How To Ruin A Franchise, Step 41: Write a full-page letter in the newspapers blaming the media, attendance, general ignorance -- anyone but yourself! -- for your decaying franchise a year after a publicly-funded stadium was built.
That's the only explanation, right?
Sunday was some suicidal next-step from the how-to manual Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria is following into baseball oblivion. Because no one can be naturally this tone-deaf, can they?
No one can deny, deny, deny reality and expect fans to buy in, can they?
It was a laugh reading Loria's self-serving screed in South Florida's three newspapers on Sunday until you realized he's taking baseball down for the count with him in this market. (See full text below.)
On what planet is the flabbergasting fire sale the Marlins had in November rationalized by Loria's line that, "Objective experts credited us with going from the 28th ranked minor league system in baseball to the fifth best."
Is he serious? What franchise can't improve a depleted minor-league system by selling off its best major-league players?
And does he think it really matters the $450 million he received in public money to build a new stadium is a, "burden incurred by tourists who are visiting our city," as he writes. "NOT the resident taxpayers."
The fact is Loria received a publicly gifted stadium, signed marquee players one year, dumped them the next and now will line his pockets with tens of millions in a brazen bait-and-switch.
Loria also blamed "columnists" who dared, "unleash a vicious cycle of negativity" in the aftermath of this fire sale. Imagine that. Who could he possibly be talking about?
Blaming the media is a common game that any public official can play when it suits them. But how does Loria explain his traded shortstop, Jose Reyes, saying the owner told him to buy a house in Miami -- and two days later traded him?
Or discuss how his former pitcher, Mark Buehrle, was shipped to one of the cities he expressly didn't want to go in Toronto because his beloved pit bulls aren't allowed there. So his family will live in Chicago this season. He'll play in Toronto.
Loria wrote, "something needed to be done," to the roster in part because, "we don't have unlimited funds." What needs to be done, first and foremost, is for him to get out of the way and be quiet. That's if he won't sell the team at all.
The simple truth is Loria has been the Marlins' top problem for a while. This isn't news. I've written about it for a while. He's the one who strangely overspent in the build-up to the new stadium.
He wanted to overpay for manager Ozzie Guillen when his baseball people didn't. His baseball people offered reliever Heath Bell two years. Loria stepped in without their knowing, a source said, and gave Bell three years to close the deal. It was the exact same arrangement for catcher John Buck the year before.
So the Marlins had a bad and bloated roster? Who was to blame for that?
Loria was correct when he said, "fans didn't turn out last season as much as we'd like." Part of that was the team underperformed. Part was the club probably overestimated the drawing power of the stadium.
They expected 2.8 million fans last year. They drew more than 2.2 million fans. Good luck getting anywhere close to that this season.
For three months since the Marlins conducted their November fire sale, Loria was silent. The hope was he learned from his recent years of mistakes. Maybe even that he was humbled by the fans' fallout.
So much for that hope. As one of Loria's many former managers, Fredi Gonzalez, now in Atlanta, said last fall, "As long as he owns the team, he makes the decisions. In his mind, they're the right ones."
Loria evidently thinks his attack letter was the right in his mind, too. It was written no doubt with the help of a newly hired public relations firm. It became another step in offending any fan who already wasn't turned off by this team's winter.
It makes you wonder what his next move is. Raising ticket prices? Trading Giancarlo Stanton?
The hope is he sells the team. The reality is he's just ruining it. ___
LETTER TO OUR FANS
It’s no secret that last season was not our best — actually it was one of our worst. In large part, our performance on the field stunk and something needed to be done. As a result of some bold moves, many grabbed hold of our tough yet necessary decision only to unleash a vicious cycle of negativity. As the owner of the ballclub, the buck stops with me and I take my share of the blame where it’s due. However, many of the things being said about us are simply not true. I’ve sat by quietly and allowed this to continue. Now it’s time for me to respond to our most important constituents, the fans who love the game of baseball.
Losing is unacceptable to me. It’s incumbent upon us to take swift action and make bold moves when there are glaring problems. The controversial trade we made with the Toronto Blue Jays was approved by Commissioner Bud Selig and has been almost universally celebrated by baseball experts outside of Miami for its value. We hope, with an open mind, our community can reflect on the fact that we had one of the worst records in baseball. Acquiring high-profile players just didn’t work, and nearly everyone on our team underperformed as compared to their career numbers. Our plan for the year ahead is to leverage our young talent and create a homegrown roster of long-term players who can win. In fact, objective experts have credited us with going from the 28th ranked Minor League system in baseball to the 5th best during this period. Of the Top 100 Minor Leagues rated by MLB Network, we have six — tied for the most of any team in the league. We’ll evaluate this roster and possibly bring in additional talent based on our assessment of what we need. The very same naysayers who are currently skeptical once attacked us for bringing Pudge Rodriguez to the Marlins in 2003. More than any other, that move contributed to our World Series Championship.
The ballpark issue has been repeatedly reported incorrectly and there are some very negative accustations being thrown around. It ain’t true, folks. Those who have attacked us are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts. The majority of public funding came from hotel taxes, the burden of which is incurred by tourists who are visiting our city, NOT the resident taxpayers. The Marlins organization also agreed to contribute $161.2 million toward the ballpark, plus the cost of the garage complex. In addition, the Marlins receive no operating subsidy from local government funding. The ballpark required that all debt service is paid by existing revenue. Furthermore, many are attacking the County’s method of financing for its contribution, but the Marlins had nothing at all to do with that. The fact is, with your help, we built Marlins Park, a crown jewel in our beautiful Miami skyline, which has won over twenty design and architecture awards and will help make us a premiere ballclub moving forward.
The simple fact is that we don’t have unlimited funds, nor does any baseball team or business. Fans didn’t turn out last season as much as we’d like, even with the high-profile players the columnists decry us having traded. The main ingredient to a successful ball club is putting together a winning team, including a ncecessary core of young talent. Are we fiscally capable and responsible enough to fill the roster with talented players, invest in the daily demands of running a world-class organization and bring a World Series back to Miami? Absolutely! It is sound business sense to witness an expensive roster with a terrible record and sit idly by doing nothing? No. I can and will invest in building a winner, but last season wasn’t sustainable and we needed to start from scratch quickly to build this team from the ground up.
An organization is only as good as its connection with the community. We know we can do a better job communicating with our fans. That starts now. From this point forward we can ensure fans and the entire community that we will keep you abreast of our plan, rationale and motivations.
Amidst the current news coverage, it an be easy to forget how far we went together not so long ago. In 2003, I helped bring a second World Series title to South Florida. We know how to build a winning team, and have every intention of doing so again. I know you share my passion for great Marlins baseball, my love of MIami and my desire to win again. We’re in this together and I humbly ask that we start fresh, watch us mature quickly as a ball club, and root for the home team in 2013.