Loria’s fire sale won’t kill stadium subsidies, though it might maim them a bit

The fallout from the latest, greatest Miami Marlins firesale continues, with today’s prevailing opinion being that not only has owner Jeffrey Loria salted the earth for ever developing a fan base for his team, but that he may have hosed other owners seeking public help for new stadiums as well. In particular, the Tampa Bay Rays are hosed:

In the years to come, as the Rays’ stadium debates get louder and more profane, you will hear all about Loria’s betrayal. You will be reminded that Loria, too, talked about how his team needed the new revenue streams of a new stadium to compete. You will then be reminded that he couldn’t wait to trade his biggest contracts so soon afterward. You will hear a new stadium comes with the implied promise of better days ahead.

And the Oakland A’s are hosed:

The A’s ownership group headed by Lew Wolff ought to remember these dizzying numbers— ’cause they can be sure that city councils in Fremont, Sacramento, San Jose, or anywhere else they try to pitch a taxpayer-financed stadium are going to be plenty aware of the bait-and-switch pulled off in Miami.

And every sports team everywhere is hosed:

What’s happened in Miami is just the latest (and most gaudy) example of how pro sports owners fleece the public. But it ought to be the last.

Whether it’s cities cutting social services to pay off stadium debt (Cincinnati), cities building new stadiums for teams they don’t have (Kansas City), cities breaking leases to tear down beloved stadiums for owners demanding new ones (Denver), cities tearing down historic ballparks (Detroit, St. Louis and many others) or cities funding stadiums because politicians voted against the will of the public (countless cities), the public always ends up paying more than it receives. And, as the case of Miami illustrates, pro sports owners couldn’t care less.

We all must agree to never, ever finance a pro sports stadium again.

It’s a fine argument, but I’m not so sure The Loria Betrayal changes things all that much, given that 1) plenty of other teams have gotten new stadiums and then continued to pinch pennies on payroll (Pittsburgh Pirates, anyone?), and 2) other owners can legitimately utilize the “Unlike Jeffrey Loria, I am not Satan incarnate” defense. Still, if you’re Stuart Sternberg or Lew Wolff, today probably isn’t the best day to call your local legislator and complain about how your team can’t win ballgames because it doesn’t have a new ballpark.

And speaking of people having bad days, here’s Marlins president David Samson (who for the record is Loria’s stepson, not his son-in-law, something many outlets still get wrong) answering a question from a local radio sports talk host about WTF he was thinking in trading half his roster for a bucket of balls:

What it looks like is you got a new stadium, you got your deal and you pulled the equivalent of like a Ponzi Scheme where a year after spending it you have sold everybody a sham? You say what to those people?
“What I say to them is we spent it wrong. It showed with everything off the field and on the field. I don’t blame more fans for not coming out because who wants to see 93 losses. The fact is we think we have a young team now that may be hungrier and should win more. The difference in Montreal, there was no ballpark, there was no future. There is a long term future for baseball in Miami. That’s what the ballpark has always been about was making sure an All Star game can come to Miami, making sure that generations will see baseball. There are going to be losing seasons over the course of the years. You just want to try to curb it with as few as possible and in our opinion we were having too many in a row.”

So in short, the team sucked last year, and by trading the guys who sucked the least (and oh, by the way, earned the most), the team will suck less now because it’s “hungrier.” It’s always possible that some of the little-known minor leaguers the Marlins got in return from the Blue Jays will turn into stars (or more possibly, serviceable major leaguers), but more likely they’ll turn into something like this.

I will give Samson one thing: Generations of Miamians will continue to see professional baseball. When the visiting team takes the field, anyway.


15 comments on “Loria’s fire sale won’t kill stadium subsidies, though it might maim them a bit

  1. How are the A’s hosed? They weren’t asking for direct subsidies in Oakland, Fremont, or San Jose. Their plan all along has been to mimic Pac Bell/AT&T Park’s private model that the Giants used in San Francisco. The Marlins situation will have no impact on them.

  2. Also in the future I wouldn’t cite to Bleacher Report. A less reputable sports site you will not find.

  3. At least this article wasn’t in the form of a “10 Cities That Won’t Build Lew Wolff A Stadium Now” slideshow.

  4. That might have been an improvement. Bleacher Report is written by fans who have no more information or insight into anything that is going on that the average poster on the average message board anywhere on the net. Unfortunately BR does a great job of masquerading as if it were a legitimate news site. Just talking with the author of that article and he has no clue about anything going on with the A’s stadium situation, nor even of the estimated costs of Coliseum City in Oakland.

  5. No argument there. I should probably have clarified that when I said “prevailing opinion” I meant “s#!t people say on the interweb.”

  6. And on a related note, the committee considering the San Francisco Warriors arena voted unanimously to send the item to the full Board of Supervisors for approval.

    Trust me, I’d love to say, “No more public money EVER for a sports facility!”, but I’ve learned to be realistic. In 2012, deals like Seattle’s are about as good as it gets.

  7. Ugh, Bleacher Reports. I wish there was a way for me to tell google news to ignore anything from that so-called “source.”

  8. So for once we see actual proof that rich ballclub owners can and will lie/cheat/steal for public money and then turn around and screw them over more. There’s no legal binding contract that can force a private team owner to give a damn about spending more to win.

