G.J. Vitale | Who’s on First?
Loria, businessman exraordinaire
Published: Thursday, March 7, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 7, 2013 02:03
I was born in South Florida, and via this chance origin, I’ve been a Marlins fan since I can remember. It’s always been hard to be a Marlins fan. Even our two World Series wins were only possible because we limped into the playoffs from the Wild Card spot. The 1997 Series’ Game 7 was one of the best games in MLB history, and the image of Craig Counsell crossing the plate with his arms outstretched for the walk−off win is permanently ingrained into my head. But current owner Jeffrey Loria has done all he can to erase that memory. Why buy a team in the first place if you don’t care about the organization and the people who are involved in it? I’ll tell you why: because Loria never bought the Marlins. He was given the Marlins.
In 2002, as part of a quasi−bailout, the MLB took the failing Montreal Expos off Loria’s hands for an amount that greatly overestimated their value in order to make the deal quick and painless. The Marlins’ owner at the time was John W. Henry — a great owner by the way — who left for the Red Sox, leaving the ownership of the Marlins for Loria to take over. The fish were sold to Loria for a grossly undercut sum, again to make the deal go through without any hitches.
The next year, through virtually no work on Loria’s part, the Marlins came away with their second World Series victory. But in the wake of this success, Loria seemed to say, “OK, we got the championship and all the money that comes along with such an accomplishment, but I’m not willing to pay my players next year, so let’s get rid of them now.” He sold all but one starter from this championship−winning squad. This kind of ownership has deflated morale to the point of embarrassment, mainly because it did not stop there.
After these past nine years of complete irrelevance in the NL East — and the eyes of South Florida baseball fans alike, as evidenced by the Marlins having the lowest attendance in the MLB — Loria tried to make a move or two during last year’s offseason. He brought in superstar shortstop Jose Reyes, closing pitcher Heath Bell and first baseman Carlos Lee, by far the highest−profile players signed by the Marlins in recent memory. What looked like a hopeful turnaround in the franchise’s attitude towards money was further encouraged further by the work done to secure a new stadium, which opened last season to the delight of Miami (the stadium was built on the site of the late Orange Bowl). Even further invigorating for locals was the name change from the Florida Marlins to the Miami Marlins, though the logo change produced mixed emotions. Just when things were looking up — though not for the team, of course, which struggled through the 2012 season — Loria went through with a complete fire sale of his team, new arrivals included.
Without getting into excruciating details, the only Marlin worth mentioning who is still on the roster from the start of 2012 is outfielder Giancarlo Stanton. Loria has proven time and time again that he runs this organization like a business: extracting as much profit without concern for the success of the team. The city of Miami sacrificed millions of dollars to build the new stadium, and tickets were sold to fans under the impression that their team would be a force to be reckoned with. So much for that.
Trust me, fans are not giving this guy any more of their money. I’m one of them, and almost everyone I’ve talked to shares my sentiments. Ticket sales will be abysmal again. The MLB needs to step in here, because Loria has gotten rich from this whole process, especially now that he’s sold away all of his big contracts, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. His unabated destruction of the Marlins franchise has made him a hated man everywhere south of Lake Okeechobee.