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.
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.
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.