    Unfortunately – as seen in the Tampa Bay Times today – moronic sportswriters are going to avoid the lesson at all costs. None of these genius guardians of the public trust can bring themselves to say “Maybe publicly funded stadiums ARE a bad idea.” Instead, all they can think to do is wring their hands for poor, poor Stu and oh however will he find the pennies he needs to get that shiny new ballpark he’s waited so long for?

    Foster has the one thing that will keep the Rays to their word: a contract. It’s unbelievable that so many journos and sports zealots want to steal form their neighbors and kids to fund vague promises of a championship team.

  9. Loria’s “example” may be the most egregious one in the current climate, but he really hasn’t done anything differently here than he has done elsewhere (despite what his half wit semi offspring thinks).

    Is it news that Loria is an asshole?

    Is it news that Loria tells absolute lies to convince cities to give him money?

    Is it news that Loria asset strips his own sports franchises to pad his own pocketbook?

    No. And he isn’t alone in that either.

    Who knows, maybe Samson is actually telling the truth for once and Loria will reinvest in new free agents…(can’t believe I just wrote that…)
    I hate to admit it, but Loria’s burn it down approach in 2012 isn’t going to change anything re: stadium subsidies anymore than doing so has done for any previous owner. For a few weeks or months, cities vying to host the next parasite franchise will feel the sting of Miami’s burnt fingers. But within 12 months, at least one of them will pony up for a free stadium with no (or few) strings attached.

    It’s really just like the Star Trek episode where the symbiont signals the new host body to open up, then slithers down the host’s throat to take up residence until the body eventually dies.

    No, wait, it’s not quite like that. The host body actually seems to draw some benefit from the symbiont in Star Trek episodes… Bah! Hollywood!

  10. @Dan’s 1st comment “direct subsidies”, thank you for acknowledging that the “private model” is not free to the taxpayer. In San Jose the City Council gave Wolff an “indirect subsidy”, i.e. an option to the land at 50% of the value (since being earmarked for ballpark made it lose half its value), federal tax dollars are currently being used to construct a railroad crossing for Autumn Parkway, and we all have to fear that is just the beginning of the handout.

  11. Well the Autumn Parkway crossing was going to happen with or without a ballpark. So it’s not really a subsidy.

  12. Until a legally binding contract the specifically states what Wolf & co. have “promised” all the assertions that they will live up to what they’ve said, defending them can come back to haunt you.
    The A’z with two owner groups since the Gi-ants got the job done have sat on their hands and have become an afterthought in their market. By letting so much time go by they have allowed the other franchise, the economy, changes in state policy towards development subsidies and the actions of other owners to imperil their scheme.
    Even if they “agree” in writing to what they have pitched there always the words of one of their forbear’s to consider – “…contracts aren’t worth the paper their written on…” from the esteemed Charles O. Finley.
    They are stuck and have nobody to blame but themselves.

  13. @Paul W- The A’s gave the rights to Santa Clara County to the Giants so that they could stay in the Bay Area in 1992…..That is fact that Selig and Jerry Reisndorf both have publicly stated occurred as they were AL owners in the room at the time.

    The Giants went ahead while Wally Haas (RIP) was selling the team anyways pocketed those rights for nothing. You do not live in the Bay Area and let me tell you something, people in San Jose can watch the A’s on TV….What a concept!

    It is not like TV and Radio are not shared as is, it makes zero sense to ban San Jose from getting a team because the Giants who are 50 miles away say so…..That is against all American Business Values of free trade and competition.

    Now back to the point you made “They are stuck and have nobody to blame but themselves.” Huh? Oakland backstabbed the A’s years ago when they let the Raiders move back. They had a signed agreement to renovate the place for baseball only a la LA Angels…A’s sued Oakland and won 16M and lease concessions…..the bad blood was not the fault of the A’s.

    This on top of the fact Oakland refuses to invest any money into a stadium at all. They want a free ballpark just like San Jose is getting….Except the Giants 12 miles away have cannabilzed all the corporate sponsors and affluent fans in that metro area.

    Fremont fell through because of NIMBY’s and big box retailers who had unlimited liability written into their leases just in case the adjacent land was developed and it hurt their businesses. The A’s tried everything in the East Bay, and Wolff has 227 pages to prove it.

    You keep hammering the A’s and their ownership when the other three 2-team markets are shared TV, Radio, and territory wise…If the Angels want to move to Downtown LA no one can stop them as it should be.

    The A’s will get to San Jose, they will build it privately with only the land as the subsidy. It will be even a better deal for the citizens of SJ than the SF citizens got in 2000 with ATT Park…..In SF they had to fund a muni line to the site….SJ has all the infrastructure ready to go because of the Sharks next door.

    Selig stalled because he thought Oakland would pony up money for the team seeing San Jose or another city was going to poach the A’s. It worked with the White Sox, Marlins, Pirates, Reds, amongst other teams in MLB. But he forgot California is a different country than the rest of the US…..Handouts are not given out to anyone…Ask the 49ers and Giants in recent years.

    He also figured the Giants would negotiate finally and do what is best for baseball.

    He was way wrong on both accounts, now he looks foolish letting this go 4 years almost. He has no choice but to gather votes to corner the Giants…He should have done this immediately but we all know how dumb he is..

    I am a Giants fan from San Jose no less…….and I think Selig is an idiot and what is going on is wrong.

  14. Also all sites in Oakland are either built out or require massive city involvement and $$ to move businesses or prepare a site with the right infrastructure, never mind transportation issues. San Jose is the only way in the Bay Area.

    MLB wants a Downtown site……they deemed the Coliseum site not feasible years ago.

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