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The Marlins are not a baseball team. They’re a kleptocracy

Nov 14, 2012, 7:24 AM EDT

Jeffrey Loria

Perhaps it’s possible to defend last night’s mega Blue Jays-Marlins trade on purely baseball merits. To say that the Marlins weren’t going to contend with Reyes, Buehrle, Johnson and the rest and that they needed to blow things up. To say that the return they’re realizing from Toronto was actually pretty good and can form the basis of the Next Contending Marlins Team if Miami plays its cards right.  Indeed, I’m sure a cogent argument to such effect could be made if it hasn’t been made already.

Such a position, however, requires that one give the Marlins’ brain trust the benefit of the doubt and to assume that they have any interest at all in creating the Next Contending Marlins Team.  Because absolutely nothing in owner Jeff Loria’s history suggests that he gives a tinker’s damn about winning baseball games, making fans happy and developing Miami as a vibrant market for Major League Baseball.

Quite the opposite, actually. Here are some random Jeff Loria and Marlins facts which, taken together, aren’t terribly random:

  • After purchasing the Montreal Expos in the 1990s, he immediately claimed that, without a new stadium, the team that was much beloved and supported by its fans and once was near the top of the National League in annual attendance could not compete without a new stadium. When public officials balked, he cut payroll and denigrated the City of Montreal as a baseball market.
  • In 2000, unsatisfied with rights fees offered by English-speaking TV and radio broadcasters in Montreal, Loria allowed the Expos to play with no television or English radio broadcasts, preventing thousands of Expos fans from actually seeing or hearing Expos games.
  • In selling the Expos, he received a sweetheart deal and no-interest loans from Major League Baseball which allowed him to buy the Marlins put the Expos into league receivership. When he left Montreal, he moved the Expos’ entire front office staff, on-field staff, office equipment and computer equipment to Florida, leaving new Expos general manager Omar Minaya with virtually no resources with which to field a competitive team.
  • The atrophied remains of the Expos then served as an easy target for contraction threats by Major League Baseball designed to create leverage in labor negotiations with the MLBPA and had the effect of alienating all but the most die-hard Montreal baseball fans. As a result of both Loria’s acts as Expos manager and his complicity in the league’s use of the Expos as an example and bargaining chip, Montreal was utterly destroyed as a viable baseball market.
  • Loria took over the Marlins in 2002.  Between 2002 and 2010, the Marlins got around $300 million in revenue sharing and banked at least $154 million of it in pure profit.
  • Two years ago, the Marlins were forced into an agreement with Major League Baseball and the player’s union to stop violating Article XXIV(B)(5)(a) of the Basic Agreement which requires revenue sharing money to be used to improve your team instead of lining ownership’s pockets.
  • In addition to team profits and the substantial appreciation of the franchise since he purchased it, Jeffrey Loria pays himself around $10 million a year in “administration fees.” As a result of last night’s trade, he is now paid nearly twice the salary of the Marlins’ highest-paid player.
  • The ballpark which the Marlins convinced Miami to build them was paid for by the public against its will, was shady all around, led to public outrage which cost politicians their jobs and wound up costing far moredrawing far fewer fans than the team promised taxpayers it would and has led to virtually zero development of the surrounding area, contrary to the promises of Loria and his friends.
  • A year ago Friday, David Samson talked big about the Marlins “rising payroll, higher revenues” and the team’s new way of doing things, a plan that lasted until roughly July.
  • David Samson last March to a group of Miami business leaders:  “I don’t have to hold back now that the stadium is built – not that I ever have …” He called people who run for office “not the cream of the intellectual crop,” adding about the entire population, “That’s not to say we’re not the smartest people in Miami. My guess is, if you’re in this room, we’re immediately in the top 1%.”

The Marlins are not a baseball team. They’re a kleptocracy. Jeff Loria and his cohorts are cynical liars who care nothing about baseball beyond the cash it allows them to extract from gullible fans, corrupt politicians, unwitting taxpayers and a complicit league office, all of which they have either explicitly called stupid or clearly assume to be based on their actions.

They may continue to play baseball games in Miami, but baseball is merely the MacGuffin which drives the plot for the shysters in this ownership group and they will lie to anyone about anything in order to further it.  In so doing, they are well on their way to destroying yet another market which should, by all rights, be fantastic for baseball.

