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Marlins President David Samson yesterday as a guest on WAXY-AM's "The Dan Le Batard Show" said of fans' perceived negative reaction to the team's multiplayer trade with the Blue Jays, “I think that people should feel betrayed by the fact that we were losing so much. I would think they wouldn’t want us to stay on path and keep losing." When asked why anyone should trust the Marlins management team, Samson said, “Do you mean trust in the fact that we chose the right players? Now I will give you that we obviously haven’t been choosing the right players recently. The faith that we have in our scouts and our upper baseball management to come to our fans with names of players that can win more games -- we still have that faith." He said of next year’s payroll, “I’m not sure what range the payroll will end up at, but I know that we will have the players in place that we believe we will do better than last year. ... We tried the higher payroll and ended up losing more games. So whatever the payroll is, the real important part is having better players." Samson said of Marlins Park, "Let’s not forget how much money (Marlins Owner) Jeffrey Loria spent. He spent over $160 million of his own money to get a ballpark built, which has been a very positive thing and will continue to be a positive long after all of us are gone. ... It’s no longer about whether or not baseball can exist in Miami. We have a ballpark and it exists in Miami and the Marlins aren’t going anywhere for generations" (“The Dan Le Batard Show,” WAXY-AM, 11/14). CBSSPORTS.com's Jon Heyman noted Loria yesterday "defended the megadeal with the Blue Jays that has been characterized as a 'fire sale." Loria said, "We finished in last place. Figure it out." Loria "emphatically said he is not selling the team." He said, "Absolutely not. That's more stupidity. We have to get better. We can't finish in last place. That's unacceptable. We have to take a new course" (CBSSPORTS.com, 11/14).
MIXED FEELINGS: MLB Commissioner Bud Selig at the owners meetings in Chicago yesterday said that the league has yet to see a formal submission for review of the proposed blockbuster trade between the Blue Jays and Marlins that sheds almost all of the Marlins' veteran payroll. Selig declined further comment on the much-discussed deal, but is expected to address the matter later today following the conclusion of the meetings. Selig is not expected to use his best-interests-of-baseball powers to scuttle the trade. Loria, meanwhile, declined to address a group of assembled reporters as he attended committee meetings yesterday, angrily snapping. "Not today, boys. If you haven't figured it out yet, I'm not going to figure it out for you." On the record, other team execs yesterday said they felt there was nothing overtly wrong with the deal. Even outspoken critics of the prior activities of revenue sharing recipients. "Both teams thought they improved themselves. That's what trades are all about," said Yankees President Randy Levine. "There's a collective bargaining agreement, and so far as we can tell, everybody's playing by the rules." White Sox Chair Jerry Reinsdorf declined to characterize his feeling on the trade, even as his body language suggested concern. "That's an interesting question," Reinsdorf said when quizzed on the trade. "I think I'm going to leave that to the commissioner. As a smart man said, it's above my pay grade." More privately, many owners communicated astonishment regarding the deal. "Just when you think you've seen everything, this comes along," said one team exec with multiple decades in the game, shaking his head (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).
30 ANGRY MEN? ESPN’s Buster Olney said if he were Selig, he would "be worried about the owners’ meetings ... knowing how many angry people are going to be in the room.” Olney said team execs told him “there are going to be a lot of questions raised about revenue-sharing money thrown at the Marlins in recent years, whether or not this is going to do damage to the Miami market going forward” but if you are Selig this is a “road you’ve been down before.” ESPN’s Darren Rovell said the sell-off and receiving revenue-sharing payments is a “brilliant business move." Rovell: "Is it unethical? It would seem that would be the case” ("OTL," ESPN, 11/14).
