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.
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.
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.