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Volume 20 No. 41
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Samson: Marlins’ ballpark was no mistake

Baseball in Miami has been anything but boring in recent years. The Miami Marlins built a modern ballbark relying heavily on public money, hired the colorful and sometimes controversial Ozzie Guillen as manager, lost 93 games last season, fired Guillen, and unloaded stars in several trades including a blockbuster deal with the Blue Jays in November.

In the middle of that is David Samson, the team’s president and no stranger to controversy himself. Samson sat down with research director David Broughton earlier this year and talked about the team, the ballpark and the future.

David Samson: “This ballpark … will be part of the fabric of Miami for a long time.”
How do you respond to the criticism you continue to get from the media and the fans about the huge trade last fall?

SAMSON: Look, we lost 93 games last year — we didn’t exactly break up the ’27 Yankees. So to the players we traded, we said, “Listen, we didn’t sign you to trade you. We didn’t think it would be like this, and we’re very sorry.” You know how when your kid takes off a Band-Aid a little bit at a time and they yell. “It hurts too much, it hurts too much!” and you yell at them, “It’s because you’re pulling one hair off at a time!” Well, with the trades we are saying to our fans, “Trust me. It’s going to hurt like a bitch for a second.” But it’s going to be like [acts out taking off a bandage] RRRIIIIIIPP. And they yell for a second. Then it’s gone. That’s what we had to do.

And you didn’t get the new-ballpark honeymoon that most clubs have enjoyed.

SAMSON: The worst part about it was we just didn’t have the revenue we thought we’d have. We just didn’t. When we went into our all-in plan, we knew there were four quadrants of possible outcomes: the last quadrant was you don’t win and you don’t draw. And that’s what happened. But where we didn’t make a mistake was with the ballpark. This ballpark is real and permanent and will be part of the fabric of Miami for a long time.

Speaking of stadiums, how do you think the negative feelings about what you went through to get your stadium built will affect the ability of other Florida sports venues to get public money for construction?

SAMSON: Each deal has to stand on its own merits and go through the same debates that happened with the Marlins Park. Remember that was a 10-year process through three different owners. It’s the Jessica Chastain of ballparks — it may seem like it happened overnight, but it was more like 13 years of waiting tables.

As an undergrad, you majored in economics and minored in philosophy. Which discipline wins out at the office?

SAMSON: I would say that I make more decisions today based on a mix of the two more than I ever thought I would. I always thought I’d stay black and white. My favorite class in school was logic, under the philosophy umbrella, but it’s got proofs and it’s got an answer. And that’s how I very much am. The combination of the two continues to help me to this day because I love to think of things in the abstract, but knowing that eventually I have to get to an absolute answer. I don’t want to be that guy who can’t make a decision, and if you never look for the answer, you can spend your whole day in the clouds.

You said you probably won’t be around when the Marlins can boast a “long-standing tradition.” What would you be doing if you weren’t in baseball?

SAMSON: I am not exceptionally skilled at anything, I’m just willing to try everything. That’s like a Woody Allen line, right? Ninety-eight percent of life is showing up. The majority of people just don’t show up. I hope that when my kids look back on their childhood with me, they’ll see a guy that was little crazy, definitely out there. Controversial but got stuff done and when he set his mind to do something, it got done.