Miami Marlins' Justin Bour cuddles Tango
Marlins fans flocked to their team’s home ballpark Saturday for FanFest, the first official function counting down to the start of the 2017 season.
Among the things several said they were looking forward to were Miami’s first All-Star Game in July, seeing whether the team could seriously contend for the playoffs for the second year in a row, and also whether Jeffrey Loria would still own the franchise by season’s end.
“I’m happy about it,” said Kevin Acevedo, a Miami resident and longtime Marlins’ fan who attended FanFest with his daughter. “I heard about [Joshua] Kushner possibly buying it so I hope he will invest some money and build a winner down here. If he does, I’m all for it.”
Forbes.com reported Thursday that Loria has a “handshake agreement” to sell the franchise for $1.6 billion — a deal that would be 10 times greater than the $158 million he paid for the club in 2002.
Many fans echoed Acevedo’s sentiments when it came to the possibility of Loria no longer owning the club.
Despite the Marlins coming close to securing a Wild Card playoff berth last season, retaining the majority of their core players responsible for that run, and adding some pitching depth to what will be a roster worth more than $100 million, most fans said they would be glad to see the team under new ownership.
“It’s going to be a good thing when it happens I think for a lot of the fans who are tired of seeing the way this team has been run,” said Yandro Diaz, a former season-ticket holder. “[Loria] is a businessman, and at the end of the day I feel like that’s what it’s been about for him more than baseball. We need someone who’s going to put their heart into this team and really invest in what needs to be done to make them a winner.”
Reports surfaced that the potential buyer is Joshua Kushner, the younger brother of Jared Kushner, who is married to President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka.
While team president David Samson did not confirm or deny the potential sale when addressing the media on Saturday, most fans said they would welcome a change. Several have clung to a long-standing dislike of Loria stemming mostly from years of losing teams, having the league’s lowest payroll for many of those seasons and a stadium deal that angered many.
Diaz was a season-ticket holder in 2012 when Marlins Park first opened. He said he did not renew after that season and was disappointed after the team traded away several of the key players on the team that season.
Should this be Loria’s final season as owner, the Marlins’ payroll will likely be their highest ever. The team even went after two major free agents this offseason — closers Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen — with large contract offers in an effort to make its bullpen the strongest in baseball.
But Chapman chose the New York Yankees, and Jansen decided to remain with the Dodgers after signing contracts nearly identical to the amounts the Marlins were reportedly offering them.
“I feel like as long as Loria is the owner, we’ll never be in a position to land a superstar free agent like other teams do that could really put the team over the top,” Diaz said.
Kushner’s connection to Trump didn’t cause uneasiness for Acevedo or others.
Some said they would welcome any owner that was committed to making the Marlins a consistent contender for the long haul.
“If [Kushner] or anyone else brings a championship down here, politics aside, I don’t care who it is,” Acevedo said.