Massacre in Miami Could Have Lasting Effect on MLB

We used to have an old saying in police work: “Never get arrested on a slow news day.” This saying, of course, had more to do with the person being arrested and with the news media than with the cops, but its meaning is clear – when there isn’t a lot going on and something small happens, everybody hears about; but when there is a lot going on and something small happens, nobody hears about it.

Enter Jeffrey Loria and the Miami Marlins.

Granted, the trade of Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Josh Johnson to the Toronto Blue Jays by the Marlins is anything but something small; in fact it’s huge - topped only by the blockbuster trade between the Red Sox and the Dodgers last August. But making this trade during the off-season three weeks before the winter meetings when the Hot Stove is traditionally lit, it quickly became the hot topic for every sportswriter and blog writer in the business (and rightfully so); hence that slow news day metaphor. And while the Massacre in Miami is certainly huge in its own right, it is getting a lot more attention than it would have if it had occurred three weeks later – and I’m not just talking the attention of only baseball folks, I’m talking the attention of local law makers and other politicians.

It’s no secret that the highly competitive yet poorly attended Tampa Bay Rays have been trying desperately to get the city St. Petersburg to build them a new stadium to replace terribly obsolete Tropicana Field for more than a decade now. And even though the Rays seem to be in the thick of every pennant race every season against their division rivals Yankees and Red Sox, the Rays games remain among the least attended games in all of baseball, this in spite of three consecutive 90+ win seasons.

Many consider Tropicana Field the worst ballpark in the MLB.
(Photo courtesy of baseballpilgrimages.com)

Why not just move the Rays to a city that will support them better than St. Petersburg and build them a new stadium, you ask? Unfortunately, the Rays have a lease agreement with the city of St. Petersburg until 2027. That’s 15 more years, folks.

The Tampa Bay Rays ownership group isn’t stupid… not by any means. They jumped all over the success that the Miami Marlins had in getting Miami-Dade County law makers (and eventually voters) to approve funding for Marlins Park. But just when the Rays were actually making progress (albeit slow) with the city of St. Petersburg and local law makers towards considering building a new stadium for the Rays, the Massacre in Miami occurred and effectively pulled the plug on the whole deal and pretty much doused the hopes of the Rays ever getting a new ballpark – at least any time soon, that is. (How’s that old saying go? “Fool me once shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”)

As Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports put it:

“One exec said the Rays had been “making progress” on financing, but would be set back by the Marlins’ betrayal of the Miami-Dade County lawmakers who approved the team’s subsidies. Another exec predicted that the Rays now stand “zero chance” of getting a park built to replace dreary Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. FL.”

Make no mistake about it, what Jeffrey Loria did to the city of Miami will have a negative and lasting impact on any small market team attempting to get financial assistance from municipalities for new ballparks. In fact, I’d even be willing to bet that you will never again see any municipality pony up the money for a new stadium ever again, at least not most of the money as the city of Miami did for the Marlins. I mean, in a state where they can’t even count two ballots correctly, do you really think that the Massacre in Miami won’t be on everyone’s mind if a similar ballot measure were to be put in front of Florida voters again?

The lying by Marlins is no longer a secret. They lied to their players, to their fans, and even to local law makers for the sole purpose of getting them to approve a new stadium on the taxpayers’ dime. According to the April 9 issue of The New Yorker Magazine:

“The team typically claimed season-ticket sales of 5,000 in recent years, although David Samson, the Marlins’ president, freely concedes that was a lie.” “It was always 2,000,” Samson told the magazine.

Marlins president David Samson readily admits that he lied to get approval to build Marlins Park.
(Photo credit – Kiko Ricote)

How can Bud Selig and Major League Baseball allow this to happen? Sure, every franchise pads their attendance numbers a bit, but when you can count the people in attendance on TV because there are so few, such falsehoods are inexcusable. Not only should the MLB be outraged by this, so too should every other team owner. You can bet that Stuart Sternberg, Vincent J. Naimoli, and the rest of the Tampa Bay Rays ownership group are outraged by it.

The point here, of course, is that the unscrupulous, unethical, greedy, unprofessional, deceitful actions of one incompetent baseball franchise shouldn’t have such a devastating trickle-down effect on any other baseball franchise, but what the Miami Marlins and Jeffrey Loria did most certainly will – and probably for a very very long time.

…especially for the Tampa Bay Rays.

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8 Responses to “Massacre in Miami Could Have Lasting Effect on MLB”

  1. Bluenose Dodger says:

    That’s a great perspective. Even if teams stay competitive after the local governments have built a new stadium, I just don’t know what the net benefit to the community might be. That is, with spin off jobs, accommodations, restaurants, etc. in the area. In any event, fool me once …

    • Ron Cervenka says:

      “I just don’t know what the net benefit to the community might be.”

      Oh make no mistake about it, Bluenose; it’s all about the money (tax base), i.e. the amount of revenue that will come into the city through the team’s property tax, sales tax, employment (income) tax, accommodation (lodging) tax, etc. All of these things will take a serious hit if there is a boycott of the team by fans.

      Cities do not fund stadiums (or teams) as a “feel good” thing; they do it solely for a (hopefully) long-term return on their investment – period. When this doesn’t happen, stadiums like Tropicana Field fall into a state of disrepair, not to mention a spike in local unemployment, etc.

