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SBD/November 14, 2012/FranchisesPrint All
Seven months after opening a new $515M ballpark and touting the "most expensive roster of players in the history of the franchise, the Marlins dumped payroll" by agreeing to trade SS Jose Reyes, Ps Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, OF Emilio Bonifacio and C John Buck to the Blue Jays, according to sources cited in a front-page piece by Clark Spencer of the MIAMI HERALD. In return, the Marlins will receive seven players -- highlighted by SS Yunel Escobar -- and around $160M in salary relief. The Marlins now have salary commitments of "barely more than $19 million for the upcoming season" -- $11.5M of that belongs to P Ricky Nolasco, while Escobar is owed $5M next season. The Marlins’ "entire four-man infield from April has now been traded," as well as "three-fifths of the starting rotation, the closer, and a starting catcher and outfielder." Speculation was "rampant that the latest deal might signal" Owner Jeffrey Loria’s intention to sell the franchise. But two sources said that Loria, who has owned the team since '02, "remains committed and has no interest in selling the club." Spencer notes if history is any guide, a fan base "already disenchanted by fire sales in 1998 and 2005 is highly unlikely to embrace the latest dismantling" (MIAMI HERALD, 11/14). In West Palm Beach, Joe Capozzi reports the trade came "a few months after sources close to the team said that the Marlins’ revenue projections for 2012 were falling drastically short." The team "drew 2,219,444 fans in their first year at Marlins Park," which ranked "18th in baseball and represented the smallest first-year attendance for a ballpark since 2001." Attendance is "sure to take a hit in 2013 -- unless the Marlins fill their vacancies with marquee names, which is doubtful" (PALM BEACH POST, 11/14).
OTHER OWNERS CONCERNED: MLB Network’s Peter Gammons said “there’s concern” about the future of MLB in South Florida and noted other MLB owners, who are meeting this week in Chicago, are “up in arms (and saying), ‘Why are we donating all this money in revenue-sharing money to Jeffrey Loria. What is he doing with this money?’” Gammons said, "You’re going to hear some cries from the state of Florida saying, ‘Now wait a minute, how did those county commissioners come up with $360 million for that stadium without him having to open his books?’ There are some questions that are going to be opened here” (“Hot Stove,” MLB Network, 11/14). In N.Y., Bill Madden writes "nobody in baseball ... can be particularly happy over this latest decimation of the Marlins" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 11/14). ESPN's Buster Olney noted when the Marlins were "spending all that money" last offseason by signing Reyes, Buehrle and P Heath Bell to multiyear deals, there was a “lot of concern” in MLB about that strategy. All three have been traded less than a year later -- Bell was sent to the D'Backs last month -- and Olney said, "This is exactly what they feared at that time -- that it wouldn’t work out for the Marlins and they would have this massive sell-off of talent” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 11/13).
SAME OLD STORY: In Chicago, Phil Rogers writes under the header, "Marlins' Salary Dump Shameful." Marlins fans must "wish Loria had traded himself." The man who "drove the final nail in the Montreal Expos' coffin should be ashamed of himself for his binge-and-purge style of management that followed the completion of his ... publicly funded art deco stadium in Miami's Little Havana" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 11/14). FOXSPORTS.com's Ken Rosenthal writes the deal, "even if it works out for the Marlins, is a violation of the public trust." Rosenthal: "I'd say that [MLB] commissioner Bud Selig should invoke his 'best interest of baseball' powers to nullify the blockbuster." But frankly, the "best interests of baseball would be better served if the deal led to Loria’s demise." Loria needs to "answer to his fans who bought season tickets, to the South Florida politicians who helped him secure ballpark financing, to his fellow baseball owners who should assail him for wrecking the Miami market" (FOXSPORTS.com, 11/14). The GLOBE & MAIL's Jeff Blair writes when this is "all said and done ... Loria will be explaining to Marlins season-ticket holders why one year after getting a new ballpark, he has ripped the guts out of his major-league roster" (GLOBE & MAIL, 11/14).
KILLING THE MARKET: ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick wrote the Marlins, a franchise "that knows no shame ... has sunk to new and previously unimaginable depths." The "damage to the Marlins' 'brand' is impossible to calculate." The franchise "boldly ripped it up and started fresh after world championships in 1997 and 2003, but things are different this time around." Fans can tolerate "slashing and burning if it's done with a dose of conviction or a long-range plan." But when a team "lards up its roster and trumpets a 'new era' in conjunction with a new ballpark, then completely changes course in the span of a few months, it's a recipe for anger, cynicism and empty seats" (ESPN.com, 11/13). MLB Network’s Al Leiter, who played for the Marlins for three years, said, “You just hope baseball holds there (in South Florida).” Attendance at the new ballpark was in the “middle of the pack,” and “now they’re potentially doing this." Leiter: "It’s kind of sad for me.” MLB Network’s Mitch Williams said, “It’s really hard, if you’re a fan of this team, to get behind it. … Every move they made last winter has been erased” (“MLB Tonight,” MLB Network, 11/13). CSNBayArea.com’s Andrew Baggarly said, “This is really an embarrassing situation. They wanted to put all their chips in the middle to get this new park built which will generate revenue for them. They’re going to get all this TV revenue ... and they’re going to line their pockets. It’s really a sad, sad state of affairs for baseball in Miami” (“Chronicle Live,” Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 11/13).
