2012 was supposed to be the Miami Marlins year. They had a new $634 million facility, a new manager and even a new logo that better reflected their new Miami friendly image. But somewhere along the way things went very wrong for team owner Jeffrey Loria and his right hand man Dave Samson, Loria’s ex step son and president of the Marlins organization. Their brilliant new stadium suddenly became a burden that could cost tax payers upward of $2.4 billion, their new manager, the always controversial Ozzie Guillen, was quoted saying he loved and respected Fidel Castro, a less than welcome sentiment in the Cuban friendly city, and as the Miami Marlins slowly began to sink back in the standings so did their attendance rate. In this week’s Sports Illustrated, S.L. Price takes a look at the least popular man in Miami and attempts to understand if Jeffery Loria is really all that bad.
Loria, a New York native, purchased the Marlins in 2002 and their World Series victory the following season allowed him to feel a short lived sense of welcome and hope for his newest business venture. While most owners find themselves obsessing about the business of their team, Loria just simply loved baseball and above all else, winning.
“That’s all he talks about,” says Andre Dawson, Hall of Famer and member of the Marlins’ front office. “Winning another World Series.” (PAGE 92)
But while some find Loria to be one of the least meddlesome owners in baseball, it is hard to forget his whimsical decisions such as the firing, rehiring and then refiring of Joe Girardi in 2006. His latest decisions have former players and fans of the Miami Marlins reeling. After squeezing a new stadium out of the county and producing a less than stellar team in 2012, Loria slashed the team’s $110 million payroll to $38 million almost overnight. The cuts included the trading of fan favorite’s shortstop Jose Reyes and pitcher Mark Buehrle to the Toronto Blue Jays.
“This is the most despised ownership I’ve ever seen in this town,” says Carolos Gimenez, the Miami-Dade mayor. “They took the county for a ride to get a stadium. They’ve taken the people for a ride with the product they’ve put out. They develop players, and as soon as they become good and somewhat expensive: Bloop! Off they go. There’s no continuity here.” (PAGE 88)
But while the anger grows and the fans dwindle, Price attempts to understand how it all went so wrong. Samson explains that in a season there are four outcomes: a team wins and draws fans, a team wins and doesn’t draw fans, a team loses but still draws fans and finally a team loses and doesn’t draw fans. When proposing the budget blowing push for the 2012 season, Samson and his team projected the likelihood of a “team loses and doesn’t draw fans” scenario to be only 5%. They were wrong.
“What we [predicted] turned out not to happen – but that’s not lying,” says Samson. “That’s like saying that everyone who gets divorced was lying on their wedding day.” (PAGE 97)