SBD/November 14, 2012/Franchises

Marlins Set For Mega-Trade With Blue Jays As Heat Gets Turned Up On Loria

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Reyes (l) and Bonifacio are part of about $160M in salary coming off Marlins' books
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!"
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