we all know and love. Earlier today, Ted told the backstory of how Marlins Diehards came to be. I will close the navel-gazing circle with a look back at our ten favorite MDH posts. This was actually more difficult than I thought it would be.

Here they are, in chronological order:
  1. Introducing... The Miami Marlins (3/27/09): Our most-clicked post ever, with over 35,000 pageviews. SEO gold...
  2. The Renyel Pinto Flow Chart (4/30/09): Oldie but goodie.
  3. Children of the Marlins Diaspora: Charles Johnson (2/19/10): CJ will always be my favorite Marlin.
  4. An Immodest Proposal (6/24/10): Our oft-reprised plea to do away with managers. Definitely my favorite post.
  5. Geography and Demography (1/26/11): This is exactly the kind of nerdy piece that this blog was made for. 
  6. A 10-Fingered Antonio Alfonseca (5/21/11): Discussing our two favorite good/terrible closers, Antonio Alfonseca and JuanCarlosLeoOviedoNunez.
  7. Pay No Attention to D-Roves (6/5/11): Making fun of Darren Rovell: Never not worthwhile.
  8. This Day in History (6/17/11): Wherein we went to a Marlins game for Ted's birthday and watched the OJ Simpson Bronco chase on the Jumbotron.
  9. Is This It? (9/20/11): Ted discovers a leaked new Marlins logo, blasts it on Twitter, and people lose their shit.
  10. Not Now Hanley (7/31/12): We  Ryan Webb
Thanks for reading! (Not that we'd stop if no one reads us). Here's to more years of snark and nerdery...


Happy Anniversary To Us!

It was on this day four years ago that David and I made our quiet, understated entrance into the Marlins blogging world. It's a Marlins blog, how else would it go? The first day included the inaugural post, our Mission Statement1, and the first installment of Children of the Marlins Diaspora.

It actually started the Christmas period before that March of 2009. Dave approached me with the idea of starting a Marlins blog. This was long before Dave started writing for NBCMiami and more. At the time he wrote a jazz blog, which still sees sporadic entries today, but he wanted to take his sharp wit to the sports world.

I was a bit cynical and needed some convincing. I had dipped my toe into sports blogging, half-heartedly penning a Dolphins blog since 2007. The work was about as bad as the Dolphins themselves but it was a fun exercise. This was before Twitter and microblogging really took off so it was tough to get any sort of readership or activity on the site. I guess my initial thoughts about creating a blog about another not-that-great Miami franchise were "what for?"

Dave painted the picture that the blog would be more for us. We regularly texted, emailed and G-chatted each other jokes and opinions about the craziness of the Marlins and being a fan of that team. The blog would basically be a platform to amuse ourselves. If people started reading and interacting with it/us, that would be a bonus. We discussed the Mission Statement and trying to carve out a niche. It was convincing enough that I agreed.

I won't bore you with a complete history but we plodded along (on the terrific URL which still redirects properly) and have come a long way since 2009. It's fun to go back and look at the posts from the first month or year, not only to laugh at our dearth of quality of writing, but to see what was going on in Marlins land, including

  • Stadium deal nearly falling through (Part 364839)
  • Predicting Cameron Maybin wasn't long for a Marlins uniform (Nailed that one)
  • Mets Schadenfreude (knows no beginning or end)
The team has undergone massive changes over the last four years but we try to keep the task the same (while slowly adding improvements like a dedicated domain name, amateur graphics, etc.) and stick to the outlines of the Mission Statement. Obviously the team outlook is pretty bleak this year, but that usually means better blogging material so Dave and I are pretty excited for this calamity of a season to begin. We'll ramp up pretty soon with previews and such and may have a couple new things in store.

If you're in a giving mood and feel so inclined, the traditional fourth anniversary gift is Fruit/Flowers. You can send those to Dave. The modern day guide says to gift appliances. I'll gladly except a blender or a Super-Bass-O-Matic 76.

:raises fist and says "Go Marlins" :feels forced

1We back-dated the Mission Statement, along with a couple other important posts.


Monday Morning Loria Musing

Monday, March 4, 2013

This is the last time I'm going to write about Jeffrey Loria, I hope. I'm sure he'll put his foot in his mouth again and give a cause for more national outrage but I'm just getting tired of the story. He's an asshole and sociopath, but I'm ready to move on and try to learn about this team and follow The Misadventures of the Tangerine Troops.

A lot of people will boycott the team, and in this age that's a very easy thing to do. With the instant news, analysis and video highlights, plus legal and not-so-much live video streams, it's easy to just choose another team1. I simply can't. Sure, I'll live vicariously through the Orioles (long documented as mine and Dave's second favorite team). In fact after purchasing MLB.TV (it's my first full season not living in South Florida, I took the plunge), I will probably wind up watching as many O's contests as Fish games.

Anyway, I bring this up because on Friday I saw yet another Loria outrage piece, this time on The Atlantic. Significant because this is one that isn't in a sports publication of any sort. It's obviously geared towards the very casual fan or the non-sports fans. To the words...
The Biggest Ongoing Scam in Professional Sports Is in Miami
Lofty title. I wouldn't say it's the biggest, plenty of shady shit going on with the NCAA and NFL, but can't fault him for the attention-grabbing headline.
Somewhere, an enterprising baseball writer must be working on a book that is the opposite of Moneyball. This story wouldn't be about a bright, idealistic, young executive who, on a budget dwarfed by those of other major league teams, fields winning ball clubs with underrated players whom he acquires cheaply.

