Last season was supposed to represent a change in the culture of the Miami Marlins. They changed their name, uniform, signed several big-name free agents, and were set to open a new stadium in Miami. Things were supposed to be different.
The new stadium, funded in large part to public financing, will cost the city of Miami over $2 billion over the next 40 years. The financing came with the understanding that the Marlins, owned by Jeffrey Loria, would become a competitive baseball team and represent the city well over the next few years.
Things didn’t work out and the $409 million the Marlins received in public financing now seems like it was obtained through false pretenses. The understanding was that the Marlins would be baseball’s version of the Miami Heat, built seemingly overnight because of a free agent bonanza two years ago. The Heat have their championship and will likely win many more. The Marlins, under the leadership of Ozzie Guillen, imploded and finished with only 69 wins.
Instead of making small adjustments the Marlins started to blow the team up last season, trading Hanley Ramirez to the Los Angeles Dodgers and then sending Heath Bell to the Arizona Diamondbacks this off-season. Now, this trade with the Toronto Blue Jays.
There is a saying, “Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” That motto should be emblazoned on Commissioner Bud Selig’s wall right now. Loria tried to extort the city of Montreal into giving him a new stadium. When that didn’t happen Loria did everything he could to ruin the Expos, allowing several talented players to leave via trade and free agency.
In 2002, Selig and Loria worked out a deal that would allow Loria to sell the Expos to Expos Baseball, LP, which was a conglomeration of Major League Baseball, Selig, and all the owners. With that sale complete Selig and the other owners approved the sale of the Marlins to Loria from John Henry which allowed Henry to buy into the Boston Red Sox.
Loria paid $158.5 million for the Marlins and although the Marlins beat the New York Yankees in the 2003 World Series, the team was still dismantled with stars like Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell being shipped to the Boston Red Sox.
Now, less than one year after Loria promised Miami a competitive team it sits as arguably the worst team in Major League Baseball, its new stadium, name, and uniforms a reminder of the failed promises and shady backroom deals that cost the city of Miami billions of dollars and a fan base its pride.
At the owners meetings next week every baseball owner should demand that Loria be exiled from the sport. He has tried to extort two cities and succeeded with one. It is time for him to go and go now. Baseball in Miami might forever be ruined and the team may never recover from this. Why should the Marlins fan base believe any future owner, especially if MLB doesn’t oust Loria, that long-term success and commitment are indeed just that?
Following the 1997 World Series win the Marlins sold off their team. It happened again after 2003. Now, one year after Loria spent money in a fashion that would have caused a drunken sailor to raise his eyebrows, it has happened once more.
Baseball needs to do something quickly before ruining an entire market for all eternity.