The Marlins' ticket office "got plenty of calls" yesterday from "disgruntled fans, who also hit the airwaves and Twitter," according to Michelle Kaufman of the MIAMI HERALD. Marlins Dir of Business Communications Carolina Perrina de Diego "declined to comment on whether fans threatened to cancel their season tickets." But some longtime fans said that they "would not renew" (MIAMI HERALD, 11/15). Longtime Marlins fan and Miami resident Gary Cooper said that he is "organizing a protest outside Marlins Park at noon Tuesday to let Loria know what fans think" (PALM BEACH POST, 11/15). In Ft. Lauderdale, Juan Rodriguez writes "convincing fans the team is better without guys" like P Josh Johnson, SS Jose Reyes and P Mark Buehrle "won't be easy." Marlins President David Samson also "sidestepped the question of the team's payroll." A projected 25-man roster based on players currently within the organization "totals around $36 million, including money the Marlins are sending the Diamondbacks" for P Heath Bell. The Marlins' '12 Opening Day payroll "was around $94 million" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 11/15). SI.com's Michael Rosenberg writes of Marlins Owner Jeffrey Loria, "What can he tell his fans, who presumably pay taxes and therefore bought him a new stadium so he could boost his payroll?" (SI.com, 11/14). Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said, "Many times, on the record, they made a commitment that once they had a stadium, they would have a competitive team. The team seems to have indicated that they won’t do that now or in the future" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/15). Gimenez said, "They stopped one trade short -- they need to trade owners. I’ve never cared for this ownership group, and look, they’ve done it again. I don’t think they’ve got any credibility left" (MIAMI HERALD, 11/15).
BUILT ON A LIE? In Miami, Dan Le Batard writes it "feels today like our poor city helped build a bejeweled cathedral for false prophets in search of false profits." The Marlins run "their business with little regard for customers or public relations or decency." The players and employees "are cattle," and the customers "are suckers." Le Batard: "You don't trust the people who run the Marlins to tell you the truth, to get the right players, to do their job competently" (MIAMI HERALD, 11/15). SI's Tom Verducci said the “problem” is that Marlins Park was predominantly funded with public money and “you turn around and you pull the plug after one year." Verducci: "It’s hard for people to get that and to live with the history of how Loria has treated the fans of South Florida" ("The Dan Patrick Show," 11/14). The Boston Globe's Bob Ryan said, “This is a shameless act by a shameless person, Jeffrey Loria, and he does not care what you think, I think, any taxpayer thinks, Bud Selig thinks, anybody thinks” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 11/14). The GLOBE & MAIL's Hayley Mick writes even those "involved in the decision to build the new ballpark acknowledge that the trade has now weakened the Marlins brand." Miami City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff said, "The Marlins have lost pretty much all credibility with fans. Even if this trade is a positive move from a baseball standpoint, it won’t be viewed by the general public as a positive move" (GLOBE & MAIL, 11/15). TIME.com's Sean Gregory wrote under the header, "How The Miami Marlins Disgraced Baseball." Gregory wrote you do not secure public money "from a recession-wracked region, secure good players for the stadium’s opening season -- to show your supposed commitment to winning -- and then, almost immediately, execute another Marlins fire sale." Marlins fans "can no longer trust the team, or its ownership" (TIME.com, 11/14).
THE AFTERMATH: In Ft. Lauderdale, Mike Berardino writes Loria "pushed the panic button and left South Florida baseball a nuclear wasteland." Loria's approval rating is at "an all-time low, his baseball legacy trashed" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 11/15). USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale writes of Loria, "You're an owner who betrayed your fans, deceived your players and has lost credibility for as long as you stay in the game." Several owners were "snickering at the Marlins dumping their three biggest free agent acquisitions of last winter" in Reyes, Buehrle and Bell after one season. Player agents "were livid, vowing they would never permit premier free agents to sign with the Marlins" (USA TODAY, 11/15). In West Palm Beach, Dave George writes MLB Commissioner Selig "should say no" when Samson "gets around to filing his formal application for the 2015 All-Star Game at Marlins Park, a plum assignment that the franchise has confidently anticipated since the opening of the new stadium." Denying Loria’s franchise All-Star Game exposure and revenue is the "harshest punishment available for the sin of persistently and greedily fouling the well for baseball in Miami." George: "Kick the Marlins to the back of the line of All-Star Game applicants as proof that fan abuse is a serious matter" (PALM BEACH POST, 11/15).
