Steve Cishek has no intention of ditching his traditional meal before every Marlins game: a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
But ask the tall bullpen ace what he thinks about the team’s new culinary creations, or the new creature-comfort plane that will haul the Marlins around the country this season, and his eyes turn to saucers.
“Are you kidding me? I’m excited,” said Cishek, a lanky 6-6 closer who is already relishing the thought of flying in grand style while filling his belly on healthy, chef-prepared meals.
It’s all part of a new spending approach by the Marlins — long scorned as tightwads — that is designed to produce more wins and end a playoff famine that dates to their 2003 World Series title.
“We’re trying to maximize their ability to perform and minimize the probability of fatigue, injury and grumpiness,” said Marlins president David Samson of the team’s new expenditures. “Because grumpiness manifests itself in two negative ways: in losing games and in losing fans.”
So the Marlins are doing away with cramped, commercial charters and rolling out a custom-designed 767 that comes equipped with 84 seats, a massage table, couches and card tables. The leased plane will fly across the skies bearing the Marlins logo.
They have hired two chefs to dish out meals at spring training and Marlins Park, healthy offerings that cover the gamut, from free range chickens to grass-fed beef, with all sorts of organic goodies in between.
And that’s just on the comfort side.
Behind the scenes, they have beefed up their scouting and player development department with 10 new hires. Samson said they have also expanded their marketing and sales teams.
Throw in the record $325 million contract given to Giancarlo Stanton during the winter and a 2015 roster payroll that figures to eclipse $70 million, and heads are turning.
What gives with the Marlins all of a sudden?
Five years after being publicly reprimanded by the players’ union for not spending enough, in possible violation of the league’s revenue sharing agreement, the frugal Fish are splurging.
Samson would not give precise amounts on what all of it is costing the team. But he provided — what else? — ballpark figures.
The plane: “Well over seven figures.”
The chefs and food: “Well over six figures.”
The additional scouts and coaches: “Over seven figures for sure.”
“It’s all part of some of the changes we’re making as we’re now entering this great period of stability and sustainability,” Samson said.
Samson said the franchise is anticipating growth from “three buckets of revenue” ‒ in-stadium revenue (which is a combination of sponsorship and ticket sales), local broadcast revenue and national revenue sharing, of which the Marlins receive an equal share of the pie along with all other Major League Baseball teams.
The team’s local broadcasting contract is expected to expire in 2020 — not coincidently the same year Stanton’s heavily backloaded contract begins to escalate — and the Marlins likely will try to negotiate a better deal than their present one.
Though the team has been unable to sell naming rights to its new ballpark, which opened in 2012, Samson predicted that will change by the time the All-Star Game is played there in 2017.
“I would be surprised if the All-Star Game were played in ‘Marlins Park,’ ” he said.
For now, Samson said the primary goal of the increased spending is to produce a winner on the field. The Marlins last finished with a winning record in 2009.
The new plane, he said, is one step in that direction.
The Marlins, like most big-league teams, have always chartered commercial planes that aren’t exactly ideal for large athletes. Compounding the misery for the Marlins: They spend more time in the air than most teams due to Miami’s distance from other major-league cities.
According to baseballsavant.com, the Marlins will fly 35,240 miles this season, seventh-most in the majors. The Seattle Mariners lead the way in frequent flier miles at 43,281.
Cishek said his “knees are in my throat” when he tries to sit upright in the increasingly smaller seat configurations found on most commercial jets, and that he often sits diagonally, sprawled across an empty row of seats, in an effort to try and make himself comfortable.
Now he and others will have lots more room to stretch and relax.
“Having a plane that’s first class throughout is going to be key for us tall guys,” Cishek said.
Said Samson: “We don’t need people from Harvard to figure it out. You just need to talk to big people.”
Samson said he sees it all — nutrition and comfort — becoming a new trend in baseball.
“This sort of thing is becoming a bigger focus,” he said. “I think it’s the new version of Moneyball. I’m going to call it Avoid-Injury Ball. You have players who are getting hurt and getting tired. There are no more [illegal] supplements. It’s all Red Bull and natural ability to play.”
Cishek is looking forward to all the new goodies.
“We were spoiled before,” Cishek said. “I think we’re going to be really spoiled now. But it’s not going to change what I eat before a game. I love peanut butter and jelly.”