SBD/Issue 52/Franchises

Marlins Receive MLB’s Permission To Investigate Relocating

Marlins, Pierre On The Move?
The Marlins have received permission from MLB to “talk to other cities about relocating — as soon as the 2008 season,” according to Jackson & Clark of the MIAMI HERALD. The announcement brought a “definitive close to faltering negotiations between the Marlins and the city of Miami” about building a new ballpark next to the Orange Bowl. But the team has not “ruled out continuing negotiations with Miami-Dade County officials,” and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez “held out hope that the team and the county could still work out a deal.” Marlins President David Samson said that MLB owners are “likely to approve a Marlins relocation if it comes to that.” Samson: “Baseball owners don’t take kindly to spending $30[M] in revenue sharing for a team that wins the World Series.” MLB President & COO Bob DuPuy said MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has “decided we are going to get a stadium or look at alternatives.” But DuPuy indicated that “the goal remains to have baseball succeed in South Florida.” Meanwhile, Samson said that Marlins Owner Jeffrey Loria has “received offers but will never sell the team.” (MIAMI HERALD, 11/23). Samson, on ballpark negotiations: “There are no more deadlines. ... The earliest (the team can be) opening a stadium is 2010. So we really don’t have any wiggle room left. Discussions will begin in earnest.” He added the team will not discuss any extensions when its Dolphins Stadium deal runs out after the 2010 season. Samson: “We will not sign an extension, even if it is offered” (MLB.com, 11/22).

RELOCATION: Two sources said that the Marlins “plan to talk with officials” in Las Vegas, Portland and Charlotte about relocating (MIAMI HERALD, 11/23). In Ft. Lauderdale, Sarah Talalay reports Oregon Sports Authority CEO Drew Mahalic’s organization made the first call to the Marlins on Tuesday. Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman said through a spokesperson that he is “aware of the Marlins’ situation and that he’s ‘going to play it by ear’” (Ft. Lauderdale SUN-SENTINEL, 11/23). ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark: “People who know Loria continue to predict that if Vegas builds it, the Marlins will come.” Samson said the team expects to make a trip to Las Vegas within the next two weeks. Stark put the odds of the Marlins moving to Las Vegas at 2:1; Portland 25:1; New Jersey 2.9 Trillion:1; and staying in South Florida 5:1 (ESPN.com, 11/22). In Newark, Matthew Futterman reports New Jersey officials contacted Loria about the Marlins moving to the Meadowlands. NJSEA President & CEO George Zoffinger said, “We think New Jersey is a viable market for baseball. If we can keep the Giants, Jets and horse racing, build Xanadu and add baseball, we’ll really have something here” (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 11/23).

MOVE ON? Also in Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde writes under the header, “Loria Not To Blame If Marlins Forced To Leave South Florida.” Loria has “spent money. He built a winner. He kept the World Series champions mostly intact these past two seasons, offered to dig deep to help fund a stadium and now becomes the third Marlins owner in eight years to reach the same distressing conclusion: Leaking money is no way to survive” (SUN-SENTINEL, 11/23). In N.Y., Murray Chass writes while he advocated folding Florida’s MLB teams when contraction “was the hot topic in baseball” a few years ago, the CBA now “bans contraction until at least the 2007 season, and there probably aren’t two baseball-vacant cities left in the country that could successfully support major league teams” (N.Y. TIMES, 11/23). In Miami, Greg Cote writes Tuesday’s announcement “could prove to be the best thing that could happen for the sport’s long-term future here. ... The Marlins should be thankful to be rid of both the [Orange Bowl] site and the waffling, dubious, buffoon support of can’t-do Miami city officials.” The Marlins are “forced to finally consider a far more logical, preferable, centrally located site” (MIAMI HERALD, 11/23).

Loria (l) Looking To Reduce Marlins' Payroll
PAYROLL: While he did not give a specific number, Samson said that there will be a “significant [payroll] reduction to reflect the revenues generated by the market.” The team’s payroll last season was around $65M. Samson: “It’s a market correction” (MLB.com, 11/22). The Marlins have already worked out a trade to send P Josh Beckett and 3B Mike Lowell to the Red Sox for three minor-leaguers and have reached a preliminary agreement to trade 1B Carlos Delgado to the Mets (THE DAILY). But in Miami, Clark Spencer writes Samson was “adamant that the roster purge not be termed a fire-sale.” Samson: “That’s not what this is. This is a deliberate effort by the Marlins to correct what ails them, and what ails them is the amount of money lost and the irresponsibility of continuing to lose that money” (MIAMI HERALD, 11/23). More Samson: “The fiscal insanity that Jeffrey was willing to be a part of for all these years is over” (PALM BEACH POST, 11/23).

FAULT LINES: Free agent Jeff Conine, who played with the Marlins for more than seven years, said, “I don’t blame them for seeking an alternative to make their franchise more profitable.” Beckett added, “It’s a shame they’ve got to break that team up, but it’s the worst lease in baseball” (SUN-SENTINEL, 11/23). In Toronto, Jeff Blair wrote the Marlins “can’t be blamed” for reducing payroll. Despite winning a World Series, the team has “not been able to convert that goodwill into a concrete plan for a new ballpark. And while the Marlins were an exciting and competitive team this past season with one of the game’s most marketable faces in [P Dontrelle] Willis, they failed to capture the imagination of south Floridians” (GLOBEANDMAIL.com 11/21). In West Palm Beach, Greg Stoda writes, “Anybody who’s surprised by the situation hasn’t been paying attention. The issue involving a stadium has been around almost since the time the Florida Marlins became the Florida Marlins, and nothing has changed” (PALM BEACH POST, 11/23).

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