At this point, they should be allowed to do so. People should stop showing up. Marlins fans, no matter how much they love their team, should shift their allegiances to one which does not hold them in contempt.  Jeff Loria and Major League Baseball should be forced to sleep in the bed they made for themselves and suffer the consequences of their greed and cynicism. The new ballpark may make allowing Miami go the way of Montreal a tall order, but perhaps the franchise can at least wither on the vine long enough to make it more appealing for Loria to get out of the baseball business and find some other investment with which he can fleece the unsuspecting.

In the meantime, anyone who decides to stick with the Marlins while this crowd is in charge deserves whatever they get from this abusive, exploitative relationship.

101 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. Charles Gates - Nov 14, 2012 at 10:09 AM

    In the meantime, anyone who decides to stick with the Marlins while this crowd is in charge deserves whatever they get from this abusive, exploitative relationship.

    Craig, I’d ask you to put your money where your keyboard is.
    Don’t write about the Marlins. Don’t mention them. No transaction rumors. No attendance mentions. They don’t exist. You wouldn’t even need to acknowledge them in ATH posts. They could read like:
    Phillies, 2.
    Ryan Howard looks to be breaking out of his slump by only striking out three times in last night’s affair. Utley went deep in the 7th to put the Phils ahead.

    The only thing worse than negative buzz is no buzz at all…I mean, don’t you at least even want to try Guy Fieri’s Times Square ‘rant just to see if it’s as bad as the NY Times self serving review made it out to be? If Loria is that bad in your opinion (as is mine), write their obituary, give the team a shallow grave and the only inference of their existence is that which is their absence.

    • stlouis1baseball - Nov 14, 2012 at 3:12 PM

      Numerous Thumbs up Gator. Spot on.
      What do you say? ZERO Miami Marlins coverage. None whatsoever.

  2. someguyinva - Nov 14, 2012 at 10:09 AM

    Well I don’t know how this trade will play out long term, but I do know this much…

    Stephen Root would make an excellent choice to play Jeffrey Loria in “Moneyball II, or How I Learned To Stop Caring And Love The Annual Firesale”

    • snowbirdgothic - Nov 14, 2012 at 1:10 PM

      “Just Money. No Balls.”

  3. savocabol1 - Nov 14, 2012 at 10:20 AM

    So an owner who has won a world series in the not so distant past should be forced out you say? Seems reasonable.

    • Steve A - Nov 14, 2012 at 10:25 AM

      Read the history of Marlins Park and see if you feel the same way.

    • stevejeltzjehricurl - Nov 14, 2012 at 10:37 AM

      Take a look at Craig’s chronology of events above and explain how winning a championship in 2003 (which I believe was his first year of ownership, and therefore accomplished by the actions of personnel and players largely acquired prior to his arrival) mitigates this conduct.

      And while Craig would clearly be happy to see Loria leave (and I think the vast majority of baseball fans would agree) he’s merely encouraging Marlins fans to vote with their feet. Loria keeps spitting on his paying customers and devaluing his assets, while screwing over his partners in MLB (cities will now hold the Marlins up as Exhibit A on why they shouldn’t build new stadiums) and taxpayers. Why support someone like that?

    • paperlions - Nov 14, 2012 at 10:47 AM

      Teams win WS, not owners….and often, teams win them in spite of the owner, not because of them.

    • chill1184 - Nov 14, 2012 at 11:09 AM

      There are several current MLB owners who deserved to be forced out. However with this latest fire sale, Loria just launched himself to the top of the list.

    • brewcrewfan54 - Nov 14, 2012 at 1:37 PM

      They won that world series basically by accident.

  4. shwoogy1 - Nov 14, 2012 at 10:43 AM

    Great article. Dude is a supreme douchenozzle.

  5. rcali - Nov 14, 2012 at 11:24 AM

    As usual Bud Selig will awake from his fifth nap of the day and do nothing to fix that bad product. When you take money from the public, the rules change.

    • Old Gator - Nov 14, 2012 at 11:41 AM

      They don’t take money from the public. The public gives it to them. When that changes, so will the owners.

      • willclarkgameface - Nov 14, 2012 at 1:26 PM

        Money HAS been taken from the public via tax dollars. By signing all those players last fall he was NOT putting a plan in place to win, but to hoodwink all of the people of Miami-Dade County to further line his pockets. When the lining was mostly completed, he broke the band up.

        Loria is scum.

  6. metitometin - Nov 14, 2012 at 11:26 AM

    Bud Selig needs to block this trade if he wants baseball to even retain some semblance of legitimacy. This is an absolute embarrassment. Loria needs to be forced out as owner, just like McCourt. You can’t have teams doing this crap, going with a bare bones payroll and not even trying to win or compete. You’d be crazy as a Marlin’s fan to spend 5 bucks on this team next year.