This book—let's call it Scamball—would be about an owner in his 70s who signed All-Star caliber players, hoodwinked the taxpayers into funding most of his new stadium, and then after just one season after the stadium opened, sold off the best talent and pocketed the profits.
This book/movie would be AWESOME. I'd genuinely would be very interested to peek behind the curtain of Loria/Samson, not just to get some answers but because I think it'd be very fascinating, from a psychological aspect. But let's not get our hopes up. Besides the obvious not wanting to expose how fraudulent they are, Loria and Samson would not even agree to be interviewed by Jonah Keri for his book on the Montreal Expos, the other franchise they murdered. Fat chance there's ever a true expose on the Marlins Loria era.
Samson called Deadspin's leak of the financial documents "a crime," though in fact it would have been more accurate to say that the documents revealed a crime. Finally there was conclusive proof that the Marlins could have paid, at the least, for a major chunk of the new ballpark's construction costs. Yet somehow, with shrewd behind-the-scenes manipulation, Loria managed to get Miami-Dade County to agree to a deal for more than $400 million in loans with honey-coated extended payment terms. That wasn't all: Miami and the County would cover three-quarters of the cost, leaving the Marlins responsible for only around $155 million.

The sweetest part of the deal for Loria was that the team alone would get any revenue from ticket and suite sales, advertising, concessions, and any future naming rights. Another hidden financial treasure that will become apparent if Loria chooses to sell the Marlins in the near future: The very existence of a luxurious new stadium, even if it's owned by the county and not the team, can double and even triple the sale value of a major-league franchise.
By the way, the taxpayers of Miami-Dade County never got a chance to vote on the deal, which will, over the next couple of generations, cost them an estimated $2.4 billion in lost revenues and interest.
It's long been my opinion, that while it's right to be angered at Loria and Co. you almost can't fault them for out-swindling the swindlers (city and country government). Then again, small local government officials are an easy target for bullying and manipulation, especially for one who is actually pretty bright (knowledge-wise, surely not with tact and people skills)
He recently said that the 2013 Marlins "are not a Triple-A ball club." This may be the first genuine truth he has told in some time: The 2013 team could be more accurately described as a Double A franchise. The 2012 Miami club finished dead last in the National League, 29 games behind the first-place Washington Nationals. What the Marlins are fielding this year is essentially that team minus four-time All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes, four-time All-Star pitcher Mark Buehrle, and two-time All-Star pitcher Josh Johnson, all of whom were traded, along with their substantial salaries, to the Toronto Blue Jays.
In return, Loria received from Blue Jays seven players, three of them optimistically labeled as "prospects." In deals like this, prospect could be defined as "player to be named later. 
More attention grabbing. Insult the team, sure, but they aren't a Double A side. Also, the "they are fielding that team minus Reyes, Buehrle and Johnson" is somewhat factual, but a stretch. There are wholesale changes, plus those three all had years well below their average output. It's not crazy to believe the Marlins will win more than 69 games (last year's total) this year. They'll go about it in a different way, and it's still very upsetting after being told that 2012 was the start of a new prosperous era of Marlins baseball, but the club may very well perform a slight bit better. \Cue 100+ losses

The writer should make more of an emphasis on the moves being primarily a salary dump (he does at least mention it in the next paragraph) like Keith Law did on OTL. Explain like Greg Cote, that the team's implied promise of being more free spending has been broken after just one year. He also would have been better served elaborating on the future reliabilty of prospects (iffy at best) and mentioned that Miami should have been getting at least one top ten or fifteen prospect in the game, rather than a handful of pretty good guys, for that kind of talent unloading.

Oh well, in the final paragraph he finally gets to his/her central point.
Marlins fans have been picketing Loria's office with bed sheet signs and bull horns, but they're aiming at the wrong target. There are always going to be people like Jeffrey Loria in baseball or any other professional sport. The only thing that can prevent them from scamming the fans is strong leadership at the top. If Marlins fans want results, they should send a few representatives to Commissioner Bud Selig's office in New York. There's a clause in Selig's contract mandating that he act in "the best interests of baseball." Right now that would mean stepping in to prevent owners like Loria from using a big-league team as a front for squeezing money from taxpayers. 
So he spends a few hundred words bashing Loria, then says basically that Loria gonna Loria and that we should go up the ladder to see any action. Opinion, but I'm not sure there's much that Selig can do now. He's already bullied them into spending a little. He probably could have vetoed the Blue Jays trade if anything, but too late now. Plus, we have been made aware that unfortunately most other owners and executives in the league carry a favorable opinion of Loria. Why? I have no clue.

Also, don't know if you realized but the protests have been typically very Marlins-like. Sure the absence speaks volumes, but we labeled three people wearing home made t-shirts at the team's fanfest a protest. There isn't exactly a crowd at Marlins Park or Roger Dean Stadium with pitchforks ready to spear ol' Jeffrey. In fact, in true Miami fashion the only real protest that carried any weight recently involved Castro.


I don't know if the writer is a sports fan or not but for a piece marketed to the average public, it could have been carried out a little better, but who cares? I'm done letting Loria occupy my brain space. It's just getting tired. I'm ready to move on and learn about these new assholes and figure out who is the new Bonifacio.

1Or don't. I do that with soccer/futbol/football. It's quite freeing to just enjoy a sport with no attachment


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