PULLING THE WOOL OVER MIAMI'S EYES: USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale writes the Loria and Marlins President David Samson "conned taxpayers into paying $409 million for their retractable-roof stadium, and there's a cool $2.4 billion service debt." They told their public they would "be the New York Yankees of the South, only to become the same ol' Marlins." Nightengale: "The dollars they've committed beyond 2013? Zero" (USA TODAY, 11/14). SPORTING NEWS' Anthony Witrado wrote the Marlins should be "absolutely ashamed." Loria "swindled the city of Miami into building him a publicly funded stadium." In return, he "duped the team's fans last winter by spending like the sky was the limit" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 11/13). In N.Y., Joel Sherman writes team ownership "ran a sham on Miami," and "got shallow politicians to approve a stadium mainly built on taxpayers’ backs at a time in American history when that was more problematic than ever." They did this by "running a con that they were committed long term to constructing not just a gleaming money grab of concrete and steel, but a long-term winner" (N.Y. POST, 11/14). In Miami, David Neal writes under the header, "The Joke Is On Us: Jeffrey Loria Has His Stadium And Dumps His Star Players" (MIAMI HERALD, 11/14). In West Palm Beach, Dave George writes under the header, "Miami Marlins Betray Their Fans Yet Again." The trade "makes it impossible to like this team, much less love it." It makes Miami and Miami-Dade County politicians look "like fools for throwing precious recession-era millions at a company that has just exported its top-quality products to Canada and is perfectly happy offering up seconds to the locals" (PALM BEACH POST, 11/14). CBSSPORTS.com's Dayn Perry wrote this needs to be "the end of the publicly funded sports arena." What did all those "tax dollars lavished upon Loria get the people of South Florida?" (CBSSPORTS.com, 11/13).
LORIA WEARING OUT HIS WELCOME: In Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde writes under the header, "Time To Ship Loria Out Of Town, Too." Loria "has no future here" and baseball "has no future with him here." Loria broke the "public covenant of a new stadium and dropped napalm on the sport in South Florida." He "betrayed your trust." Hyde: "Do you think any decent free agent signs with the Marlins after watching Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle crated up and shipped off less than a year after being signed here?" They will not "want that same shabby treatment from the same shabby owner" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 11/14). NBCSPORTS.com's Matthew Pouliot wrote it is in the best "interests of the game that [Loria] exit for good." Selig should "step in and apply as much pressure as he legally can in order to get Loria to sell" (NBCSPORTS.com, 11/13). CBSSPORTS.com's Scott Miller wrote "even by Marlins standards, the 12-player monster trade with Toronto is a despicable disgrace." Baseball "long ago should have called the exterminators to eliminate Loria from its landscape." Miller: "Where's contraction when we really need it?" (CBSSPORTS.com, 11/13). The S.F. Chronicle’s John Shea said Loria “is the worst owner in the history of the game” ("Chronicle Live," Comcast SportsNet Bay Area," 11/13). In Ft. Lauderdale, Mike Berardino wrote as far as fans are concerned, it should be "the beginning of the end of Loria's 11-year run as Marlins owner" (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 11/13).
TWITTER REAX: NBA.com's David Aldridge wrote on his Twitter feed, "How can you ask Marlins fans to pony up for season tickets when you just gutted the franchise?" Sports On Earth's Joe Posnanski: "Here's my question: Why would anybody go to a single Marlins game next year?" Syndicated radio host Jim Rome: "Have to love the Marlins moving into an embarrassing, but brand new Major League ballpark. & filling it with Triple A'ers just a year later." NFL Network's Jeff Darlington: "I don't know much about baseball, but based on Marlins' situation, I have one question for Miami: Why again did they deserve a new stadium?" ESPN's Olney: "The Marlins will be held up as cautionary tale for cities asked to build ballparks." The N.Y. Times' Judy Battista: "Won't the Marlins be Example A against other teams that go to the public for a new stadium." The Hockey News' Adam Proteau: "Ain't no party like a Miami Marlins party cuz a Miami Marlins party is really just an expensive front for a civic shakedown artist." Columnist Kevin Blackistone: "Miami-Dade taxpayers signed a bad deal financing 80% of new half billion dollar stadium. Still, they should sue." The National Post's Bruce Arthur: "There's a real question for MLB here. Loria's burning down the team for the insurance money, which he stole from taxpayers." Former MLBer Scott Eyre: "MLB won't let mark Cuban buy a franchise, but let Loria make a joke out of the marlins!"