    Bud Selig and the owners either need to implement a salary cap or require each team to have a minimum payroll of at least 50 or 60 million. The disparity in payrolls is an absolute joke. You’ve got the Yankees buying their way into the playoffs with a 200M payroll every year and at the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got teams with a 20 and 30 million dollar payroll like the Royals. This can’t happen. No other sport lets this happen. In football, every team has a an equal chance of winning. That should be the model to look to, but baseball has long ago sold out to the Steinbrenner’s of the world.

    • chill1184 - Nov 14, 2012 at 11:42 AM

      Not saying that your wrong but a salary cap can go either way. Since you brought up the NFL there are still teams who have yet to capture a championship or have huge droughts. Examples would be the Bills, Chiefs, Seahawks, Jets to name a few.

      If Selig forces out Loria then he needs to also force out Wilpon (Mets), Nutting (Pirates), Dolan (Indians), Glass (Royals) and up until this past season a case could be made for Angelos (Orioles) as well. Should Loria be forced out? Absolutely but I dont see it happening.

      • 3yardsandacloud - Nov 14, 2012 at 12:38 PM

        I think there is a clear distinction between the teams you mention and the Marlins. Loria had enough pieces to put a contender on the field. Instead of going forward with them, he sent them all to Toronto for a bucket of nothing.

        While the Royals/Pirates/Mets/Indians/Orioles have traded assets when they are not contending, they do not do it in the same manner. The Royals deal a Zach Grienke because he’s the best player on their team and the rest are garbage and they don’t think they can resign him. Same thing with Cleveland and Sabathi, etc. The list is long in that regard. In the Marlins case, Reyes is locked up long term, Johnson only had a year left and I believe Buherle has 2-3 years left. This wasn’t moving a guy that you were going to lose. This was cutting payroll now that you have a new stadium to attract people.

        Loria should be banned from baseball; I can’t say the same for the others mentioned

      • mrhojorisin - Nov 14, 2012 at 2:49 PM

        The NFL teams that haven’t won haven’t failed because of vast financial disparities. Personnel aside, the opportunity exists for them to compete more or less evenly with every other team in the league.

  7. woolfj2012radly - Nov 14, 2012 at 11:36 AM

    I agree with you Craig (hey, I called you by your first name just like I knew ya). Anyhow, I grew up a Cincinnati Bengals fan and followed them for over 30 years thru some of the most painful football the world has ever seen. But a couple of years ago, we decided (friends and family) that we had had about enough of the Brown family’s frugal..cough…sputter…cheap…don’t give a crap about winning ways. So, we switched allegiences – not easy to do for true fans, but sometimes the only recourse fans have. We now follow the Baltimore Ravens and spend our viewing and reading time and NFL “goodies” money on them and their products. Sure, some of that $$$ will filter it’s way thru the NFL’s coffers to MB, et. al., but we have satisfaction…and a winning team with a future that will not ALWAYS be ruined by ownership and poor management.

    Marlins fans: I know it’s tough, but it’s worth it. Abandon ship before the Kraken takes you down!

  8. mondzy805 - Nov 14, 2012 at 12:18 PM

    As a Dodgers fan, I understand what’s it like to have a Horrible owner. But, this dirtbag who owns the Marlins needs to go. He no good for the game and the People of South Florida deserve better than this Snake. You finally got San Diego a new Owner, now it’s time to use your power Bud and force this guy to sell for the good of Baseball.

  9. suckmyhawk2012 - Nov 14, 2012 at 12:34 PM

    Wow! I’m a Mariners Fan and our owner looks like Mark Cuban next to this guy.. which is pathetic.. Great article though

  10. simon94022 - Nov 14, 2012 at 12:35 PM

    Loria and Samson are a disgrace to MLB.

    But the Montreal discussion is mostly spin from understandably distraught Expos fans. The Expos were always a marginal franchise financially. No business person ever stepped forward with the means and desire to own a major league baseball team in Montreal. That’s how they got stuck with Loria in the first place.

    Loria’s bad faith behavior may have hastened the death of the Expos in Montreal, but let’s not pretend that this was a healthy, successful franchise until Loria came along and destroyed it.

  11. willclarkgameface - Nov 14, 2012 at 1:34 PM

    Bud Selig will do NOTHING about this. How can he? Loria hasn’t bitched (at least publicly) about being broke and needing an out. Selig is going to let this shit happen, let the franchise flounder, and let guys like Giancarlo Stanton lose a year of his prime playing on what will essentially be an uncompetitive, AAA roster.

