SBD/April 17, 2013/Franchises

Marlins Seek To Refinance Loan, Borrow More; Samson Again Defends Club's Decisions

Marlins are having trouble scoring runs, which won't help with attendance woes
The Marlins are “trying to refinance" $165M and "borrow an additional" $10M, according to sources cited by Daniel Kaplan of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. The loan to date has “helped cover the team’s steep loss" of around $50M last year "from the club’s first campaign in its new ballpark, as well as pay for some of the team’s contribution to the cost of that stadium.” The sources said that the current loan deal “expires in the coming months,” though they added that default is “unlikely because the current banks will do what it takes to renew the financing.” A source pointed to, as positives, Owner Jeffrey Loria’s “support of the club, the health of Major League Baseball, the payroll reduction that is expected to swing last year’s loss to a profit, and the hope that the club will do better this year on and off the field than most assume.” However, others are “not so sure.” A source said, “That is a tough sell” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 4/15 issue).

THE REAL DEAL? The state of the Marlins franchise was examined on ESPN’s “Outside The Lines” Sunday morning, with ESPN’s Bob Ley saying the multi-player trade with the Blue Jays this offseason was a “huge bet on the future.” In the process of “achieving the largest payroll savings ever,” however, the Marlins “continue to lose, attendance dwindles and anger rises.” Ley said, “Loria and his front office say time will vindicate them in this microwave society of instant expectations.” Yankees President Randy Levine said of Loria, “If he wasn’t trying to win and just sitting back and not doing anything, then I would have a real problem with it. But I don’t think that’s what happened here. This wasn’t a salary dump, this was a real baseball trade.” Miami-based WQAM-AM’s Jorge Sedano said, “Nobody’s going to that stadium unless Jeffrey Loria sells that team.” Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan said, “This is a franchise that has been mistreated and that’s reflecting so poorly on Major League Baseball, on the South Florida market, on [MLB Commissioner] Bud Selig and everybody who has been with Jeffrey Loria the whole way” (“OTL,” ESPN, 4/14). ESPN’s Dan Le Batard said it is “not just that people aren’t going to see a really boring, uninteresting team that cannot scores runs,” in addition on TV “no one is watching this.” Le Batard: “This team is getting the ratings of daytime game shows in Miami.” Le Batard said the Marlins “have crossed a precipice you never want to with your customer base” because “angry customers are better than indifferent customers and angry customers have become indifferent customers” (“Dan Le Batard Is Highly Questionable,” ESPN2, 4/16).

TAKE ONE FOR THE TEAM:
On last night's edition of HBO’s “Real Sports," Marlins President David Samson said of he and Loria being the focus of fans' outrage, “If my presence in any way is in any manner stopping people from going to baseball games, I would sooner step aside for one person to go to a game.” HBO's Bryant Gumbel said Samson has to be “somewhat concerned that if there’s a feeling among ballplayers that this is a place you get double-crossed, it’s going to make it real hard for you to build a winner here.” Samson answered, “We’ve had no shortage of players who want to come play here and if you offer the most years and the most money to a player they’re going to play for your team whether you’re located in the far reaches of Yemen or in Miami, Florida” (“Real Sports,” HBO, 4/16).

EXPOS REDUX? CBSSPORTS.com’s Gregg Doyel wrote of Loria, “This is my hope: that he loses like no owner has ever lost. This is a man who helped kill off baseball in Montreal.” Now Loria is “killing off baseball in Miami unless something happens, something so bad -- so much losing, so little attendance -- that he sells the team.” There is “only so much room in my heart, and when it comes to the Marlins my heart is full of disgust for Jeff Loria” (CBSSPORTS.com, 4/12).
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