The multiplayer trade between the Marlins and the Blue Jays highlighted by SS Jose Reyes and P Josh Johnson going to Toronto will "likely define" the tenure of Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos, "with his future in the organization tied to its outcome," according to Brendan Kennedy of the TORONTO STAR. The trade "dramatically alters the makeup of the Jays' 2013 roster." The Blue Jays will take on more than $163M in guaranteed salary "for just four players over the next five years." The trade increases their annual payroll over $100M, and "into the upper echelons of the league." As details of the trade last night "spread wildly on Twitter, there was only excitement among Jays players and fans." News of the "monster deal seemed to inject a depressed fanbase with new life" (TORONTO STAR, 11/14). In Providence, Tim Britton writes the trade "represents the long-awaited major move" by Anthopoulos. For years, rumors have "swirled around the Jays' ability to add payroll and about Anthopoulos' creativity in trades" (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL, 11/14). MLB.com's Richard Justice writes it will "take some time to figure out how all these pieces will fit," but for the "first time in a long time, the Blue Jays have a team that looks every bit the equal" of others in the AL East. There is "plenty of risk" in the trade. But "it was time" for such a move, as the Blue Jays "needed to shock the roster with an infusion of veteran talent" (MLB.com, 11/14).
COLOR ME IMPRESSED: In Toronto, Steve Buffery writes under the header, "Jays' Ownership Gets It Right This Time." There is "no guarantee that this deal will take the Jays to the promised land in 2013, though it certainly puts them in the driver's seat." And Blue Jays fans are "over the moon, which is great to see." Buffery: "There's actually a buzz in this town over a sports team. How great is that?" (TORONTO SUN, 11/14). Also in Toronto, Bob Elliott writes, "Make no mistake: This was a franchise-altering deal." Elliott: "Over the years, we've made fun of [team Owner] Rogers Communications for their ability to say they would step forward and spend when the time came, but the clocks on the Rogers campus were broken, so the time never came. Until Tuesday" (TORONTO SUN, 11/14). Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal notes the Blue Jays were “uniquely positioned” to make this trade because “they’ve got amazing financial flexibility backed by one of the richest owners” in MLB in Rogers Communications. Rosenthal: “The Blue Jays have been largely a disappointment the last couple of years … so there’s pressure mounting there and there were fans saying, ‘Hey, let’s go, let’s get involved here’” ("Hot Stove," MLB Network, 11/14). CBSSPORTS.com's Danny Knobler wrote if there was "one team in baseball that needed to make a trade like this, the Blue Jays were the one." If there was one team that "needed to prove to us that they were serious about trying to win, it was the team that won back-to-back World Series in 1992-93, and hadn't sniffed the postseason since" (CBSSPORTS.com, 11/13).
MONEY PLAY: In N.Y., Tyler Kepner writes the Blue Jays "have money, and as the only team in Canada, they believe they have untapped revenue streams" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/14). The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo said this trade is a “stunner.” Cafardo: “Jays are taking on quite a bit of payroll here. I guess they’ve been saving it up for the past few years” (“NESN Daily,” NESN, 11/13). ESPN.com's Christina Kahrl wrote, "When you're a big-market team with deep pockets, you can afford to pull the trigger on something huge, especially when it comes to exploiting one of baseball's weak sisters (or rotten Fish)" (ESPN.com, 11/13).
MLS Chivas USA Owner Jorge Vergara yesterday said that he is “returning the struggling Major League Soccer franchise to its founding principles by reemphasizing the team's Mexican roots and reestablishing its ties to Vergara's Mexican league team, Chivas de Guadalajara,” according to Kevin Baxter of the L.A. TIMES. Vergara said, "This is the return of the prodigal son. From the start the plan was to make Chivas USA the son of Chivas de Guadalajara. Along the way it got away from that, and the clubs suffered a divorce in philosophy and structure. We are going to re-create Chivas USA as an extension of Chivas." Vergara after buying out former partners Antonio and Lorenzo Cue “cleaned out the front office and fired coach Robin Fraser and much of his staff.” He also “named Jose Luis Real, director of the development program for Chivas de Guadalajara, to oversee soccer operations for the MLS club.” Vergara said that he will “immediately reopen talks with USC over a proposed soccer-specific stadium to be built in Exposition Park.” Chivas USA has shared the Home Depot Center with the Galaxy since its inception. MLS Commissioner Don Garber said, "The whole idea when this club was launched was to try to have a club that would be specifically targeting the massive Hispanic population in this country, but more specifically in Southern California. The execution wasn't right and you've got to be smart enough and brave enough to admit when you don't get things right” (L.A. TIMES, 11/14).