    Until Loria puts the team up for sale, all hands are tied.

    What I’d like to see is the folks in the Miami-Dade government office pay a visit to Loria and ask him why he’s acting like such a dink and killing an opportunity for surrounding businesses to make money.

    This sucks for everyone except Loria, who will make his $10 million this year and feel okay with himself.

    Don’t watch their games on TV. Ditch their sponsors. Don’t buy tickets. Don’t buy hats, shirts, or anything with that hideous logo on it. Hurt him where it counts. Let’s get THAT movement started.

  12. leeeroooyjeeenkiiins - Nov 14, 2012 at 2:26 PM

    Bud Selig would totally do something about it, but he’s too busy watching Matlock reruns on his tube TV and the letter explaining the ordeal never made it as the stagecoach driver carrying it died of dysentery.

  13. kruegere - Nov 14, 2012 at 2:31 PM

    Marlins fans, take a ride up Alligator Alley. The Rays need more fans!

  14. sfm073 - Nov 14, 2012 at 3:08 PM

    You are correct on everything besides Miami being a good baseball market. Pro sports doesn’t work in Florida, the city should have never built him a stadium in the first place. I knew this was going to happen I just thought it would be a couple of years from now.

  15. El Bravo - Nov 14, 2012 at 5:45 PM

    Two douchenozzle list additions:

    22. Jeff “Scrooge” McLoria – Totally manhandling the city of Miami and its new team and just not given a mothaf@ck about anyone but himself.
    23. The Marlins Front Office – See #22 and realize he isn’t the only douchenozzle in the douchenozzle pod.

  16. kappy32 - Nov 15, 2012 at 12:13 AM

    Wow, I had no idea things were that bad with Loria, his Mini-Me (Samson), the Expos & the Marlins. After watching “The Franchise” on Showtime, Samson reminded me of those guys you see in comedies who always repeat what the main character says & are always up the main guys butts. Regardless of that, there are 3 aforementioned points that really caught my attention:

    1. Loria pays himself $10 million in “Administrative Fees.” ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!?!?! Baseball is a money-making business & unless you are a high multi-millionaire who cares only about winning (See, George Steinbrenner & his 90’s through mid 00’s Yanks)the majority of teams derive a profit at the end of each year. I don’t know how the Marlins are structured; whether they’re a public corporation who pays out to shareholders or whether they’re a Loria-owned corporation or LLC where he is the sole shareholder or controls all membership interests. If the Marlins are a public corporation where Loria is required to pay shareholders or to put derived profits back into the team accounts via a shareholder’s or membership interest agreement(s), then I can see him paying himself a reasonable salary for his official function as CEO, but even that salary should be commensurate & be based upon a percentage of the annual profits (i.e., 10% of the team’s annual net profits). Nevertheless, a $10 million annual salary is absurd. However, if he is the sole owner & shareholder, as I believe he is, it is borderline criminal for him to pay himself a salary. Loria already has the ability to pocket the corporate profits & this is nothing more than him giving himself an assurance that he will not collect anything less than $10 million per year regardless of the performance of the team, record-wise, and the overall corporation, revenue-wise. This means that even if the Marlins operate in the red for a year due to poor performance, poor attendance, and poor concession & memorabilia sales, causing him to lower payroll & raise ticket prices, Loria has guaranteed himself at least $10 million to take home. That is a slap in the face to every Miami & Florida resident whose tax dollars went to building that stationary spaceship they call a stadium. This is something the IRS should look into because of his shady practices, I’m sure he’s not honest with his taxes. 

    2. Loria was forced to sign an agreement with MLB for violating Article XXIV(B)(5)(a) of the MLB-MLBPA Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Let me start off by saying that parity has been GREAT for Major League Baseball & a huge reason, well the only reason, why there is parity in the only professional sport without a salary cap is because of the luxury tax & revenue sharing. Without revenue sharing & luxury taxing, teams such as the Yankees, Nats, Angels & Dodgers would win the World Series year after year. It hasn’t been since the Yankees won their last World Series that a team with a top 5 payroll has won the World Series. However, going into the last most serious round of CBA negotiations, owners were against revenue sharing amongst other owners & instituting a luxury tax. It wasn’t just the big market owners who were against it, but it was also mid-market owners who didn’t like it, despite the fact they’d be beneficiaries of it, because they were concerned that certain owners would pocket the proceeds they received from revenue sharing & luxury taxes & use it for their own personal benefit. In order to reach a compromise & institute this key, essential agreement, Article XXIV(B)(5)(a) has a provision which states that the proceeds a team receives from their share of the overall revenue & luxury tax MUST BE reinvested into the team for “baseball related” expenses. Loria taking that money for his own use was exactly what the owners were afraid of. As a result, owners are going to be less inclined to expand these provisions come the next CBA negotiatons & it could wind up hurting baseball as a whole down the line when this limited revenue sharing & luxury tax become not enough to guarantee parity. It takes time but the intelligent owners& GMs will find ways to bend the rules to put themselves one above the next team.

