Send money or we shoot these Fish

After years of dropping hints, Florida Marlins president David Samson finally went nuclear today, declaring that with stadium talks stalled in Miami, ownership will now “explore the relocation of the Marlins.” More from owner Jeff Loria’s ever-quotable son-in-law:

“This is an announcement that baseball is no longer assured in South Florida. … “This does not mean that the Marlins are necessarily leaving South Florida. It does, however, mean that we’re going to seriously explore all of our options, including those in other markets. As part of this process, I do anticipate that will be engaging in discussions with other cities.”

“Our lease runs out at Dolphins Stadium after the 2010 sseason and I can tell you now, unequivocally, we will not sign an extension, even if offered, to continue to play in this building. I love watching baseball here but we simply must play in a baseball-only facility.”

“Miami, the ‘Gateway of the Americas,” could very well be the first American city in 35 years to lose a Major League baseball team.”

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“This is about the Marlins trying to save their franchise. We really have no wiggle room left. We’re going to start working with places that want to do deals.”

That would be a very short list – Las Vegas, Portland, and other runners-up in the Montreal Expos sweepstakes are no closer than Florida at guaranteeing stadium funding – but there could be another subtext at play here. Under the current labor agreement, MLB is allowed to consider contracting by two teams next year, without having to seek the union’s permission. If the threat of a Vegas move is dubious, the possibility of having the Marlins wiped off the map is much harder to gauge, and could – if you’re Loria and Samson – present another hammer with which to threaten Florida electeds into coughing up stadium dough.

Of course, you need more than a move threat to make your team a candidate for contraction – you’d want to be hapless on the field as well, the better to avoid the potential embarrassment of MLB threatening to contract a winning ballclub. Hmmmmm.

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