The MLS Timbers’ “trying year caused a somewhat humbled” Owner Merritt Paulson “to re-examine himself and his role as he looks toward 2013,” according to Geoffrey Arnold of the Portland OREGONIAN. Paulson said, "Did I handle it well? On the whole, I think I did, but I made some mistakes.” Arnold wrote Paulson “knows he needs to harness his emotions in public, be more guarded in his expectations and realize that the road from expansion team to playoff berth can be bumpy.” Paulson: "I'm probably too public. As an owner, I'm more part of this franchise's face than a lot of other owners around the league. But that's not necessarily a good thing or the long-term vision." Arnold wrote the "pressure to perform" started in October ‘11 when Paulson “placed himself and the team on an island by saying he expected the Timbers to earn a playoff berth in 2012.” The Timbers “never contended for the postseason, and their on-field struggles left a voracious fan base with a profound letdown and led to off-field challenges for Paulson.” He also has been “a vocal critic of officiating" in MLS. His criticism “reached a boiling point after the Timbers' 1-1 home draw against D.C. United on Sept. 29.” After the game, he “engaged in a heated verbal exchange with the referees,” leading days later to a $25,000 fine from MLS. Paulson then "vented on Twitter." Although Paulson “sometimes allows his emotions to get the best of him,” he has made “some subtle changes, though, including cutting back on social media and his accessibility with the fans.” Paulson: "I have certain regrets there, too. It's forced changed behavior on my part. We pride ourselves on being accessible, but that's just something that I think has a lot more downside than upside” (Portland OREGONIAN, 11/13).
The Rays have announced that almost 75% of their tickets for '13 regular-season home games at Tropicana Field will either decrease in price or remain the same. The Rays will continue with four categories of single-game ticket pricing: Diamond, Platinum, Gold and Silver. Upper deck seats will cost as little as $10 for 28 home games in '13. Overall, nearly 80% of '13 home games will feature ticket prices of $14 or lower. For Gold games, outfield prices have dropped from '12 pricing by nearly 25% from $22 to $17. The Rays also for the eighth consecutive year will continue to provide carpoolers access to free parking in team-controlled lots. Additionally, the team will continue its policy of allowing fans to bring food and select beverages into the ballpark (Rays). In Tampa, Marc Topkin notes all details were not released, but the Rays "raised some prices, such as cheapest seat from $9 to $10, and cut others, such as outfield seats for Silver games from $16 to $13." The team also will "keep game times" at 7:10pm ET for weekdays, and 1:40pm for Sundays (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 11/14).
The Maple Leafs and Flames have “boosted the Canadian Women’s Hockey League’s small budget with a multi-year financial commitment,” according to Donna Spencer of the CP. The Maple Leafs are providing $30,000 (all figures Canadian) "annually for the next five years and the Flames $20,000 each of the next four to the five-team league that includes several Canadian and U.S. national team players.” The two NHL clubs also will “market and promote the CWHL teams in their respective markets, which are the Toronto Furies and the yet-unnamed Alberta squad.” The CWHL “can’t yet afford to pay players, but pays the coaches and covers the cost of equipment, ice time and travel.” Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment “struck a task force two years ago, led by hockey operations vice-president Dave Poulin, to look at ways of incorporating women’s hockey into the business.” Using the partnership agreement with MLSE “as a template, the CWHL took proposals to other NHL teams.” The Flames are the “only other NHL club that has bitten so far.” Flames President & CEO Ken King said, “I think cash is important, but I think what is equally important to cash is that their pioneering efforts that have gone on for many years.” Spencer noted the Leafs intend to “market the Furies on their website, at home games and on Leafs TV.” The Alberta CWHL team "will wear Flames colours and the flaming ’C’ will be incorporated into their logo” (CP, 11/13). In Toronto, Daniel Girard writes there is “hope that" the Canadiens and Bruins will "soon reach deals with the CWHL teams in their cities.” The fifth team, the Brampton Hockey Club, also is “hoping to strike an arrangement with an NHL team.” The CWHL “operates on a budget of about $700,000 per season” (TORONTO STAR, 11/14).
HEAR ME ROAR: In Toronto, Damien Cox writes the Hockey HOF is “back to ruthlessly excluding women from its honoured ranks.” The HOF three years ago announced that there “would annually also be room for up to two female players,” but the last two years have included no women. Cox: “Now, it’s like they let a couple of girls into the NHL treehouse but left the ‘Boys Only!’ sign up.” But there was “an understanding that having excluded women for so long, there would be a real effort to address the backlog” (TORONTO STAR, 11/14).