Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig calls the Miami Marlins’ players swap and salary dump with Toronto “plausible baseball judgment.”
Betrayal is more like it.
Flashback to 2005. Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria went begging to this community, saying the team couldn’t afford to draw the big-name players because it wasn’t making any money using the Dolphins’ football stadium for baseball games. It rains too much here in the summer, which causes game delays, guts attendance and threatens the loss of revenue from television coverage. The team would have to look to other cities if it couldn’t get a better venue, he said.
Moving from Miami Gardens to Little Havana’s Orange Bowl site for a new baseball stadium with a retractable roof would be key to keeping the franchise in South Florida, Mr. Loria told us.
And, Marlins officials promised publicly, if the stadium were built mostly with public funds — part of the hotel bed tax charged to tourists — the team would be able to spend more, courting big-name players to the roster with hefty salaries to draw more fans.
Then came the news in 2010 of the team’s leaked financial documents showing the Marlins were doing pretty well — indeed, making a profit, and they would have been able to afford to chip in much more into the stadium complex.
But wait, Marlins officials say, the money was not a net profit. It was money the team was saving to qualify for loans to pay off their portion of the debt . . .
Who knows what the numbers say. They were never shared with elected officials of Miami or Miami-Dade County. The team said it couldn’t share those numbers without hurting its franchise’s competitiveness.
To compound the mystery of the numbers, Marlins officials promised they would build the best team with the best attendance. But with barely the ink dry on those contracts it fired the manager and dumped several big-name players in exchange for little-known players; in essence, maintaining the team’s MLB-distributed money for “poor” teams to beef up its books.
What is the community left to believe?
Were the promises of building up a stellar team, of big names and growing attendance just a bunch of tall tales?
The Marlins have for a long time had one of the lowest payrolls in the league. That may be the Loria business model, and it may work just fine, but that’s not what was promised to the community. Have fans and local officials been duped?
When the team sought the community’s support for hotel tax money to get the stadium built, the Editorial Board supported the effort for various reasons. Those were flush times; there was money available through the hotel tax, which meant local taxpayers mostly would not be affected; Mr. Loria cried poverty and promised plenty. We also promised to push team management to build the stadium on time, which it was. It came in under budget, too.
So now we’re left with a deal that provides no parking revenue or concessions to local government because it was formed on the premise that the Marlins were facing a loss.
The ultimate insult is dismantling the team because its big-name players didn’t deliver in one year’s time. That amounts to a bait and switch.
Show us in your actions, Mr. Loria, that you’re committed to Miami with a first-class team for a first-class facility.