Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria is gaining a reputation as the reincarnation of George “The Boss” Steinbrenner — a meddling, micro-managing multi-millionaire who imposes his impulsive will on those who run the team even though he has never played, managed, scouted or coached professional baseball.
It was only after Steinbrenner ceased second-guessing that the New York Yankees became six-time World Series champions under his reign. After a dreadfully disappointing season, Marlins personnel and fans are wondering if Loria will follow the example of Steinbrenner, whom he admired.
Not only did Loria, a New York art dealer, choose the team’s colors and logo for their Miami makeover and select artwork for their new stadium, but he also spearheaded the signing of key free agents and has been known to insist on the demotion of certain players.
Loria has Steinbrenner’s penchant for firing managers. If Ozzie Guillen is terminated after one season, the Marlins will have their fourth Opening Day manager in four years come April.
After the team’s dysfunctional debut season in Marlins Park, part of the blame is being placed on Loria, whose decisions and the manner in which he made them has strained the nerves of his front office executives. The atmosphere inside the clubhouse and dugout wasn’t much better in the waning weeks of the 69-93 season that began with Guillen’s incendiary comments about his admiration of Fidel Castro and ended with the lowest opening year attendance recorded for any brand-new baseball stadium.
As Major League Baseball’s playoffs commenced for the ninth straight year without the Marlins, frustrated local fans couldn’t help but note the presence of the expansion Washington Nationals, bursting with young talent; the canny stratagems of Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who was fired by Loria, the clutch hitting of Detroit Tiger Miguel Cabrera, who won the Triple Crown five years after the Marlins traded him to save money, and the promising play of Oakland rookie Yoenis Céspedes, who wanted to come to Miami after he defected from Cuba, but didn’t after negotiations broke down over a few million dollars of a multi-year contract.
Guillen now awaits his fate, which is solely in the hands of Loria, according to front office employees. President of Baseball Operations Larry Beinfest is also on the hook.
“We bad team? Yes. We stunk? Yes we are,” Guillen said. “I blame myself. That front office should look itself in the mirror because we are here together and we fail together.”Loria, 71, has gone through six managers since he bought the team in 2002.
“There’s not a manager dead or alive that Jeffrey thinks is good enough,” Braves Manager Fredi Gonzalez, who was fired by Loria, said last month. “Not Connie Mack [the longtime baseball manager not the U.S. Senate candidate], not anyone.”
Loria blasted Gonzalez as a “colossal failure,” although Gonzalez managed the last two winning Marlins teams, in 2008 and 2009.
Loria was not available for comment. Nor was David Samson, the team president who is also the son of Loria’s former wife. But P.J. Loyello, vice president of communications and broadcasting for the team, said in an email: “I’ve been working with Jeffrey since 1999 and the notion that he micromanages is simply not true.”