    3. The ballpark built in Miami was funded almost wholly through public funds. This is the third example where a team has used at least some public financing (tax dollars) to build a brand new, state or the art stadium & has put a deplorable product out on the field (Pirates, my beloved Mets, Marlins). What makes this situation worse is that this stadium was completely financed with tax dollars, against the public wishes, and was not a public loan to Loria to build the stadium. In the case of the Mets, a large portion of the public money used to build Citi Field was given to them in a loan basis; in other words, public finances were used to build Citi Field, but a large portion of the public money must be repaid to NY City & NY State at a very owner-friendly interest rate, far below the statutory 16%, as proscribed in NY Banking Law § 14-a & NY General Obligations Law § 5-501(1). Making matters worse, Loria has made this team a complete embarrassment & has made it impossible for them to field an attractive product that would result in increased attendance, tourism, and tax revenue through sales tax proceeds. Loria has completely misued public funds & has turned his back on the City of Miami. While there are a good amount of new & relatively new stadiums in baseball, there are going to be teams that need either a new stadium or considerable upgrades to their current stadiums. Despite the fact that most owners are multi-millionaires, not many of them can fund a stadium alone & are forced to request public assistance to build & upgrade. As a result of Loria’s misuse of public funds building his ugly a$$ stadium & the subsequent election(s) that saw political proponents of the stadium lose their jobs, owners & teams are going to find local & state governments less willing to contribute or fund the building of new stadiums going forward. This could lead to one of two prospective situations. First, teams are going to be stuck with old, crappy, decrepit stadiums that no one is going to want to use. This could lead to fiscal problems for small cities & municipalities that rely on their stadiums to be used for attractions other than baseball games (concerts, graduations, etc.). Second, this could lead to teams leaving small cities & moving to large cities where they could either share facilities with another team or to a larger city who is willing, and has the ability to help them finance their building request. You could see more teams than already existing in cities such as NY, Chicago, Boston & LA. This is not something that will happen overnight, but it could be something we see in 20-30 years from now & this could be detrimental to baseball as a whole. Loria’s actions have ruined things for honest owners & fans of those teams.

    I really feel that something needs to be done here so that other owners know that this type of behavior cannot & will not be tolerated. The federal government & the Florida State Attorney’s Office should take a close look at Loria’s business practice because when it smells like crap, there’s normally a steaming dump somewhere close. If there is nothing criminal found, MLB & Bud Selig should step in & force Loria to sell the team. I am sure the other owners aren’t too happy with him & wouldn’t be opposed to it. Due to this stadium being new & funded through public funds, there will be a professional baseball team in Miami for the foreseeable future. However, someone needs to come in there & put a respectable product out on the field to reward the people of that city who ultimately built that stadium. I can tell you that this would not fly in NY. People up here a livid at the team the Mets have put on the field recent years; so much so that a majority of fans want to see the Wilpons sell the team. The difference is that Wilpon has failed not because of a lack of trying or wanting to put a winner on the field whereas Loria doesn’t care whether his team wins, he just wants to maximize his profits. The man must go & he better that that little twerp Samson with him.

  17. byjiminy - Nov 15, 2012 at 1:03 AM

    The other owners should immediately vote to withhold all revenue sharing from the Marlins.

    They are not only permitted to do so but obligated to do so, since Loria is in violation of the conditions for receiving that money. If he’s not spending it on the team, he should not be receiving it.

    That may or may not influence his behavior very much, but why on Earth would they not do this? It’s their money he’s stealing too.

  18. banggbiskit - Nov 16, 2012 at 9:01 AM

    What Loria is doing is exactly the opposite of what the Yankees have done over the last few decades. The Yankees got criticized for ‘ruining baseball’ for taking all their money and sticking it into the on field product and now Loria is being criticized for doing something detrimental to baseball when in reality, he’s doing exactly the opposite of what the Yankees have done for so long. If Loria spends a ton of money he gets criticized for trying to ‘buy’ the world series. If he blows up payroll and saves, he gets criticized for not spending a ton of money to try and buy the world series.

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