WHAT CAN SELIG DO? ESPN.com's Buster Olney wrote, "There are calls, in the aftermath of the Marlins' massive sell-off, for Major League Baseball to step in and force Loria to sell the team." But if MLB "really wanted to punish Loria, it wouldn't allow him to sell the team." With the "help of the union, it would force him to increase his payroll to a respectable level and then to sit in the middle of the destruction he has rendered to the south Florida market, rather than to allow him to sell the team and cash in." But given "how this has all played out, it's hard to imagine any conclusion other than this: Loria will pack up his wagon soon, his cash stowed away, and get out of town while the gettin's good" (ESPN.com, 11/14). In Chicago, Phil Rogers writes Selig should "block the proposed 12-player trade." It would "seal his legacy as one of baseball's greatest executives." Loria should be "ashamed of himself." He should be "sanctioned, if not stripped of his franchise." But Selig is "probably powerless to do much about the Marlins-Blue Jays deal because it is the exact same kind of trade the Red Sox made with the Dodgers in August" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 11/15). In Miami, Greg Cote writes, "Step in, baseball. Save us from Jeffrey Loria." Selig should "insist, for example, to the extent of his power, that Loria not be allowed to do now what he has done in the past, which is to cut the player payroll to embarrassing levels in order to pocket the profit" (MIAMI HERALD, 11/15).
EASY DOES IT: ESPN.com's Jim Bowden wrote the trade "looks lopsided, but the Marlins did much better in this megatrade than people think." By acknowledging they "simply weren’t going to win with the team they had, they cleared out almost $185 million in payroll and moved a bunch of veterans in one fell swoop" (ESPN.com, 11/14). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Brian Costa wrote, "If you'll suspend your moral outrage for a moment, there is a sensible aspect to this move." The Marlins were a "last-place team in 2012, despite committing $191 million to free agents last winter." Trading their "best veterans for prospects isn’t an outlandish idea." From a financial standpoint, there has "never been more incentive to do so." Between revenue sharing and "soaring national television revenue," Loria can "probably turn a profit next year no matter how many tickets go unsold" (WSJ.com, 11/14). The L.A. Times' Bill Plaschke noted the Marlins had one of the worst records in MLB last season, and said, "Why is everyone making such a big deal about this? What is so criminal about breaking up a bad, bad baseball team?” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 11/14).
The multiplayer trade between the Marlins and the Blue Jays had a “lot to do with some shrewd calculations" by Blue Jays Owner Rogers Communications Inc., which "took into account the club’s improved attendance, some weakened competitors and a trio of blockbuster television deals,” according to Waldie & Robertson of the GLOBE & MAIL. The trade also comes as Rogers is “putting more emphasis on sports as content for mobile devices by taking half ownership" in Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment. While the Blue Jays’ on-field play had “disappointed fans, the club’s attendance increased 15 per cent last season, and revenue was higher than expected.” Some marketable players, like 3B Brett Lawrie and RF José Bautista, were “attracting fans across the country.” Meanwhile, AL East rivals the Yankees and Red Sox “looked vulnerable for the first time in years, and MLB had just concluded television deals that would put about $25-million [all figures U.S.] extra in each team’s pocket.” Increasing player payroll suddenly "looked like a smart investment and a chance to capitalize on fortunate events.” A source said that Rogers management a few weeks ago “cleared the way” for Blue Jays President & CEO Paul Beeston and GM Alex Anthopoulos to “take the payroll as high as $120-million for the season if necessary.” Anthopoulos “went out to look for players, and soon found a willing seller” in Marlins Owner Jeffery Loria. MLB's recent media rights deals were “key to making the deal work for Rogers" (GLOBE & MAIL, 11/15).
GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR: The GLOBE & MAIL’s Bruce Dowbiggin writes the “collapse of management’s Youth Will Be Served plan chastened the Blue Jays.” While the '12 season attendance and TV ratings were improved from '11, the Blue Jays "finished 22nd in MLB attendance with an average crowd of 25,921 -- 52.2 per cent of capacity.” TV ratings “surged early but levelled off late.” Former manager John Farrell’s departure to the Red Sox “did nothing for credibility, either” (GLOBE & MAIL, 11/15). The GLOBE & MAIL’s Robert MacLeod writes, “The belief here is that the 35-year-old general manager still has another move or two up his sleeve.” The Blue Jays are “suddenly considered a desirable landing spot for free agents now that Anthopoulos has proven he is willing to spend some dough to upgrade the roster” (GLOBE & MAIL, 11/15).
The Bills will play five of their final seven games at home, including the "annual 'home' game at Toronto," and how much "support the Bills get remains a concern," according to John Wawrow of the AP. Tonight's Dolphins-Bills game in Buffalo is sold out, but there are “questions whether they can sell out their three remaining games.” The team this week announced that it “still has more than 15,000 tickets unsold" for its Dec. 2 game against the Jaguars. There also are “more than 10,000 tickets available" for Rams-Bills on Dec. 9 and the season finale Jets-Bills game on Dec. 30. The Bills have had “difficulty selling out home games in December” since HOFer Jim Kelly was with the team. The Bills sold out only 55% of the club's games in the '90s and the figures “haven't been much better since.” It is a concern that has “led the Bills and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer to question why the NFL would continue scheduling so many games in Buffalo this late in the season.” Bills CEO Russ Brandon said, “It's a proven fact that in December in Buffalo, it's difficult to attain sellout status at our facility. December games are a challenge. But competitively, there's no place we'd rather play meaningful games than at home in front of our fans.” NFL VP/Communications Brian McCarthy said, “We are aware of the Bills' preferences for limiting late-season home games. We know we are not able to make every team happy every year” (AP, 11/13).
In Massachusetts, Bob Lobel writes financial issues for Red Sox Owner John Henry have "begun to surface, and there is now some doubt about the bottomless reserves we believed existed for this once-billionaire." Lobel: "If I were a betting man, I would wager that the financial crisis pays Fenway Sports Group a visit. ... I don't know where the [Roush Fenway] racing team fits in, but I am pretty sure the baseball team, the ball park and the underperforming, but very profitable, New England Sports Network, would be the last to be sold" (GOLOCALWORCESTER.com, 11/15).
THE LAKE SHOW: In L.A., Bill Plaschke wrote the Lakers are a "drifting, dysfunctional mess." Lakers Owner Jerry Buss less than three years ago "was arguably the best sports owner ever." But now his "declining health, combined with his decision to delegate his power to curious son Jimmy, has left the Lakers looking uncertain, unsettled and increasingly unstable" (L.A. TIMES, 11/13). Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said of the team's decision to hire Mike D'Antoni as coach instead of Phil Jackson, "We sorted through the P.R. backlash and decided ultimately that we could withstand it. We thought about the way we wanted to play and the personnel and became more and more convinced that we were doing the right thing" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 11/14).
WHAT CAN BROWNS DO FOR YOU? ESPN CLEVELAND's Tony Grossi wrote, "Everyone knows changes are coming to the Browns" under new Owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner. Where does "a uniform change fit in?" A poll of Browns players found that the "vast majority favor a uniform change." The general sentiment was that "change is good and the drab sameness of the Browns' uniforms is somewhat deflating." Browns S T.J. Ward said, "I think it's a new generation of football. Especially with us being one of the youngest teams, I think the consensus is we kind of all want something fresh, a new look. There's nothing wrong with keeping the same look, but maybe an alternate or a change-up" (ESPNCLEVELAND.com, 11/12).
MINOR ADJUSTMENT: In Pennsylvania, Donnie Collins reports the Triple-A Int'l League Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees yesterday "became the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders." The club held a "Name The Team" contest with options such as Trolley Frogs, Black Diamond Bears and Fireflies losing out (Scranton TIMES-TRIBUNE, 11/15).