      The path that most MLB teams are taking these days involve the insanely huge TV rights deals being cut, but this is of little help to small market teams, except for the revenue sharing that they receive from the big market teams. Unfortunately, unscrupulous and dishonest owners like Jeffrey Loria do not use this money for its intended purpose – to acquire talent to make them competitive. They instead use it to line their pockets.

      This is a very significant and crucial moment in baseball history and it will (as the article suggests) have a lasting effect on the future of the game, especially for small market teams.

  2. Evan Bladh says:

    When I was in Miami in June attending the wedding of a niece, we had a free day with the parents of her in-laws. I suggested that we take in a ball game. The father-in-law, a Miami life long resident and retired Miami Dade police detective that is a Miami sports junkie told me that he will never step foot in that place. He was resentful about how they went about snookering the citizenry into paying for the place. he disliked it’s location in a corner of the city that he considered a bit seedy and altogether he had a distrust of Marlins management. “We don’t need baseball here. 2 championships and each time they dismantled the team after that,” he said.

    • Ron Cervenka says:

      Selling off the individual pieces after two World Championships pretty much identifies Loria’s motive – Greed. I would almost be okay with this if the money that he made from these guys went right back into the team to make it even better, but Loria has done the exact opposite – he pocketed the money and is going to start over again by fielding a Triple-A team. He got lucky twice before doing this, which is undoubtedly why he is willing to try it again.

      From a minor leaguer’s point of view, this is great (as ebbetsfld accurately pointed out), but from a fan’s point of view (and a free agent’s, and a taxpayer’s), this is the worst thing that could happen.

      While researching the article, that “seedy area” thing came up, Evan. There was a huge public outcry to build Marlins Park closer to the downtown area, which is (apparently) a much nicer part of town with public transportation readily available. But here again, by forcing fans to have to drive to the ballpark, Loria makes even more money on parking – kind of McCourt-like, wouldn’t you say?

      By the way – GREAT comments, guys. You guys definitely see just how big of a deal this truly is.

  3. thinkblue55 says:

    5000 season ticket holders, huh? The Marlins played a day game against the Braves back in ’08 on a particularity warm and humid day. The Marlins boasted that ticket sales for this game were over 11,000 and while this may not seem a boast for a stadium that holds over 60,000 people compared to the actual attendance, 11 grand sounds like the crowd at Woodstock. At first pitch, attendance was a modest 600 people. No, I didn’t miss a 0. Six Hundred. It’s hard to even imagine what attending that game was like, luckily, I know an eye witness.

    My cousin, Corky Miller, was playing for the Braves that season. It was after the 40 man expansion and he was a back up for Brian McCann. He told me it was quietest game he had ever attended, including high school. How quite? Not only could fans hear the players banter at home plate but they could hear the fans. Not the usually ‘Hey, you suck, Chipper!’ which is only heard when a fan yells towards the field. No, players in the dugout, not just the field, could hear a normal level conversation between fans. Things like, “No, just one hotdog and please don’t forget the relish this time.” Weirdest experience he’s had on a baseball field. And this is the guy who was behind the plate when a minor league umpire had a bat thrown at him!

    To put how bad this was in some further perspective picture this; After a couple innings and the realization that no one else was coming the ushers started asking fans to fill the lower sections. The hope being that the stadium wouldn’t look quite so empty on TV. Seeing as each aisle can hold over 200 people and there are more than 3 sections at field obviously you math buffs figured out this plan was moot. Trying to make that stadium look ‘less empty’ is like trying to have 3 small children try and fill a movie theatre. It doesn’t matter where they sit, you can tell there are still a few tickets available.

  4. CRANBROOK MIKE says:

    Can you imagine if they had won the Pujols sweepstakes last year!

    • thinkblue55 says:

      The sole reason they didn’t? Didn’t offer a no trade clause. He met with them and heard their pitch but when they weren’t even willing to discuss it, they were out. He never even truly considered them a contender at that point. How would you like to sign a 9 or 10 year contract with an employer there, you relocate you family to that city just to be forced to relocate against your will to a location of their choosing? Now imagine this happened your first year in. Forget about the money, just think about roots you intended to establish in a city/state and just when you get settled you are told to close your eyes and point. Wherever you finger lands on the map that’s where you were moving too. Not only are you moving but you are there for the reminder of your deal. You just pissed away your hard earned free agency status. Some may say ‘Well that’s the business. They should be used to it.’ – and they were… for their first six years as a Major Leaguer.

      In the case of Jose Reyes, he is now stuck in Canada for 5 years. He signed up to play in Miami with the promise of not just big money but a plan for the future and a new direction and life for not just the franchise but the city and the Latin/Cuban community. As a Latin player, I’m sure that appealed to him. Now he’s got a better chance to win in Toronto which is great but he signed with Miami and with the intent of playing in Miami for a large portion if not the duration of his contract. He was a free agent and he earned that right. No offense to our Canadian members, I’m sure Toronto is lovely… but it’s no Miami Beach.

      • Ron Cervenka says:

        GREAT explanation, Garrett. Although I can’t imagine that there is anyone who still doesn’t fully understand the magnitude of all of this, your explanation certainly should clear it for anyone who doesn’t.

        As you noted in your original article, what Jeffrey Loria did is flat out criminal. He should be forced to sell the team and be banned from the game for life.

        I am truly amazed that he hasn’t been found in a ditch somewhere or feeding fish in the Gulf. They do things a little different in the south.

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