Loria, in Chicago for the baseball owners meetings, spoke with CBSSports.com baseball writer Jon Heyman Wednesday about the 12-player trade the Marlins made with the Blue Jays Tuesday night.
“We finished in last place. Figure it out,’’ a defiant Loria told Heyman.
Loria also emphatically said he isn’t selling the team. “Absolutely not. That’s more stupidity.’’
Only two years ago, Loria was threatened with a spanking by MLB after using revenue sharing from the league’s wealthier teams to cover payroll for two years, and not signing players to long-term deals. Without reaching into his own pocket, Loria made the largest profit in baseball those two years. Under pressure, he soon signed Ramirez and Josh Johnson to lengthy contracts.
“The only thing I can assume is he made promises” to increase payroll if the stadium was built, author deMause said. “He tried it and it didn’t work, so he’s going back to his old model.”
County commissioner and stadium proponent Dennis Moss said he’d be disheartened if Loria simply focused on maximizing profits.
“I want the Marlins to refill their roster,” he said.
The roster changes also could set back plans for a retail and restaurant district that stadium supporters had said would revitalize the surrounding Little Havana neighborhood and fill the adjacent parking garages. A year after the Marlins opened their doors, it still hasn’t materialized.
Real estate agent Horacio Aguirre, who specializes in the area, called the idea of drawing restaurants to stadium district now “rubbish,’’ noting that already-disappointing attendance is sure to tank.
“There has been absolutely no evidence of any development caused by the stadium, and until they can bring more people into the stadium, that won’t change,’’ he said.
To many, Tuesday’s massive changes cemented fears that Loria is a carpetbagger who took the team’s reins a decade ago only looking for profit.
The initial 2009 agreement sparked controversy when the Marlins cried poor and refused to make their finances public. It was later revealed that the team had in fact made $52 million in operating income, the most in the league, in 2008 and 2009.
Citizen uproar over the matter cost several elected leaders their jobs and soured the public against the Marlins leadership.
The $634 million stadium and parking complex contract called for the Marlins to spend $120 million on construction, and allows the team to keep almost 100 percent of concession revenue. The city shelled out $119 million for six parking garages, and the county through a variety of tourist taxes spent $395 million to complete the deal.
The ballclub doesn’t pay taxes because the county owns the building. The team also agreed to pay the city between $10 and $12 each for the 5,850 parking spaces, every year. The club keeps profits made from reselling the spots at a higher price.
The Marlins pay the county $2.3 million a year in rent, though it’s using that money to pay back a $35 million loan from the county. Ballpark construction is also widely expected to come in under the $515 million budget, meaning any savings would come from the $120 million Loria is responsible for spending. That won’t be known for certain until next year.
The contract also stipulates that if Loria were to sell the team, any new owner would be bound to the conditions in the contract.