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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