“If the twin goals are to win a World Series and make a lot of money, Loria is a good owner and businessman,” said Jonah Keri, a baseball writer for Grantland.com who wrote The Extra 2 Percent, a book on the transformation of the Rays, and is working on a history of the Montreal Expos. “The system in baseball allows owners to take advantage of it, and that doesn’t make you evil. It makes you clever and opportunistic. There is nothing compelling owners to spend money every year and in a free market, why should they?”
Keri brings an interesting perspective to the sport, having covered the stock market for 11 years for Investor’s Business Daily. You could say Loria is doing his version of Wall Street’s “pump-and-dump” strategy. You could also say he did well going long — winning a World Series — and he did well going short — making a killing in a $7 billion industry awash in revenue-sharing money from a TV contract that has doubled in value. He made a 400 percent profit off his Montreal investment and was still able to cry poverty to our local government.
“If I was a taxpayer, I’d be angry at the politicians, who were either duped or they were in on it,” Keri said. “Loria is just being an intelligent operator. The Marlins might draw 30percent fewer fans next year but if the payroll is $60 million less, he’s still coming out ahead.”
Of the $191 million in contracts to Bell, Reyes and Mark Buerhle, only $38 million will come from the Marlins’ wallet; the rest is paid by Arizona and Toronto.
Remove the emotion and Loria has proved quite adept with cold, hard cash. But for fans, sports is fantasyland, not a Fortune 500 acquisition. Because Loria and Samson have been unable to demonstrate any sensitivity toward fans’ point of view, no one believes them when they say they’ll reconstruct a winner.
“Except for the Miguel Cabrera trade and a couple other mistakes, it’s been a pretty well-run franchise,” Keri said. “It’s possible their trades were as good as Boston’s moves. They could be contenders in two or three years. We don’t know Chapter 2 yet.”
But we know Chapter 1. Wayne Huizenga dismantled the Marlins after the 1997 World Series and a pattern ensued. Burned once, twice and again by the stadium promise, fans won’t give Loria the benefit of the doubt.
It’s a nice ballpark, and Loria took the trouble to adorn it with art. But he didn’t take the time to build trust. That’s bad business, and lots of seats will be empty as a result.