SBD/February 28, 2013/Franchises

Samson Defends Marlins PR Initiative, But Is Apologetic For Situation

Samson (r) addresses Loria's recent PR initiative, fan anger on "OTL"
Marlins President David Samson defended team Owner Jeffrey Loria's PR initiative this week, but said he feels "sorry" that the fanbase is angry with management after it dismantled last year's roster. Appearing on ESPN's "Outside The Lines," Samson noted Loria emerged this week after failing to explain the offseason moves because "everyone was waiting for the owner to speak." Samson said of Loria, "He wanted to speak directly to the fans, and sometimes you speak to the media and sometimes to the fans. I think that letter, he was trying to speak directly to the fans.” Samson denied some of the fan anger was a "media invention," saying, "I understand it. ... I feel so sorry about it because all the work that everyone did for the ballpark and the construction of the ballpark. We want people there enjoying baseball. ... To the extent that the owner of the team or the president of the team or the manager or any specific player would ever stop someone from going to games, that’s too bad. Memories can be made at baseball games, and we built it not just for today and tomorrow, but the next 30, 40, 50 years. That’s what I’m so sorry about today.” He added, “Maybe we’re continuing to make mistakes, but we're trying to do better and we want to do better.” The team will have a payroll around $40-45M heading into Opening Day after getting rid of several high-priced players in the past year, and Samson said, "We really are sorry that what we did last year really didn't work. We put the payroll higher than it should have been and we put together this team that we thought would win, we thought every game would sell out. Just collectively, for whatever reason, none of it worked and we had to try over. We just couldn't afford as a business to keep the payroll where it was. ... You try things and it didn’t work. It’s hard when it doesn't work. It’s hard on the fans. It was such a bad year to have a bad year both on and off the field” ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 2/27).

DISCONNECT BETWEEEN OWNERSHIP, FANS: Miami Herald columnist Greg Cote said there is a "big disconnect between what the club is thinking and what fans are thinking." Cote: "The club keeps talking business and fans are hearing betrayal. Fans are very angry and disappointed and upset. Mr. Loria said the other day that we have energized the franchise, which left all of South Florida shaking its head. I think there’s a basic disconnect between the club feeling it’s doing what it needs to do and the populace down here just throwing up its hands and going, ‘Here we go again.'" ESPN's Darren Rovell said, "What’s interesting is that there are many people within baseball, many owners, who actually like Jeffrey Loria. They think that he is well-meaning." He added Loria's worst flaw may be that he "doesn't necessarily have the tact to talk to the common folk, and that probably comes from his art world” ("OTL," ESPN, 2/27). The AP’s Tim Dahlberg wrote Loria’s “decision this week to embark on a public relations campaign to convince fans he was right to trade the team’s top talent … because he wanted to make the Marlins better, reeked of arrogance.” Dahlberg: “It didn’t work mostly because Loria acted the way he always acts -- like he’s the smartest person in the room.” The open letter to fans “went over about as well as former manager Ozzie Guillen praising Fidel Castro" last season. Dahlberg: “One newspaper called Loria the most hated man in baseball, and with Frank McCourt no longer controlling the Dodgers and Alex Rodriguez on the disabled list, it’s hard to argue with that” (AP, 2/27).

NOT AN APPLES FOR APPLES TRADE: Loria this week repeatedly defended trading SS Jose Reyes and Ps Josh Johnson and Mark Buerhle, among others, to the Blue Jays, claiming the move was celebrated by baseball experts. But ESPN.com's Keith Law said, "They really didn't get enough in return given the quality of the players they were giving up and given the contracts. ... It was quite clear that the Marlins' No. 1 priority was dumping the contract rather than getting the maximum possible return in young players.” Samson said, "It’s tough to know who’s going to pan out as a prospect and who’s not. But when you’re doing a trade ... you have to look at the contracts that you’re trading and you have to look at what the value of the contracts (are)" ("OTL," ESPN, 2/27).
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