Loria Pens Ad Explaining Offseason Decisions; Columnists Respond With Skepticism
Marlins Owner Jeffrey Loria and President David Samson will meet the press tonight after taking out a full-page ad in the Miami Herald, South Florida Sun-Sentinel and Palm Beach Post yesterday to defend the team's offseason moves, the "most public step yet in an image-repair strategy," according to Joe Capozzi of the PALM BEACH POST. That strategy is being "organized by the team’s new public relations firm, The JeffreyGroup, hired by the Marlins in January." JeffreyGroup President Mike Valdes-Fauli yesterday "declined to elaborate" on Loria’s letter or his firm’s plans for the Marlins account. Today's session will be Loria's "first meeting with the local media" since the team's multi-player trade with the Blue Jays in November. Fans since the trade have "threatened to boycott the team." Meanwhile, Loria tomorrow is "expected" to attend his first Spring Training game this year (PALM BEACH POST, 2/25).
LORIA IN HIS OWN WORDS: Loria in the ad wrote, "As a result of some bold moves, many grabbed hold of our tough yet necessary decision only to unleash a vicious cycle of negativity." Loria: "As the owner of the ballclub, the buck stops with me and I take my share of the blame where it's due. However, many of the things being said about us are simply not true. ... Losing is unacceptable to me. It's [incumbent] upon us to take swift action and make bold moves when there are glaring problems. The controversial trade we made with the Toronto Blue Jays was approved by Commissioner Bud Selig and has been almost universally celebrated by baseball experts outside of Miami for its value. ... Acquiring high-profile players just didn't work." He continued, "The ballpark issue has been repeatedly reported incorrectly and there are some very negative accusations being thrown around. It ain't true, folks. Those who have attacked us are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts. The majority of public funding came from hotel taxes." Loria: "The simple fact is that we don't have unlimited funds, nor does any baseball team or business. Fans didn't turn out last season as much as we'd like, even with the high-profile players the columnists decry us having traded. ... I can and will invest in building a winner, but last season wasn't sustainable and we needed to start from scratch quickly to build this team from the ground up." He added, "We know we can do a better job communicating with our fans. That starts now. From this point forward we can ensure fans and the entire community that we will keep you abreast of our plan, rationale and motivations" (Mult., 2/24).
DISSECTING THE LETTER: In Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde wrote of the Marlins' offseason trade with the Blue Jays, "Some people said, if you looked at the trade in a vacuum, it made some baseball sense. But who makes trades in vacuums?" Hyde: "The fact is the Marlins got a publicly-financed stadium, signed marquee players one year, dumped payroll the next, will line their pockets with publicly-funded millions and have a three-year building project." If Loria wants to "win people back, it will be with actions, not words." Hyde: "Not ads. Not talks. Not attacks. A new start? That's going to be tough. Burn fans once, shame on them. Burn them again and again - and now in this manner?" (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 2/24). Hyde adds, "No one can be naturally this tone-deaf, can they? No one can deny, deny, deny reality and expect fans to buy in, can they? ... What needs to be done, first and foremost, is for him to get out of the way and be quiet. That's if he won't sell the team at all. The simple truth is Loria has been the Marlins' top problem for a while" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 2/25). The Palm Beach Post's Ethan Skolnick wrote on his Twitter feed, "Jeffrey Loria's pompous full-page ad to fans may be the most worst sports PR move I've ever seen. Read it. Then buy no tickets. ... If Jeffrey Loria insists on declaring war on the media, the media should fight back... by giving his team no coverage." Baseball writer Keith Law wrote, "If you put on sunglasses and read Loria's letter to Marlins fans it just says 'OBEY.'" ESPN's Buster Olney: "He'd get a more friendly response sticking his hand into a badger den." Blogger Amanda Rykoff wrote, "In the case of Jeffrey Loria's letter to Miami fans, you DO want to read the comments." The Seattle Times' Geoff Baker wrote, "Never thought #Marlins owner Loria cud be hated more in any city than Montreal. Congrats on exceeding expectations!" Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal: "Words mean nothing. Let’s see #Marlins put winning team together - and KEEP it together."
NOT MR. POPULARITY: FOXSPORTS.com's Jon Paul Morosi wrote Loria is "about as popular with Marlins fans as Frank McCourt was in L.A. when the Dodgers were in the throes of bankruptcy." It may be "too late to win back the most disaffected segments of the fan base." The narrative to them is "damning and fully formed: Loria convinced taxpayers to fund the new ballpark, masqueraded as a big-market owner for a single season, then jettisoned virtually every large contract on the books." The team ranked 12th in NL attendance last season, and unless the team has a "surprisingly competitive season, crowds are virtually certain to be smaller this year" (FOXSPORTS.com, 2/24).
WORST OF THE WORST: MLB Network's Brian Kenny said the Marlins' trade with the Blue Jays that involved five key assets, including SS Jose Reyes and Ps Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, was the worst move of the offseason, as it is “hard to believe they couldn’t have gotten more by selling them off piece by piece." Kenny: "Think about it, Reyes would be a hot commodity and teams are spending money this offseason.” Kenny added, “Give them credit for this at least: They traded Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle, two players with backloaded contracts, which means they paid a little, the Blue Jays will pay a lot.” Fangraphs.com’s Bill Petti said of the Marlins, “I’m never one who’s going to bury a team that maybe has a smaller market, smaller budget that’s going to try to improve by offloading veteran guys with large contracts and getting back a haul of prospects. I’m the last to bash somebody for that. But we’ve seen this before with the Marlins, and in this case they really didn’t get back that much of a haul” (“Clubhouse Confidential,” MLB Network, 2/23).