Step in, baseball. Step into this mess called the Miami Marlins, because we need help. Save us from Jeffrey Loria. Save us from an owner who has somehow managed to make this a foundering, fragile franchise whose fans feel furious and betrayed despite a $515 million new ballpark.
This sport’s commissioner, Bud Selig, has broad authority under the “best interests of baseball” provision that would allow him to nullify this latest payroll-dump, fire-sale trade by the Marlins — the one that has fans feeling as if they have been punched in the heart and hit below the belt all at once.
That almost certainly won’t happen, of course. The trade with Toronto is sure to be approved, sending Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Emilio Bonifacio and John Buck north in exchange for one proven player and a handful of low-cost maybes.
But that does not mean the Marlins do not merit serious oversight by the sport. Selig should insist, for example, to the extent of his power, that Loria not be allowed to do now what he has done in the past, which is to cut the player payroll to embarrassing levels in order to pocket the profit.
The stakes are higher now, different. Good faith and public trust are involved.
Loria assured us all that realizing the new ballpark would at last provide the revenue stream to allow much higher, competitive payrolls. And he kept that promise to start the 2012 season, the first in his new palace. But now it seems the disappointing season was all the excuse Loria needed to dismantle the team again, to trade his best (most expensive) players as if in a garage sale and go back to his frugal ways.
It should not be permitted to happen.
Loria has a moral obligation to the county, city and taxpayers who substantially built the stadium for him. He has an obligation to the fans who were promised consistent competitive spending and now feel fleeced, duped. He also has an obligation to his fellow owners, especially the bigger teams whose revenue sharing gives Loria a financial cushion before the first ticket is sold.
Instead what the Marlins are offering feels more like this:
Dysfunction and disrespect.
The dysfunction is in bringing in a wrecking ball and starting over (a tactic made somewhat more suspicious by the fact Loria is set to save about $100 million he had not yet committed to pour back into the team, into the fans’ battered faith).
The disrespect is in playing those same fans for fools, as if they will obediently file into your new park even if the team you put in there is a glorified minor-league squad.
Loria and his henchman, club president David Samson, don’t get it.
Both were on damage control Wednesday in the face of the fan fury, trying to manage a positive spin, which was hopeless.
“We finished in last place. Figure it out,” Loria said when asked why the 2012 team has substantially been dismantled.
Samson, on 790 The Ticket, said when asked about fans who feel betrayed, “People should feel betrayed by the fact we were losing so much. They shouldn’t want us to stand pat. On the positive side, we have a great ballpark and we need a great team to go with it. Losing 93 games is far more embarrassing than this [trade].”
Who are these two kidding? Do they think fans believe that replacing stars with prospects either makes you a better team now or a more attractive one?